Crime on the Table

"What is crime? What is its nature? Does it have other definitions according to the characteristics of the country? Is it a deviation from the established norms? If that were the case, is every deviation legally a crime?" A few hours away from the UJ panel about the Causes and Variations of Crime, we recall another of the moments dedicated to the topic.

Puede leer aquí la versión en español de este artículo.

*Panel held at the National Union of Cuban Jurists (UNJC) in December 2011, published in Los debates de Temas, Vol. 9.


Jorge Bodes Torres, Professor, School of Law, University of Havana

Luis Lorenzo Palenzuela Báez, Prosecutor, President of the Cuban Society of Civil and Family Law

Armando Torres, Jurist, President of the Provincial People’s Court of Havana

Rafael Hernández, Political Scientist, Director of Temas

Rafael Hernández (moderator): We would like to thank the National Union of Cuban Jurists (UNJC) for hosting our meeting and providing us with a proper context to develop and, above all, reflect on the issue of crime in contemporary times, which goes beyond, of course, the borders of Cuba. What is crime? What is its nature? Does it have other definitions according to the characteristics of the country? Is it a deviation from the established norm? If that is the case, is all deviation legally a crime?

Jorge Bodes Torres: In the first place, crime is a social phenomenon, typical of any society and long considered to be a kind of conduct that substantially affects the individual, society, the institutions and the established government. This is how the State conceptualizes crime. Of course, not every impingement can defined as criminal conduct, because there are several ways for a certain behavior to deviate from the accepted standards, and for that purpose there are contraventions or non-formal mechanisms based on the rejection of certain actions that society finds unacceptable but are not necessarily considered crimes.

Therefore, I repeat, it is the kind of conduct that seriously affects the subjects, the State, the country and the institutions and is worthy of criminal prosecution and punishment. To this end, the State organizes a system that defines crime and has a number of bodies to prosecute and punish it. Moreover, it grants the courts of law the right to punish individuals—the so-called ius puniendi—and deprive them of certain rights such as their personal freedom and their property. It also empowers the prosecutor's office to indict and start criminal proceedings, although in some cases, people bring lawsuits and they themselves take legal action against someone. In other cases, there are specific requirements and authorizations to sue an individual.

Crime is a generic concept, but there is a wide range of conducts, linked to different motives, reasons, causes and origins, that may be intentional—even if the person was not trying to commit a crime—either for being at fault, for unforeseen circumstances or for failure to comply with a given regulation. That person may have even been unaware that they could be legally accountable, and yet they would indeed be so. For example, a traffic violation. Nobody wants to collide with another car or run over and kill a person, but sometimes a driver runs a red light and knocks down a passer-by right then and there. It was not their intention, but they ended up committing a crime.

Therefore, there is a moral element involved, because society recognizes it as such, as well as social, political and even economic connotations. Sometimes, the theft of goods that belong to everyone cannot be allowed and must be considered an illegal act, a crime that infringes the morals, ethics and principles that prevail in society.

Armando Torres: Crime, in any society, is a socially dangerous act or nonfeasance that must be included in a criminal law, in a code, and entail a punishment.

Now, Bodes referred to the fact that societies are different, which can also be a problem. A certain conduct deemed legally punishable in one country may be considered socially harmless in another. So who makes that conduct and action a crime? Every society has a legislative body in charge of enacting laws, the one that decides what is or is not a violation, regardless of the legislative power conferred on different actors such as agencies and institutions to have a given conduct be considered a crime and outlawed. It will be up to that body to determine whether said conduct is socially dangerous.

Luis Lorenzo Palenzuela Báez: A crime is an infraction, but not all infractions are crimes. Family Law, for example, specifies some infractions established in the law that do not constitute a crime: a parent’s failure to communicate with a child after a divorce or during the marriage or to pay child support, unless said infraction becomes a danger to society, as Dr. Armando Torres has already pointed out.

