Following the custom of seeing the speck in the eye of another, the “gag law” that in recent days has caused a waved of protests in Spain has been criticized by Cuba’s official Cuban. The Prensa Latina news agency recently cited a Spanish activist, opponent of the Popular Party’s legal project, who predicted that the edict “will repress rights like that of free assembly” as well as freedom of expression.
Nevertheless, the menacing “Law of Citizen Security” which has raised so much commotion in that European country has a counterpart on this Caribbean island. The “Law No. 88 for protection of national independence and the Cuban economy” has been, since its approval in February 1999, our own gag law, and its description is identical to that offered by the aforementioned activist and quoted by Prensa Latina: “A way of creating fear and exerting media pressure to criminalize protests.”
But in Cuba, unlike in Spain, for more than half a century one simply could not protest, and fear was consolidated into terror. The Cuban “Gag Law” affects, among others, those who “collaborate in any way with radio or television stations, newspapers, magazines or other foreign media,” “disturb the public order” or “promote, organize or incite disturbances of the public order.” The sanctions range from three to 20 years in prison.
Nothing better characterizes Law No. 88 than its first article, which reads that its objective is “to criminalize and punish those actions designed to support, facilitate or collaborate with the objectives of the Helms-Burton law, the blockade and the economic war against our people.” Throughout the text are repeated ad nauseam the elements that turn the United States into an enemy that wants to see us crushed.
This was the law that sought to justify the mass incarcerations of the 2003 Black Spring. But now the legislation that has supported flagrant violations of human rights seems to have its days numbered.
With the end of the Cuba-US confrontation a document loses meaning that consecrates as “an unavoidable duty responding to the aggression whose object is the Cuban people” who desire to maintain their “independence and sovereignty.” For decades the regime has shielded itself behind this discourse to refuse to open itself to hearing its opponents or, at least, to not repressing them.
The recent statements that ended 53 years of Washington’s “hard” line towards Havana were the exorcism of the imperialist demon who threatened Cuban sovereignty, as the regime defines it. According to the law, which serves above all to imprison peaceful opponents, the actions of the US are designed to “break internal order, destabilize the country and liquidate the Socialist State and Cuban independence.” But Barack Obama himself, when he describes the American strategy as “failed” underscores official Cuban paranoia.
With the December 17 statements from the White House, the foundations of the “Gag Law” wobbled. This shows that its reach was as terrible as it was weak. In the next months we may be witnessing the definitive emptying of its contents, ever more hollow. What remains to be seen is if they withdraw the law, ease it or just replace it.