What is Decree349 ?

Signed by President Díaz-Canel in April and published in Cuba’s Official Gazette in July, 2018. Under the decree, all artists, including collectives, 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. Under the new decree, the authorities also have the power to immediately suspend a performance and to propose the cancelation of the authorization granted to carry out the artistic activity. Such decisions can only be appealed before the same Ministry of Culture (Article 10); the decree does not provide an effective remedy to appeal such a decision before an independent body, including through the courts.

Amnesty International’s Assessment:  Decree 349 it prohibits audiovisual materials that contain, among other things: “use of patriotic symbols that contravene current legislation” (Article 3a), “sexist, vulgar or obscene language” (Article 3d), and “any other (content) that violates the legal provisions that regulate the normal development of our society in cultural matters” (Article 3g). Furthermore, it makes it an offence to “commercialize books with content harmful to ethical and cultural values” (Article 4f).

Prohibiting artistic expression based on concepts such as “obscene”, “vulgar” 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 in the wording of the decree opens the door for its arbitrary application to further crackdown on dissent and critical voices in a country where artists have been harassed and detained for decades. 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.

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