In my view, crime’s nature is essentially social, although it has other characteristics. It is necessary to assess the objective and subjective elements of a law-breaking conduct, as they may be intentional or heedless, as Dr. Bodes said. An action or omission in traffic cases is punishable even if killing was not the intention, but some infractions cause damage to material property and, in the worst-case scenario, to people.

As to the question of whether crime is a moral, social, political or economic issue, I would add the religious component. In some societies, some crimes are sins, so we would need to evaluate how the Canon Law of the Arab countries prosecutes and punishes them and what code they enforce against offending conducts. Therefore, it is also a cultural question, as Dr. Torres said, related to issues treated differently around the world but worthy of consideration.

When a crime is prosecuted, the procedural rules establish methodologies to pass judgment on the facts and establish standards so that certain legally punishable conducts are settled out of court and administrative measures are taken instead—they are already speaking of Administrative Criminal Law—such as a fine, imposed by the police or another law enforcement body.

Rafael Hernández: What may be in general the causes of criminal behavior? Are they linked to factors involved in people’s formation, such as family, education, the environment, personal values? Is the increase in crime a sign that there is a crisis of values or a fact revealing of injustice and social inequality? What causes can we identify as related to the increase or decrease in crime?

Jorge bodes Torres: As a jurist, I believe that we have to consider the cause of any crime. We have talked about criminal negligence and driving-related offenses, but also about intentional crimes such as robbery—fueled by greed and the desire to get hold of material goods by unlawful means—and unintentional ones such as bodily harm or homicide, because maybe those who kill or injure someone do it without intention. There are economic crimes, crimes against honor, etc. In short, we have to determine what type of crime we are going to examine or study.

The most common crimes in Cuba and in the world are robbery, theft and crimes against property. Sometimes, when we talk about the rise in crime, we are automatically referring to those. Then come the crimes against physical integrity, homicide and bodily harm. When we look into the causes of any of them, some factors prevail over the others. For example, there are often economic reasons: someone does not have any money, but neither do they have an adequate cultural level, that is to say, strong ethical values, so that individual has no qualms about stealing. That is one factor, although there is a confluence of elements that contribute to and determine a certain behavior. A person may have scarce resources and yet uphold deeply rooted values and principles, and therefore be incapable of committing any crime, since ethics prevails over hardship. When we analyze the issue of bodily harm and homicide, other factors come into play, such as violence, for example. That is why, when it comes to fighting these crimes, we also have to look for concrete, creative and effective measures.

Armando Torres: As Dr. Bodes well said, the crisis of values seems to be a common denominator and what I think underlies crime. This is not an absolute fact, because, for example, we were talking about driving-related offenses, which do not necessarily point to a crisis of values. Some people behave recklessly, but if they killed or injured someone or damaged their property, they committed a socially dangerous act, even in the case of an upright individual with deep-rooted ethical values.

Now, there are different types of crime, as Dr. Bodes said. There are those against property or against State security, as well as the economic or “white-collar” crimes committed by businesspeople, sex crimes, and even biological crimes. They all have different causes based on the perpetrator’s criminal conduct and affect different legal interests.

For instance, an economic crisis, in a certain place, can be a cause of crime, because it is related to inequality and social injustice, like in countries with millions of marginalized people who have no access to anything and many times have recourse to crime. In the American continent, unfortunately, we see criminal activity caused by social injustice and many criminals capable of displaying a tremendous degree of violence. However, when seen individually, those are human beings who have gone to those extremes for certain reasons, and almost always, of course, we totally deprecate those persons and how little they value both life and other people’s property. In other words, the causes depend on the type of crime, the characteristics of society, and the offender’s principles.

Rafael Hernández: Why is it that the crimes against property and against individuals are on the rise?

Luis Lorenzo Palenzuela Báez: I think that we cannot define a priori the causes of a crime. There must be a multidisciplinary investigation aimed at finding the root cause with scientific rigor and a methodology and, therefore, not one element should be underlined above the others if it is not well grounded.

