Crime of desacato, or "disrespect.".
Cuba's "criminal Law"
Article 144, which defines the crime of desacato, or "disrespect." It states that anyone who threatens, slanders, defames, insults, harms or in anyway outrages or offends, verbally or in writing, the dignity or honor of an authority, public official, or their agents or auxiliaries, in the exercise of their functions or because of them can be imprisoned for between three months and one year or fined or both. If the act of disrespect is directed at the head of state or other senior officials the penalty is a prison term from one to three years.
The Movimiento Cubano Jóvenes por la Democracia (Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy), founded in 1991
Cuban students learned about Perestroika in the Soviet Union and were influenced by it. Since then, many have been put in jail (the current chair-person has been in prison during the past 18 months) accused of various crimes, such as disrespect for the authorities','disobedience' or 'endangerment of the law' (suspicion of anti-revolutionary sympathy is enough), 'instigation to crime', 'distribution of enemy propaganda' (another member was imprisoned for one- and-a-half years for this crime) or 'illegal association'.
Movimiento Cívico Máximo Gómez, in Pinar del Río
A spontaneous gathering of a dozen leaders from the local section of a civil-rights movement, named after a famous general, a national hero, from Santo Domingo, in Cuba's independence struggle against the Spaniards, in 1868. The group has approximately 100 members. Members of the Antonio Maceo Movement, named after a black General from the same war of independence, also work alongside it. MCMG's headquarters are in a large house, which was formerly a mansion, but is now an extremely fire-hazardous installation; it is where Ona, a CubaPress contributor, and a numerous number of her relatives live. In some places, the foundations of the house show through. The day before, the group had had an unexpected visit from U.S. Congressmen in Cuba for the Pope's visit, who had been accompanied by someone from the U.S. Interest Office (U.S. 'representation'). For the first time this year, the movement's leaders were not arrested at the act of remembrance they hold at the statue of forefather José Martí each year. 'Contra-revolutionaries should not lay flowers by the symbol of our revolution', was always the argument used against them, and the legal infraction quoted was labelled 'desacato' or disrespect for the authorities. This was punished by several months in prison, often in solitary confinement. Last year, chairperson Blanca was held three months in a police cell.
Source: Report of Pax Christi
Cases involving more minor offences, such as "disrespect" or "dangerousness," are tried in municipal courts. According to the Cuban Penal Code, the participation of a defence lawyer is "not indispensable" in municipal court cases although, if the defendant wishes, he or she may appoint one. However, in practice, the defendant frequently has no opportunity to consult a lawyer, especially when, as often happens, the relatives are not informed of the arrest or the trial takes place within a day or so of the arrest.35
In a three-hour trial on February 22, González Valdés was found guilty of "disrespect" and "disobedience" and sentenced to fourteen months in prison. His defense lawyer was only able to speak to him minutes before the trial began and the court building was surrounded by police and a Rapid Response Brigade armed with metal bars and sticks. The next day, Dr. Morejón was tried and convicted of "resistance." He was sentenced to six months in prison. When he appealed, he was given an additional nine-month prison sentence on a charge of "disrespect."110
Due to his opposition to the Cuban government, Nestor Rodríguez Lobaina has been arrested and imprisoned on a number of occasions. In 1996 he was arrested following peaceful attempts to organize a movement for university reform. After a summary trial in which he did not have access to defence counsel, he was sentenced to 12 months' restricted liberty, as well as to five years' ''banishment'' to his home town, on charges of ''resisting authority'' and ''disrespect''. In 1997, he was again arrested and sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment, on the same charges as before, after criticizing the Fourteenth Youth and Student Festival scheduled for later that year in Cuba. He was detained again in December 1998, July 1999 and was last arrested in connection to the current case against him on 2 March 2000.
In a third example, on April 24, 1998, a court in Santiago de Cuba convicted Julio César Coizeau Rizo, a member of the Club de Ex-Presos Políticos "Geraldo González," Club of Ex-Political Prisoners "Geraldo González," to three years in prison on a charge of desacato, disrespect for authority, for posting anti-government flyers.
Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, aged 34, the director of Línea Sur Press, an independent press agency based in Cienfuegos, was detained on 14 August 1997 and held for three days. His trial subsequently took place on 28 November 1997. He was sentenced to six years' imprisonment for "desacato", "disrespect", which was confirmed on appeal. He was accused of showing disrespect towards President Fidel Castro and Vice-President Carlos Lage after calling them liars in an interview he gave to a US-based radio station. Bernardo Arévalo Padrón is currently being held in the Prisión Provincial de Cienfuegos, Cienfuegos Provincial Prison, Ariza, Cienfuegos province, where in April 1998 he was beaten, reportedly because it was mistakenly believed that he had distributed anti-government propaganda within the prison. According to reports, as a result of the beatings he was left with a swollen face, his body was badly bruised, and he suffered from loss of memory throughout the year.
