Cuban lawmakers approve new legal rights for citizens

Cuban lawmakers approve new legal rights for citizens
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The Cuban National Assembly on Thursday approved new legal rights for citizens after the government was sharply criticized earlier this year for its handling of protests.

The changes, which follow a 2019 update to the country's constitution and go into effect next year, aim to increase protections for people who have been accused of crimes and allow citizens to gain access to their own court documents, according to Reuters.

Defendants will now be notified of charges against them, and people who are detained will be given access to an attorney within 24 hours, Reuters reported.

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Cuban lawyer Eloy Viera, who currently lives in Canada, told the news agency that the new law marks a major step forward for the country. 

“This law offers more guarantees and adheres much more to international standards than the regulations currently in force,” Viera said.

However, William LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University in Washington, said that how Cuba decides to implement the laws will determine how much protection its citizens actually receive.

“The laws ... still give officials considerable discretion and only time will tell how they use it, especially in political cases,” he reportedly said.

Viera added that he is unsure that the new law will be applied to citizens who took part in July protests that sought an end to food shortages and high prices due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I do not believe that this new legislation will have a definitive influence on the processes already initiated today, and politically motivated, by the July 11 protesters,” he said.