In relation to certain crimes against patrimony, if a rise in their number is observed, we must check whether it is in a large region or in a community, and it would be necessary to prevent these behaviors from becoming recurrent. Sometimes you improve people’s housing conditions in order to avoid, for example, violent acts of robbery, but if they increase, we would have to check who the caretakers are and who is in charge of the institution. We must look into the context where they occur and what measures can be taken there to tackle crime. However, I do think that we should always conduct a study and do research on its causes.

Armando Torres: Crime statistics can also go up or down depending on the conditions that may favor them. The lack of reliable accounting—that is, when there is no control—paves the way for crime because people think that they can get away with it; that is to say, causes and conditions concur which criminologists have also labeled necessity and opportunity. This would not happen, for example, with an efficient control over the enterprise's accounting system.

Jorge Bodes Torres: I would like to make it clear that the definition of the concept of crime is a human construction, designed according to our perception, and sometimes what we do is criminalize an act and create a fictitious crime. At some point, it is perhaps necessary to criminalize a conduct that eventually stops being socially dangerous and loses its validity, and yet we still consider it criminal in nature. Now, with the self-employed in the picture, I think about the ongoing issues of speculation and hoarding. They hoard various products that we need on a daily basis, but we go on with our lives as if there is nothing to it and do not hold them legally accountable. For example, we see those people who sell CDs, and I wonder about respect for copyrights.

Some authors and criminologists raise the question of decriminalization and recall the Prohibition enacted in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. Drinking was a crime, but they had to decriminalize the sale of alcohol because, in the end, people would buy it on the black market. Some criminologists speak of decriminalizing drug use as a way of eliminating addiction. In Cuba, they have thought of decriminalizing the theft and slaughter of livestock and devising administrative incentives to boost beef and horsemeat production. That is why I have said that it is man who decides what acts and conducts constitute a crime.

Rafael Hernández: How, then, can we deal effectively with crime? How can we get institutions other than a country’s penal system, such as school, community and family, engage actively in and contribute to the reduction and eradication of crime? Once we assume that crime is on the rise in society, how can we prevent it and attack its root causes? What is the role of punishment in this process? What is the role of social mediation and out-of-court settlements that do not necessarily involve a prison sentence? How can we deal with crime in a creative and effective way?

Luis Lorenzo Palenzuela Báez: I think the concept of prevention is essential because it also includes confrontation and rehabilitation. There are discussions in relation to the role of social control, that is, should it be dealt with without government or state involvement? We would have to assess this issue as a whole, considering both the state’s and the community’s role.

There is talk of mediation, but I also think that in our situation, as we strive to improve socialism, we could use it without dogmatically copying the formulas used in different countries. In other words, assimilating and adjusting to our realities the culture of others, as Martí taught us.

Some have used mediation as something closely linked with neoliberalism that takes some authority away from the State. I think that severe punishment is relative; the fact that the death penalty remains in the law curbs certain behaviors, although excessive punishment may not be a way to deal adequately with crime, because people lose hope when their punishment is too harsh. For that reason, we would also have to evaluate our penal system and work progressively with those human beings who need reeducation. Some people only accept the concept of education, arguing that those individuals are not educated yet and, therefore, should not get a reeducation. That is, these are situations worth taking into account in our assessment.

I also believe that the social actors and institutions should work together and, in certain cases, the police, the prosecutor's office, the courts and social policies should play a role.

The school has a great influence on the community, a factor that we have tried to strengthen in Cuba. There have been moments when we have talked about it, more or less insistently, in our parent-teacher meetings, and we have even participated in international conferences where we have drawn a great deal of attention to this term.

