– Protester Yoani Sánchez denounces the government’s “repressive outrage”.
Cuban dissident and journalist Yoani Sánchez has warned of the consequences of the new Cuban penal code that took effect last Thursday.
Cuban journalist Yoani Sánchez on Saturday condemned a “repressive outrage” by his country’s government in Mexico, and warned that journalists critical of the regime were the main “victims” of the new penal law.
After the 2021 protests, “repressive fury was unleashed. We have more than a thousand political prisoners,” Yoni Sanchez said during a forum organized as part of an international book fair in Guadalajara, Mexico. The protester, who lives in Havana, specifically warned of the consequences of a new penal code that was unanimously adopted by the Cuban parliament in May and came into effect last Thursday.
“The biggest victim, the main victim (of this code) is the free press, the free flow of information and news,” he said. The reform creates new crimes related to participation in “subversive acts” or “aggression” committed through information and communication technologies, according to Ruben Ferro, president of Cuba’s Supreme Court.
In this way, “we punish popular demonstrations by committing crimes like disturbing public order”, warned Yoani Sanchez, founder of the online newspaper 14ymedio and winner of the Ortega y Gasset Journalism Prize in 2008.
The new penal code was approved a few months after July 2021, when thousands of Cubans took to the streets against the regime in 60 years. One person died, dozens were injured and hundreds of people were arrested in these demonstrations.
It is not clear how the government will implement the code, he said. “Are they going to use it for a letter or just a threat? Because we already have legal instruments to intimidate us,” he said. According to him, the new code is part of President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s strategy to delegitimize these demonstrations and prevent new ones.
Despite the advent of new technologies that allow independent journalism to flourish online, he said, government crackdowns have forced many Cuban journalists into exile. “Journalism has become a profession of heroism, madness or suicide. But it is not healthy to live under a dictatorship and remain silent,” he said.