Yudy Castro Morales
Granma | July 15, 2021
Although investigations continue of those involved in disturbances that took place in Cuba last Sunday, July 11, José Luis Reyes Blanco, head of the Supervision Department within the Criminal Proceedings Directorate of the Attorney General of the Republic’s office (FGR), reported to Granma that “some of the behaviors observed do constitute crimes.”
To support his statement, Reyes, with 30 years of experience in the sector, cited, first of all, the Constitution, not only as the nation’s Law of Laws, but also as a social project, approved by more than 86% of Cubans.
Its Article 1, he noted, establishes “Cuba as a socialist state of law and social justice, democratic, independent and sovereign, organized with all and for the good of all,” while Article 4 states, “The defense of the socialist homeland is the greatest honor and the supreme duty of every Cuban.”
This precept, Reyes emphasized, also validates the right of Cubans to combat by any means necessary – including armed struggle when no other recourse is available – any attempt to overthrow the political, economic and social order we have chosen to construct.
In his review of Constitutional principles regarding the nation’s defense, Reyes also cited Article 13, which makes explicit the essential responsibilities of the state, among which are maintaining and defending our independence, integrity and sovereignty, as well as preserving national security.
He likewise called attention, as he has on other occasions, to Article 45, referring to the limits which the Constitution places on the exercise of citizens’ rights, since some participants in the recent disturbances raised as a justification for their conduct “the defense and application of their rights.”
It is worth recalling that, according to the Constitutional text, “The exercise of individual rights is only limited by the rights of others, collective security, general welfare, respect for public order, the Constitution and the law.”
José Luis Reyes also focused on Article 90, which refers to the responsibilities and duties of citizens in the exercise of their rights and freedoms.
In this context, he mentioned, among others, “the duty to show due respect for authorities and their agents; respect the rights of others and not abuse one’s own; and conduct relations with other persons, according to the principles of human solidarity, respect and observance of the rules of social coexistence.”
Beyond any knowledge of the law, our common sense is enough to recognize that the acts in question flagrantly violated these limits and duties.
Crimes and aggravating circumstances
At this time, explained José Luis Reyes, the Attorney General’s Office is supervising and guiding the criminal investigation of all cases, ensuring strict observance of quality standards and established timelines, to determine individual responsibility, the personal characteristics of the accused and concurrent circumstances.
Regarding precautionary measures, he added, preventive detention and provisional imprisonment are being used only in the most severe cases, and those involving individuals with criminal records.
Likewise, he pointed out that aggravating circumstances of criminal liability will be taken into consideration, which could imply the modification of minimum or maximum limits of sentences to be imposed. These may include:
-Being part of a group of more than three persons
-Especially serious consequences of the crime committed
-Involving the participation of minors
-Taking advantage of circumstance created by a special situation
-Using means that endanger the public
-Harming persons or goods involved in activities prioritized for the economic and social development of the country
As for possible crimes, the expert described as “common,” those committed against the public order, administrative and judicial institutions, as well as those endangering lives (physical injury) and involving acts of vandalism, including the looting of stores.
Based on these categories, he expanded on what is considered disturbing the peace, which includes “provoking fights or altercations in establishments open to the public, mass transportation vehicles, social clubs, shows, family or public parties or other events or locations where numerous persons gather.” By law, anyone convicted of this crime will be sentenced to incarceration for three months to one year or a fine of 100 to 300 quotas or both.
“If the objective (of the crime) is to alter public order in any way, the sanction is incarceration for one to three years or a fine of 300 to 1,000 quotas or both.”
He cited the law defining the details which call for the stiffer sentence: “Whoever uses violence or intimidation against an authority, a public official, their agents or assistants, to prevent them from performing their duty, or demand that they perform an act, either as revenge or retaliation for the exercise of their authority, incurs the penalty of deprivation of liberty from one to three years.”
Nonetheless, Reyes added, the prison sentence may be increased to three to eight years if any of the following circumstances are involved in the aforementioned acts: two or more persons participate; weapons are used in committing the crime; bodily injury or damage to the health of the victim is caused; or the purpose pursued by the perpetuator is achieved.
The following crimes may also be involved in destabilization attempts:
Resistance: Whoever resists an authority, public official, their agents or assistants in the exercise of their responsibilities, incurs the penalty of deprivation of liberty from three months to one year or a fine.
Contempt: Whoever threatens, slanders, libels, defames, insults, offends or in any way violates, orally or in writing, the dignity or decorum of an authority, public official, their agents or assistants, in the exercise of their functions or on occasion or because of them, incurs the penalty of deprivation of liberty from three months to one year or a fine, or both.
Disobedience: Any individual who disobeys the decisions of authorities or public officials, the orders of their agents or assistants issued in the exercise of their functions, shall be sentenced to a prison term of three months to one year or a fine, or both.
Due process, a basic premise in cuba
Whenever we talk about criminal proceedings, specifically, it is essential to emphasize due process, understood as the guarantor and guardian of the rights of citizens, according to the expert.
As detailed in the Constitution, Cuban authorities ensure compliance with all related principles, in all cases, including:
-Deprivation of liberty is enforced only by competent authorities, for the legally established period of time.
-Legal assistance is available from the beginning of the process.
-Presumption of innocence until a final ruling is determined by the courts.
-Respect for the dignity and physical, psychological and moral integrity of the accused, including non-violent treatment with no coercion of any kind meant to force the accused to testify.
-The right of the accused not to incriminate him or herself, a spouse, common-law partner or relative up to the fourth degree of consanguinity and second degree of affinity.
-The right to be informed of the charges faced.
-Prosecution in a pre-established legal court and under laws in effect at the time of the crime.
-The right to communicate with family or relatives, in a timely fashion following arrest.
-If the accused is a victim, as well, the exercise of rights related to this situation are protected.
Beyond any damage or injury that may have occurred over these last few days, there is a greater good that has been harmed, which the state and Cuban laws, starting with the Constitution, are obliged to safeguard. That good is the tranquility and security of citizens, one of the great conquests of the Revolution.
Cuba’s Constitution, in the words of José Luis Reyes, “protects us all, but limits cannot be violated in its name. The country has the right to defend itself from conduct meant to subvert the constitutional order,” adding that the Penal Code’s primary objective remains in full force: “protecting society, the people, the social, economic and political order and the state’s institutionality.”