Armando Torres: I agree with Palenzuela that prevention is more important than criminal punishment. Elías Carranza, one of the important criminologists in our hemisphere, has a book on the topic of prevention in which he makes a categorical call to consider prevention before the crime is committed, and this is directly related to the causes. Through the so-called Battle of Ideas, a set of social programs, the State focused on this issue, costly as it is for any country. Unfortunately, no country in the world today is in a position to put an end to all social problems and to crime. You can reduce it, but no one has yet been able to eliminate it. Palenzuela talked about school, culture, sports, and things that can enrich people and dissuade them from committing a crime, and this is an essential issue. At any rate, we cannot delude ourselves that prevention is sufficient to solve this problem.

Some people may have personality and behavioral disorders that render prevention-oriented efforts completely pointless. There are axiological mad people for whom there will have to be criminal penalties with a role to play in the social ground rules. What has to exist is a balance between the punishment imposed, the seriousness of the offense and the characteristics of the perpetrators and their chances of amending themselves. This is important.

It is not possible to think now that democracy entails lack of social control; that is a mistake. Social control can be formal, as established by certain institutions that all the States of the world have in place, such as the police and security guards. There are also informal social control bodies such as family, neighbors, and co-workers. In Cuba, we see the role of the workplace in rescuing people, even after they commit a crime. I have not seen many research works on this subject by specialists from other countries. In Cuba we have a number of organizations that interact positively with the subjects, that is, social control is also important.

Desmond Tutu said that it is necessary to build bridges even between the victim and the victimizer and consider how effective a criminal penalty can be to reestablish social relations when there is a crime between neighbors, family members or co-workers. Mediation could be the right track to take in certain cases, when mediation is possible. Some crimes deserve a harsh prison sentence, but others not necessarily so, and these make it possible for the individual to reintegrate into society. There are criminals, for instance, a murderer, whose reintegration is possible but taking into account that we must protect society from them.

Jorge Bodes Torres: Before coming to this meeting, I was reading the book On Crimes and Punishments, by Cesare Bonesana, Marquis of Beccaria. I am proposing that we publish it in Cuba, because more than two hundred and fifty years later—he wrote it in 1764—this book still enjoys a remarkable validity and vitality. He said, if I may quote him: “It is better to prevent crimes than to punish them", and added, “The most certain, but most difficult method of making men better is by perfecting education”. I agree with him: by strengthening education, as the Revolution and the Communist Party of Cuba have done, we are in a better position to keep people from going astray and committing crimes. 

The imposition of harsher sentences will not solve the problem. What is more, it also creates another problem for the State itself, since it has to maintain, and hire people to look after, a person condemned to a long term of imprisonment. Now, Beccaria shed light on another aspect of the problem that I consider very important when he said, “The certainty of punishment, moderate though it may be, will ever make a stronger impression than the fear of another, more terrible, perhaps, but associated with the hope of impunity”. Then he added, “One of the greatest preventives of crime is, not the cruelty of the punishment attached to them, but their infallibility”. I think Lenin also raised this issue. What does stop the offender is the certainty that what they do will be inexcusably discovered. This is a complex issue, since it is very difficult to have investigative bodies that discover everything, something that we only see on TV shows like the CSI series. It does not happen in real life, not even in the United States. There has been a lot of talk about extraordinary penalties, which are neither useful nor a way of confronting crime. I believe other factors come into play, since this confrontation has to be multidisciplinary and engage religion, family and workplace, as well as the police, the Prosecutor's Office, the courts and the prisons, to contribute to crime prevention and to the subject’s reintegration into society.

I would like to finish with one of Beccaria’s phrases: “In order that punishment should not be an act of violence perpetrated by one or many upon a private citizen, it is essential that it should be public, speedy, necessary, the least possible in the given circumstances, proportioned to the crime, dictated by the law”. I think we should keep this in mind in order to find the most appropriate way to deal with crime.

Rafael Hernández: Our thanks to the panelists, who I think have put enough questions and problems on the table. Now the audience has the floor.

