The Original Act 425, Signed by Fidel Castro and others, which made dissent against the Castro government punishable by deathThe International Commission of Jurists reports that this law “marks the beginning of the extension of violent repression to Cuban citizens who do not agree with the course taken by the Castro regime.”When Fidel Castro and his Revolutionary cohorts entered Havana during the first week of 1959, there were high hopes around the world that the repressive dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista would be replaced by a liberal democracy. But it did not take long for those hopes to come into question. In January and February former Batista officials are tried as criminals; as many as 500 are executed. When the U.S. press called the executions a "blood bath," Castro rallied Cubans to support his policies. A new chant was heard across Cuba: paredón - "to the wall" - meaning death by firing squad. On February 7 members of Castro's revolutionary organization and leaders of the anti-Batista political opposition formed an interim government. Manuel Urrutia became president; José Miró Cardona became prime minister. Elections were to be held within eighteen months. Just nine days later, however, Castro ousted Miró Cardona and took the office of prime minister for himself. On March 3 Castro's government began its program of nationalizing businesses and expropriating property. It took over the Cuban Telephone Company, and immediately lowered telephone rates. On May 17 Castro signed the Agrarian Reform Act under which the government expropriated farm lands over 1,000 acres and banned land ownership by foreigners. Some 200,000 peasants quickly received titles to these lands. These measures were obviously just the first of the major expropriations, with many more important ones clearly to follow. Many in Cuba were supportive of these revolutionary moves, but inside and outside of Cuba these actions generated opposition. Castro was making enemies, and powerful ones, amongst the wealthy, in the business community, and in nations whose citizens were at risk to lose property in Cuba - including the United States.To discourage dissent within Cuba, and to make Cubans think twice about cooperating with foreign nations that might choose to interfere with the measures of the Revolution, in late June 1959 the death penalty was reinstated. That action did not define how and to whom it would be applied, but something big was clearly in the offing. And that something was the landmark Act 425, dated July 7, 1959, which essentially outlawed dissent. The International Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States calls this law the one that defined “counter-revolutionary crimes”, and included as eligible for the death penalty crimes “against the powers of the State”. Another source cites this law, saying “The Cuban government was quick to restrict political discourse in order to protect the new social order.”But the fullest and most important treatment of this law was issued by the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva, in its 1962 report “Cuba and the Law”. The Jurists’ organization, whose purpose is to promote and protect human rights through the Rule of Law, held that Act 425 “marks the beginning of the extension of violent repression to Cuban citizens who do not agree with the course taken by the Castro regime. Consideration of the introductory clauses reveals the beginning of this new stage in the activities of the Revolutionary government.” A detailed exposition of this law, based on the Jurists’ report, follows below.Document signed by Fidel Castro as Prime Minister, Havana, July 7, 1959, “Year of the Liberation”, being the original Act 425 that defined counter-revolutionary activities, set punishments of lengthy imprisonments and death, and erased the distinction between political detainees and common criminals, thus making Cuba into a totalitarian state. This is undoubtedly the most important Cuban law, and most impactful hemisphere-wide, ever to reach the marketplace. There is a translation available. The document is also signed by and in the name of Urrutia as the President of Cuba. Urrutia had been a leading figure in the civic resistance movement against Batista's government during the Cuban Revolution. An educated liberal and Christian, Fidel Castro and his movement tapped him to become Cuba’s first president after the Revolution, believing that this choice would be welcomed by the United States and other democracies. When the Cuban Revolution gained victory on January 1, 1959, Urrutia returned from exile to take up residence in the Presidential Palace. His new government consisted largely of Cuban political veterans and liberals. Urrutia's agenda soon clashed with Castro’s, and Castro assumed the post of Prime Minister in February 1959, rendering Urrutia increasingly a figurehead. Urrutia's belief in the prompt restoration of elections was rejected by Castro, who felt that they would usher in a return to the old discredited system of corrupt parties and fraudulent balloting which marked the Batista era. Then Urrutia attempted to distance the Cuban government (including Castro) from the growing influence of the Communists within the administration, making a series of critical public comments against the rising group that soon made his position untenable. On July 17, 1959, workers' leaders demanded Urrutia's resignation. Castro himself appeared on television later that day to deliver a lengthy denouncement of Urrutia. Organized crowds surrounded the Presidential Palace demanding Urrutia's resignation, which was duly received the next day. Urrutia fled to the United States where he wrote a book entitled, ''Fidel Castro & Company, Inc.: Communist Tyranny in Cuba’, and supported Castro’s overthrow. He worked as a teacher and university professor in New York until his death in 1981. Minister of Justice Alfredo Yabur has also signed the document.Blueprint for a Totalitarian State: Act 425, this vey act, as reported and analyzed by the International Commission of Jurists in Gevena:It was promulgated on July 7, 1959. This Act followed the amendment of Article 25 of the Fundamental Law on June 29, 1959. The amendment extended the death penalty to persons guilty of counter-revolutionary offenses. Act No. 425 deﬁnes those offenses. It marks the beginning of the extension of violent repression to Cuban citizens who do not agree with the course taken by the Castro regime. Consideration of the introductory clauses reveals the beginning of this new stage in the activities of the Revolutionary Government. The first of these introductory clauses invokes the need to issue legislation to prevent and put down counter-revolutionary activity. It ascribes such activities to “fugitives from revolutionary justice” and “ advocates of illegitimate interests.” The second introductory clause establishes that a generic definition of counter-revolutionary activity would cover “the possibility of affecting adversely the inestimable value of individual freedom, which the Revolution undertook to guarantee” It goes on to say that it is therefore proper to deﬁne the specific offenses which may be considered as counter-revolutionary acts. The fourth introductory clause spells out, in indirect terms, the