Radical Raul? Cuba Commutes Death Sentences

Raul Castro has commuted all but three death sentences handed down in Cuba. Every death-row inmate, besides three convicted terrorists, will now face 30 years in prison, instead of death by firing squad.


Raul, who officially took over for his brother Fidel Castro this past February, said that humanitarian concerns, not international pressure, motivated his decision. He quickly maintained that the death penalty still remains on the books.

Raul, who also announced the first Communist Congress in over a decade, has been showing signs of pragmatism and reform since taking power. He lifted a ban on electronics sales, and Cubans can now stay in hotels designated for tourists. Many other freedoms, such as the right to own property, are still forbidden.

The US has found itself in a curious position with its North American neighbors when it comes to the death penalty. To see how, read more.

Suspected murders sometimes flee to Mexico or Canada, because those countries will not extradite suspects unless the death penalty is taken off the table. A recent example? Marine Cesar Laurean, accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend and fellow Marine, fled to Mexico and therefore saved himself from a death sentence.

Now Cuba, a country the US criticizes for its human-rights record, has decided to join the majority of countries that reject execution. Does this latest development shine Cuba's human-rights image, while bruising America's? Do you think humanitarian concerns or international pressure, could ever motivate America to reconsider death sentences?

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