Havana, May 15 (EFE).- Cuba’s unicameral legislature, the National Assembly of Popular Power (ANPP), on Sunday in an extraordinary session approved the communist island’s new Criminal Code which includes, among other things, sentences of up to three years in prison for anyone found guilty of insulting public officials and prohibits foreign financing of local media outlets.
Lawmakers approved the bill in a session attended by President Miguel Diaz-Canel and former President Raul Castro, who governed from 2008 to 2018.
Activists and members of the opposition say that the reform will suppress social protest and independent journalism.
The bill’s backers, on the other hand, call it a “rights-based” and modernizing code, given that the 1987 penal code that has prevailed up to now does not include any language governing environmental crimes, cyber-crimes or gender violence.
Originally, the bill was set to be voted on in the ANPP in April but due to assorted hold-ups in its passage through the legislature that final step was postponed until now.
The new legal code, which will go into effect within 90 days of being published in the Official Gazette of the Republic, includes 37 new crimes, including the crime of fomenting “public disorder” designed to penalize “disturbances of this kind produced in groups or individually.”
The president of the island’s supreme court, Ruben Remigio Ferro, said upon the presentation of the bill to the full parliament, that it strengthens the penalties linked to corruption.
Specifically, he said that it establishes a maximum sentence of life behind bars and maintains the possibility of applying the death penalty for 23 types of crimes.
Ferro noted that Cuba has not had the death penalty on the books since 2003 and in 2008 commuted all pending death sentences, although capital punishment may still be applied in extraordinary circumstances.
“Cuba will have a law that is modern, fair and adjusted to the country’s socio-economic reality,” he said.
The new code also sets forth punishment of up to 10 years in prison for anyone convicted of “supporting, fomenting, financing, supplying, receiving or having under their control funds, material or financial resources” of non-governmental organizations or international institutions that can be used to “aid activities against the state and the constitutional order.”
The new code has not been as widely discussed in the official media as the Family Code, a reform that is also currently making its way through the ANPP after three months of popular consultation during which the content of the text was explained to the public.
In contrast to the Family Code, the Criminal Code text will not be submitted to a referendum.