motives of this Act: to make penalties stiffer and to cut short the formalities required for condemnation of persons charged with such offenses. A further introductory clause refers to Article 25 of the Fundamental Law, which had been amended a few days earlier, and which authorizes the death penalty for persons guilty of counter-revolutionary offenses. Appendix: A more detailed assessment of the lawThe Act recognizes the following categories of counter-revolutionary offenses: 1. Offenses against the integrity and stability of the nation; and 2. Offenses against State power. Both offenses are deﬁned in extensive terms.Article 2 deﬁnes as offenses against the integrity and stability of the nation the following acts:1. Persons performing an action on behalf of a foreign power with the express and acknowledged objective of harming the independence of the Republic or the integrity of the national territory.2. Persons performing actions directed expressly and knowingly at promoting war against the Republic.3. Persons taking up arms against their country under an enemy ﬂag.4. Persons helping the enemy to enter national territory, to take a military post, vessel or aircraft belonging to the State or any food supplies or war materials.5. Persons suborning members of the armed forces or persons in the service of the Republic to go over to the enemy or to desert their ﬂag during a campaign.6. Persons recruiting others on the territory of the Republic to ﬁght against their country under the flag of a foreign power.7. Persons recruiting others on the territory of the Republic for a service on behalf ' of an enemy power which does not involve direct participation in a war against the Republic.8. Persons supplying funds, arms, vessels, aircraft, equipment, munitions, or other similar materials for use in hostilities against the Republic to the troops of an enemy power. This includes those helping enemy armies to advance in any manner not covered under the previoussection.9. Persons supplying the enemy with plans of fortresses, camps, military areas, defense works or any other documents or with information for use in hostilities against the Republic or to favor the advance of enemy forces. 10. Persons who in wartime prevent national troops from receiving the assistance listed under 8 or the information under 9.11. Persons divulging political or military secrets affecting the security of the State by communicating or publishing such information.12. Persons who, without due authorization, take plans of fortifications, of military naval Vessels or aircraft, maritime or military establishments, railways, roads or other installations of military importance.Article 3 defines offenses against State power. These offenses are:1. Any act aimed directly at changing in whole or in part, by means of violence, the Constitution of the State or the established form of government.2. Any act aimed at promoting an armed rising against the State powers.3. Any act performed with a View to preventing the Council of Ministers, the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister or the Supreme Court of Justice from exercising their constitutional functions in Whole or in part, even if only temporarily.4. Interference with general elections or plebiscites.5. The introduction, publication or intention to have performed in Cuba orders or decrees prejudicial to the independence of the nation.6. Failure by authorities of the Revolutionary Government to resist insurrection by all means open to them.7. Continuation in oﬂice or in employment on the part of public employees under the orders of any such insurrection.8. Abandoning employment when there is danger of insurrection or after such insurrection has actually occurred.9. Taking command of troops, fortresses, military posts, etc.10. Usurpation of a function assigned by the Fundamental Law to a State power.11. Recruitment of citizens on the territory of the Republic without Government authorization.For the offense under section 2 there is a penalty of 20 years imprisonment. For offenses under sections 1, 3, 4, 5, and 9, the punishment is from 20 years imprisonment to death. Article 4 amends Articles 156, 157, 158 and 159, of Chapter IV of Part 1 of the Second Book of the Social Defense Code. This chapter refers to provisions laid down by the Chapters I and III discussed above. The amendment provides that:1. Public agitation to cause action harmful to the independence of the Republic shall be punishable with imprisonment from 10 to 20 years.2. If such agitation results either directly or indirectly in acts of violence against the Revolutionary Government, with loss of life, the penalty shall be from 20 years’ imprisonment to death.3. Persons organizing or joining an armed group in order to commit any of the offenses against the State powers shall be punishable with penalties ranging from 20 years’ imprisonment to death.4. Persons sheltering, helping or supplying the armed insurgents shall be liable to imprisonment from 10 to 20 years.5. Persons belonging to armed bands and disembarking on national territory, in order to commit any of the above listed olfenses shall be liable to penalties ranging from 20 years’ imprisonment to death.6. The same penalty shall apply to persons who, although not members of armed contingents, clandestinely enter Cuban territory to commit any of the above-mentioned olfences.7. Persons working or traveling on board aircraft ﬂying over Cuban territory in order to commit any of the offenses listed above shall be liable to penalties ranging from 20 years’ imprisonment to death.8. Persons operating or carried in aircraft “ to observe the national territory for counter-revolutionarv purposes. to alarm or confuse the population, to distribute counter-revolutionary propaganda or perform any act detrimental to the national economy incurring peril to human life shall be liable to penalties ranging from 20 years imprisonment to death.Article 7 of Act No. 425 triples the minimum and maximum penalties applying for the offense of sedition.Article 8 provides for penalties ranging from 20 years’ imprisonment to death in respect of persons guilty of either attempted or actual assassination for counter-revolutionary purposes. The same article restores the death penalty for offenses deﬁned as “ againstcollective security ”.Article 9 contains a provision of considerable value for the interpretation of the legislation analyzed in this chapter. The wording is laconic for such an extraordinarily important change. It simply says: “The general provision contained in Article 161 of the Social Defense Code is hereby repealed”. Article 161 of the Social Defense Code stated: “For the purposes of the provisions of Article 21 of this Code political offenses shall be considered those covered by the preceding four chapters.” The preceding four chapters are: I. 0ffences against the integrity and stability of the nation; II. Offenses prejudicial to the peace of the State; III. Offenses against the State powers; IV, Provisions common to the preceding chapters. This amendment means that there shall henceforth be no special category of political offenses and that these activities shall be considered by the Castro regime as common crimes. (Inventory #: 11113)
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