Walfrido Quiñones Bencomo: I am a practicing attorney with the National Organization of Collective Law Firms, namely the Salvador Allende Law Firm of Centro Habana municipality. I think that one of the main issues to understand what is happening with crime in Cuba is to have statistical information about it. The panelists said, and rightly so, that every crime has specific characteristics, causes and conditions and, therefore, calls for an independent differentiated approach; hence the importance of knowing facts about the crime rate in today’s Cuba.

What are the crimes affecting our society? Are we afraid that crime against the property rights of our society and our people is on the rise? Do the citizens feel unsafe? Are white-collar crimes increasing? Do people in Cuba know why some managers and enterprise directors have been replaced, or the fact that many crimes are linked to companies and to foreign investment? How are we going to face this phenomenon, not only corruption, but the social conducts triggered by the changes that Cuba is currently going through? Are we updating an economic model or are we trying at all costs to move towards a better society? Finally, I agree with the thesis of the panelists in relation to penal mediation. I think it is important to keep it as a solution in our procedural system and think whether a reform, expansion and adjustment of our criminal laws to the characteristics of 2021 and the years to come is worth the effort.

Pedro Campos: I am a historian. The capitalist system is inherently corrupt and corrupting for a simple reason: the way it appropriates wage labor and the surplus value that it generates. I have not heard how they are going to solve it with laws, but it has to be the object of basic, structural changes in order to eliminate corruption and crime, because the capitalists make laws to defend their interests as a system.

As we Marxists know, every society relies on a socio-economic system and, as such, creates a superstructure, and its body of laws works as a function of the interests determined by that system. It is a question of applying this fact to Cuba, namely, how our socioeconomic base generates crime. I would like the panelists to talk about this; that is, we have a socio-economic base with a given structure of ownership and production relations based neither on freely associated labor nor on a cooperative system, but on State property, where the State is the ultimate decision maker and the one that pays the workers. Why don't we study these problems and try to find solutions?

Enrique López Oliva: What role can religion play in crime prevention in Cuba? We live in a secular society in which Church and State are separated, and there is no law of cults ruling over the life of religious institutions. However, much like other instances, religion exerts social influence and has an educational system parallel to the state one that grows by the day, a social doctrine with cadres formed under its sway and a number of internal regulations with codes that govern its membership. I would like you to address this issue.

Ramón de la Cruz: I think there is a theoretical problem, specifically the issue of dangerousness, related to birth and rise of the bourgeoisie and of criminological positivism. Most progressive criminal lawyers disagree with this issue of dangerousness because it is too ambiguous, subjective and difficult to specify, and everyone understands what is or is not dangerous as they see fit. Nowadays, the most progressive of them use the term ‘social harmfulness’. Dangerousness is one thing, something that could happen, whereas harm does happen and is therefore deserving of punishment. This sounds like just a trivial play on words, but it has actually been extremely important in the history of criminal law. The term ‘dangerousness’ has been largely overused ever since it appeared in the late 19th century. Fascism used it cruelly, as have other authoritarian systems; that is why so many Cuban criminal lawyers oppose its use and advocate the term ‘social harmfulness’ instead.

Comrade López Oliva was talking about religion. I preside over the Academic Committee of the Master's Degree in Criminology at the University of Havana. There we have a module dedicated to religion, because we believe it is a deterrent to wrong social behavior and a source of personal values.

Cuba has hardly ever turned to mediation; we do not have that kind of culture, although we made a first attempt with the People's Courts, established in the provinces as per Fidel’s instructions—when I was still a university student—to hear and settle disputes between peasants. They did not impose prison sentences; rather, they tried to solve problems. I disagree with comrade Palenzuela’s view that mediation is an invention of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie may have taken advantage of these processes, but they far predate its emergence.

For example, I have seen mediation at work in Norway, where an official from the Ministry of Justice meets with the victim and the offender so that they try to reach an agreement, through compensation or some other solution. If they fail to reach a consensus, then their case goes to court for a judge to rule on the matter. If they reach an agreement, and it is a misdemeanor, they send the file to a prosecutor, who files the case, and that is the end of it. In other words, mediation is not so complicated. The State has a certain control over this type of pact and, therefore, we should not understand it only as an expression of neo-liberalism.

