Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Cuba, Vietnam and the Gag Law
Amnesty International reported on October 29, 2012 that two Vietnamese songwriters who face up to 20 years in jail for writing songs criticizing their government. Vo Minh Tri, known as Viet Khang, 34, and Tran Vu Anh Binh, known as Hoang Nhat Thong, 37 have both been held in custody since late 2011. According to Amnesty International both stand accused of "conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of Viet Nam’s Criminal Code – an offense that carries a sentence of up to two decades."
Article 88 in Vietnam's penal code bears a striking resemblance to Article 88 in Cuba's Criminal Code. According to Human Rights Watch the Vietnamese law makes it a crime punishable with a twenty year prison sentence for anyone "conducting propaganda against the state." According to Human Rights Watch the Cuban law states that "any act designed to impede or prejudice the economic relations of the Cuban state or the economic relations of any industrial, commercial, or financial institution or any other type of institution" can be sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The United States lifted economic sanctions on Vietnam on February 3, 1994 and normalized relations on July 11, 1995. US companies are investing in Vietnam and doing business with the Vietnamese dictatorship. Its totalitarian nature has not been altered. Economic sanctions have been maintained on Cuba to the present date.
The fact that the laws and even the Article numbers are the same may be a sign that they are collaborating and sharing worse practices to maintain repression.
This leads to an interesting conclusion that economic engagement with the United States has not lead to political liberalization. On the other hand Burma (Myanmar) maintained sanctions and political liberalization appears to be underway.