The Cuban dictatorship doesn´t even bother anymore to masquerade its dictatorial ways. Seeking to deter ─after the July 11 (11J) nationwide cry of freedom─ anyone who opposes or criticizes them, they have drafted a new Criminal Code that is… certainly criminal. This one is more openly draconian than the one in force, and it will surely be approved next April by the ever-unanimous National Assembly.

Suffice it to say that, despite a moratorium in force on the death penalty, the draft ratifies it as a sanction “especially in crimes that affect the external and internal stability of the State and / or the constitutional regime”. As usual, a deliberate vagueness of the terms seeks to veil with ambiguity the scope of the legislation, the reasons that could take you before a firing squad. Capital punishment was last applied in Cuba in April 2003: three young men who strived to hijack a passenger boat to the United States were summarily sentenced to death and executed by firing squad, even though they had not spilled anyone’s blood.

Just like then, the shadow of the post to which the doomed are tied up looms large today, intent on infiltrating fear and deterrence under the skin of the restless.

Likewise, crimes customarily used to restrict the exercise of the right to free expression remain in force, including Contempt and Propaganda Against the Constitutional Order, while a newfangled criminalization of any internal or external financial support for civil society actors is being introduced for the first time.

Other Code articles that openly justify violations of rights previously committed in a relatively sly way, are being blatantly enshrined in black and white as part of this “legal” instrument.

Let’s take for instance sanctions foreseen for Cuban doctors sent abroad by the regime to earn foreign exchange. As Doctor in Social Sciences and FHRC contributor Marlene Azor points out in Cubanet, “Article 176.1 of this Criminal Code blueprint thus explains the ‘crime’ of ‘abandonment of functions’: ‘Any public official or employee committed to comply with any mission in another country who abandons it or, expressly or tacitly refuses to return after having been urged to at any moment, incurs a penalty of three to eight years of deprivation of freedom”.

“The same sanction incurs any public official or employee who, on the occasion of fulfilling a mission in a foreign country, and disobeying explicit Government orders, moves to another country”.

So, if Cuban health professionals sent abroad have suffered thus far violations of their human and labor rights, such as being stripped of up to 90 percent of their salaries, confiscation of their passports, surveillance, isolation, threats, alienation from their family members and others that are considered indicators of forced labor by the International Labor Organization, once the new Criminal Code is approved they will have to ponder that if they leave a mission they will not only have to wait eight years to set foot again in Cuba to meet with their loved ones, but, if they dare to, they might be sent to prison for up to the same number of years.

In this brazen stage of the dictatorship, one can’t rule out that, to support with actions the menaces of the new Code, they might go along with previous threats of kidnapping nationals abroad, a practice initiated by Belarusian dictator and Ukraine aggressor Alexander Lukashenko. Last may the Cuban Government hinted that it might put in practice such “repression without borders”, which in fact would acknowledge extraterritorial jurisdiction to Cuba’s Criminal Code.

Just as it took advantage of the media attention to the 2003 invasion of Irak to launch the repressive wave known as the Cuban Black Spring, the regime is now capitalizing on the distracting Russian invasion of Ukraine to lock up the Cubans’ restiveness with a repressive and “legal” padlock. The good news is that, if they are acting so blatantly, it is because 11J persuaded them that they can no longer deceive anybody. Inside Cuba, for the time being, the public protests, the denunciations on social networks and the antigovernment graffiti live on.