Cuba lays out rules governing surveillance, informants

Cuba has publicly laid out the rules governing the extensive, longstanding surveillance and undercover investigation of the island’s 11 million people.

A new decree approved by President Miguel Díaz-Canel on Oct. 8 and made public this week says prosecutors can approve eavesdropping and surveillance of any form of communication, without consulting a judge as required in many other Latin American countries. The law also creates official legal roles for informants, undercover investigators and sting operations.

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The decree is intended to “raise the effectiveness of the prevention of and fight against crime,” according to the declaration in Cuba’s register of new laws and regulations.

Cuba has been updating its laws to conform with a new constitution approved in February, which requires legal approval for surveillance.

The country’s powerful intelligence and security agencies have for decades maintained widespread surveillance of Cuban society through eavesdropping of all types and networks of informants and undercover agents, but their role has never been so publicly codified.

The decree describes a variety of roles: agents of the Interior Ministry authorized to carry out undercover investigations; cooperating witnesses who provide information in exchange for lenient treatment, and sting operations in which illegal goods are allowed to move under police surveillance.

The law allows interception of telephone calls, direct recording of voices, shadowing and video recording of suspects and covert access to computer systems.

Unlike Cuba, many countries including Mexico, Argentina, Guatemala, Chile and Bolivia require a judge to approve surveillance operations.

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