CUBA: New administration’s Decree 349 is a dystopian prospect for Cuba’s artists

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1 Sep 2018
[International Secretariat]
Region: CUBA

In response to Decree 349, one of the first laws signed by Cuba’s new President Miguel Díaz-Canel in April 2018, which will come into force in December and has provoked protests by independent artists in Cuba, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International said:

“Amnesty International is concerned that the recent arbitrary detentions of Cuban artists protesting Decree 349, as reported by Cuban independent media, are an ominous sign of things to come. We stand in solidarity with all independent artists in Cuba that are challenging the legitimacy of the decree and standing up for a space in which they can work freely without fear of reprisals.”

“As far back as the 1980s, Amnesty International has documented the harassment and arbitrary detention of independent artists in Cubas imply for peacefully expressing their opinions through art. Instead of consolidating their control over artists perceived to overstep state-sanctioned criticism, the Cuban authorities should be making progressive changes to protect human rights.”


Signed by President Díaz-Canel in April and published in Cuba’s Official Gazette in July, Decree 349 is expected to come into force in December 2018.

Under the decree, all artists, including musicians and performers, are prohibited from operating in public or private spaces without prior approval by the Ministry of Culture. Individuals or businesses that hire artists without the authorization can be sanctioned, and artists that work without prior approval can have their materials confiscated or be substantially fined.

Amnesty International is concerned that the decree contains vague and overly broad restrictions on artistic expression. For example, it prohibits audiovisual materials that contain, among other things: “use of patriotic symbols that contravene current legislation”, “sexist and vulgar or obscene language”.

Prohibiting artistic expression based on concepts such as “obscene” or “harmful to ethical and cultural values” does not meet the tests of legitimate purpose, necessity and proportionality required under international human rights law. The lack of precision opens the door for its arbitrary application to further crackdown on dissent and critical voices. This would not only contravene the right to freedom of expression of artists in Cuba, but the right of every person in the country to seek and receive information and ideas of all kinds.

Restrictions must also be demonstrably necessary and proportionate for the purpose of protecting a specified public interest which are only national security, public health or morals, or the rights or reputations of others.

The rights to freedom of opinion and expression are key to enabling individuals to exercise human rights. As such, under international law, states have a duty to protect the free expression of ideas and opinions of all kinds.

24 August 2018

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