Ley Mordaza – Gag Law
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    Political Decisions Above Cuban Laws / Laritza Diversent

    Political Decisions Above Cuban Laws / Laritza Diversent
    Laritza Diversent, Translator: Raul G.

    The American contractor, Alan Gross, was sentenced this past March 4th
    in Havana for carrying out acts which uphold the interests of a foreign
    State with the "objective of damaging Cuban state independence or
    territorial integrity", according article 91 of the Penal Code.

    The choice of the precept made it clear what the Cuban authorities were
    seeking, as they tried to apply one of the most imprecise and severe
    aspects of their legislation. However, Law 88/99 in regards to "The
    Protection of Cuban Independence and Economics" is less ample, and the
    penal infraction regulated by its Article 11 is related more to the case
    in question.

    The precept establishes sentences of 3 to 8 years in prison, including a
    sanction of a fine of one thousand to 15 thousand pesos to anyone who
    directly distributes financial, material, or any other kind of means
    that come from the United States or any of its private entities.

    In December 2009, Gross was detained without any charges for trying to
    bring satellite equipment to the Jewish community on the island.
    Fourteen months later, the public prosecutor asked for a 20 year prison
    sentence to Gross for actions against the territorial independence or
    integrity of the Cuban state.

    The Public Minister took the opportunity to apply Law 88/1999, popularly
    known as the Gag Law, which is more benign and less ambiguous. The
    tribunal also returned the proceedings for an incorrect legal

    However, when the judicial process should be the same throughout the
    entire island, the interpretation and application of the law is anything
    but uniform. During the Spring of 2003, the Cuban courts condemned 75
    dissidents to very long jail sentences. Only because the precept the
    Penal Code allowed it, and at least 43 of them were sentenced under it.
    They used the Gag Law on the rest of them.

    In the case of the 75, the prosecutors office solicited the application
    of Article 91 of the Penal Code in the Provincial Tribunal of Las Tunas
    against one of the sentenced dissidents. In the sentence declared on
    8/2003, the organ of justice rejected the prosecutor's petition due to
    the special characteristics of Law 88/1999 which states in its text that
    it can be preferentially applied towards any other penal legislation
    which precedes it.

    However, the Provincial Tribunal of Santiago de Cuba, in its 7/2003
    sentence, rejected a legal mandate and the thesis of the defense to
    sentence according to the crimes of the Gag Law; because "the accused
    were seeking to undermine the sovereignty, to enslave the nation, and to
    annex Cuba to the United States of America".

    The fact that Alan Gross is a United States citizen worsened his
    situation before the Cuban authorities, due to all the differences which
    have existed for more than half a century between Cuba and the United
    States. The subordination of revolutionary justice to the mandates of
    the communist government also conspired against him.

    The decision to sentence him and apply the most severe rule to him was
    the result of political reasons which, in the island, are above the law.
    As long as the State Council has the constitutional duty to impart
    instructions to the Prosecutor's Office and the tribunals, it will
    continue working that way.

    Translated by Raul G.

    April 6 2011


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