At the beginning of the Revolution, we believed that crime was going to disappear because it was a remnant of capitalism. However, it did not disappear, and we need to take adequate measures to minimize its occurrence.

The criminological research that we have studied for twenty or thirty years says nothing about whether imposing the death penalty and harsh punishments can somehow deter crime, and there is no scientific evidence that they can. Other factors, such as prevention and education, are indeed important. Severe punishments and the death penalty create more problems than benefits for society.

Denia García Ronda: We have talked here about the need for statistics in the specific case of Cuba and about prevention and education, and the availability of information must be part of that. I believe that if someone commits a crime and is punished, be it the manager of an enterprise or an ordinary citizen, the population should be informed, not only so people can see how a criminal conduct is punished, but also to build confidence on the justice administration system. Cuba needs to disseminate that information without resorting to sensationalized crime reports, of course, and not only about economic crimes, but also those most harmful to society.

Arnel Medina: I think that we must see to it that anyone will serve their sentence, but without carrying things to extremes. Nowadays there are excesses in the world such as Clinton's Law Enforcement Act and the plan for the full execution of sentences issued by PP in Spain.[1] As a rule, every time someone runs for president, they bring up the topic of crime out of political opportunism and the need to win an election, and they never say that they will pursue policies of social inclusion for the outcasts—whose number, incidentally, grows by the day—and speak of ruling with an iron hand instead.

In 1987, some offenses covered by the Highway Code, such as driving a vehicle on public roads without a license, were decriminalized. There was no significant increase in accidents back then, so those violations would receive an administrative treatment. The new Road Safety Code does not provide for court proceedings, but it stipulates that you can lose your vehicle. In 2010, Spain passed legislation stating that driving at a certain speed, above the established limit, is a crime that entails imprisonment, as does driving without a license after you lost it to a system of points similar to ours or by a judge’s decision. If the Cuban National Assembly or a Cuban Decree-Law roll back these measures and turn them into crimes again, we will make front-page news all over the world and they will label the move the greatest outrage ever against the Cuban people.

We still have many things to decriminalize in the future. For example, the issue of professorial misconduct: what can be worse for someone whose only skill is to teach Spanish, Physics or Mathematics and decides to sell or leak a test than being banned for life from the education system? That is a very harsh penalty. There are cases of more or less organized complicity that deserve a harsher punishment, but I do not know of anyone being sentenced to prison for doing that. They usually have to pay a fine or receive an alternative penalty, unless they commit a very serious offense having national repercussions, like what happened a few years ago with pre-university school tests.

Orlando Vera: I am a professor of the National Revolutionary Police Department. My question is, why talk about prevention and not about making a social transformation by engaging all the mass organizations of this country, such as the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), whose role is of paramount importance to an individual’s reintegration into society?

Armando Torres: While we cannot say that there is no violence in Cuba, we are not noted for having violent crimes, which are not a scourge here. People in Cuba are not afraid of being killed if they go out into the street. In my capacity as a parliamentarian, not as a judge, I recently went to a conference on public security in Paraguay, where the level of violence and the lack of public security are amazing there and throughout our continent.

I know that Dr. Ramon de la Cruz is an authority on the subject of organized crime, and maybe he disagrees with what I am about to say, but I consider that organized crime does not exist in Cuba. Perhaps there are gangs and people who organize themselves to commit crimes, but not organized crime as a phenomenon that permeates the power structures and has an influence on politics and the economy and whose members become Senators, and so on.

The socialization of property in Cuba also involves the challenge to maintain control over the assets and resources of the whole society. Some people betray that trust, commit crimes and promote corruption. Now, you could wonder, “what if the figures go up?” Sometimes they do because there is more control, which does not necessarily mean that there are more cases of theft or embezzlement, but that these crimes, usually unnoticed in the past, are now being detected and punished. Our economic model is changing and adapting to a different scenario, and new forms of social property management are emerging, for instance, barbershops and private house rentals, which are more effective and contribute to crime prevention.