Julio César Coizeau Rizo, aged 24, was detained on 30 October 1997. He was brought to trial on 28 April 1998, charged with "desacato", "disrespect", to President Fidel Castro, and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. The charge was brought against him for having written anti-government slogans in different places, which he did not deny at his trial. He was reportedly angry with the government for not investigating the disappearance of his brother, Luis Alberto Coizeau Rizo, who suffers from schizophrenia and left home on 23 November 1996 leaving a note saying that he would try to leave the country via Guantánamo, but never returned. Julio César Coizeau Rizo is currently serving his sentence in Prisión de Aguadores, Aguadores Prison, Santiago de Cuba province.
Manuel Antonio González Castellanos, aged 41,a reporter for the independent press agency Cuba Press, was detained on 1 October 1998 in Holguín and charged with "desacato", "disrespect". Later that day family members Yoanis Caridad Varona González and Leonardo Varona González (see below), as well as a visitor at the house, Roberto Rodríguez Rodríguez (see below), were arrested. On 6 May 1999 the trial took place of Manuel González, Leonardo Varona, Yoanis Varona González and Roberto Rodríguez and all four defendants were convicted of "disrespect". Manuel González was sentenced to two years and seven months' imprisonment, which he is currently serving in the Prisión Provincial de Holguín, Holguín Provincial Prison. Yoanis Varona was sentenced to one and a half years' restricted freedom.
Roberto Rodríguez Rodríguez, aged 27, was detained on 2 October 1998 in Holguín and charged with "desacato", "disrespect". The day after the arrest of Manuel Antonio González Castellanos (see above), family members were reportedly subjected to an acto de repudio (act of repudiation). Their home was reportedly surrounded by several hundred people, reportedly lead by State Security agents and members of the Brigadas de Respuesta Rápida, Rapid Response Brigades , who chanted threats and abuse. Government agents then arrested Yoanis Caridad Varona González and Leonardo Varona González, as well as a visitor at the house, Roberto Rodríguez Rodríguez. On 6 May 1999 the trial took place of Manuel González, Leonardo Varona, Yoanis Varona González and Roberto Rodríguez and all four defendants were convicted of "disrespect". Roberto Rodríguez was sentenced to one year and five months' imprisonment and is currently imprisoned in Prisión Cuba Sí, Holguín province.
Witnessing Cuba's totalitarianism made Curry think of his rights as an American: "At home, we can openly question George W. Bush's intelligence [or deride Justice Thomas], but here it is unlawful to be disrespectful of Castro."
Curry isn't being figurative; "disrespect," or desacato, is a crime in Cuba, applicable to Castro and all of his functionaries. (Disrespecting Castro and senior functionaries carriers a harsher penalty, though) "Disrespect" is the instrument of repression often used against Cuba's bona fide journalists, those who don't work for the regime and report its reality.
One of these crushed voices belongs to Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, sentenced to six years in November 1997 for disrespecting Castro and "Vice President" Carlos Lage during an interview. Forced labor and beatings have been perpetrated against Padrón in prison.
This man should be a professor, not a prisoner.
Ana María Agramonte Crespo, president of the unofficial Movimiento Acción Nacionalista, National Action Movement, remains imprisoned at the Centro de Reeducación de Mujeres de Occidente, Women's Re-education Centre in Havana (the main prison for women nicknamed "Manto Negro"). She was arrested on 1 May 1997, Labour Day, after reportedly refusing to obey a police order to stay at home that day. She was tried on 16 May 1997 and sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment, charged with "disrespect" and "resistance".
Ricardo de Armas Hernández, provincial delegate of the unofficial Partido Pro Derechos Humanos en Cuba, Party for Human Rights in Cuba, in Matanzas, was sentenced in July 1997 to six or nine months' imprisonment after being convicted on a charge of "disrespect". He had been arrested on 14 May 1997 and taken to Agüica Prison, Matanzas. In September 1997 he was reportedly beaten up by two common law prisoners. He may have been released since then but this has not yet been confirmed.
Radamés García de la Vega , vice-president of the unofficial Movimiento Cubano Jóvenes por la Democracia, Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, was arrested on 30 April 1997 in Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba province. He was sentenced on 17 June 1997 to eighteen months' "correctional work with internment", after being convicted of "desacato a la figura del Comandante en Jefe", "disrespect towards the Commander in Chief" (i.e. President Fidel Castro). Initially he was permitted to remain at home because of ill health but in mid-July he began his sentence at Prisión Correccional Pepe Blanca, Gota Blanca Reformatory, in Palma Soriano.
Adel Sigfredo Martínez Armenteros, member of the national executive of the unofficial Partido Democrático 30 de Noviembre "Frank País", Frank País 30th November Democratic Party, was arrested on 12 September 1997 in Havana and taken to the Fourth Police Unit. His mother was told the same day that he would be released on bail within three days if she paid 1,000 pesos, a large amount of money in Cuba. However, on 15 September she was told that it had been decided to bring him to trial next day at Cerro municipal court on a charge of "disrespect". He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment which he is believed to be serving in Unit 1580 (also kown as "El Pitirre") in San Miguel del Padrón, Havana.
More on Cuba's abusive laws: Repressive Laws in Cuba abusing human rights