Regarding the information and statistics on crime that Denia García mentioned, I agree that they should be published, but also that our people and managers should be made aware of certain measures and actions that they can take to prevent crime. This can also contribute to the population’s legal education and is the kind of information that they should receive. For example, the Ministry of the Interior makes the most of the TV series Día y Noche and Tras la Huella to show real facts that ended up in court and deserved punishment.

I can tell you that there are several experiences involving the courts of law, the police, social workers, the CDRs, the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) in relation to social reintegration and the help, care and assistance provided to thousands of people who have been punished with sentences other than imprisonment. In our country, a large number of prison inmates, more than 90% of them, I dare say, benefit from early release and do not serve their full prison term, following a decision that they can serve what remains of their sentence in society, and they leave prison with a job so that they can fit back into society. This challenges many preconceptions and prejudices and contributes to the ultimate goal, namely the transformation of the individual.

Luis Lorenzo Palenzuela Báez: Comrade Pedro Campos made a real impression on me with his analysis about the Cuban reality. When I was preparing for this panel, I read a recent Decree-Law of the Council of State, No. 286 of September 21, 2011, on the integration, in the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, of the work of prevention, assistance and social work. Prevention seeks the transformation of the human being to make sure that they refrain from wrongdoing.

I was very pleased too with Dr. Quiñones's views on mediation. We have to work on the new criminal procedure law in relation to mediation. Dr. Ramón de la Cruz has already filled us in on the historical background of mediation, and I have experienced the way that it was used in Loma de Candela, Güines municipality, or in the Sierra Maestra mountains, where the so-called people’s judges took measures about certain people to invite them to engage in productive activities. That is why we have to go deeper into the theories and promote practical actions.

Jorge Bodes Torres: I would like to underline two major issues. Sure enough, when we evaluate the crime rates around the world, and particularly in Latin America, we see that we are in a more favorable position, since public security there is really terrible, drug trafficking has taken over society, organized gangs kidnap people, etc. We have more security, a fact that foreigners confirm when they talk about Cuba.

Cuba’s ongoing socioeconomic changes have paved the way for the proliferation of certain criminal acts. For example, drug consumption, something hardly ever seen before 1980, but with the inception of the Special Period, we opened the doors to tourism, and a market for hard drugs such as cocaine began to emerge. Nowadays, we have managed to control the unrestrained attitudes generated in the 1990s. I believe that Cuba is successfully keeping drug use within controllable bounds.

Regarding disclosure, I agree that there is little information. There is reticence to publish information on the number of prison inmates, the most common crimes, etc. I believe that the disclosure of figures about criminal acts and their penalization contributes to prevention. The media has to play a more important role. At the present time, the only Cuban television program that addresses legal topics Al derecho, which seems to me to be on the right track, but insufficient if we want to work on and contribute to crime prevention and to the population’s legal education.

Ramón de la Cruz: I just wanted to add that we should not be afraid of making the necessary changes to cope with the new types of crime. We simply cannot paralyze the country for fear of those changes.

Rafael Hernández: As the panelists pointed out, too much severity in the classification of crimes and acts otherwise undeserving of criminal prosecution will create problems.  The question now would be the opposite: to what extent can—and should—change come along with a legal framework that establishes what is allowed and what is prohibited? This, in fact, has to do not only with the exercise of law and order, but also with the exercise of politics. I remember that some time ago we held a panel, right here at the UNJC, on what to expect from the Law, we had a whole discussion about the issues that Law and politics have to solve.

I am very grateful to the panelists and the audience for being here to discuss this topic. Thank you very much.


Translation: Jesús Bran.


[1] Plan de Cumplimiento Íntegro de la Pena, issued by Spain’s People’s Party (T.N.)

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