Lunes, 9 de Diciembre de 2019
Última actualización: 16:13 CET

Three months of 'popular consultation' and Cuba’s constitutional future

An assembly during the 'consultation' on Cuba's new Constitution. (PORTAL DE LA RADIO)

Calls to guarantee respect for "all forms of political thought", demands to end "the fierce struggle against wealth that has led to impoverishment in Cuba," support for equal marriage by a broad sector of society, and its overt spurning by religious congregations have characterized the "debate" on the Constitution over the last three months.

This week, as the Government finished the "consultations" that were organized at the level of neighborhoods, workplaces, and for students, another chapter of the process towards the establishment of a new Constitution, overseen by the Communist Party of Cuba, came to an end.

The regime’s press, as is the norm, has covered the "popular debate", while ignoring the one on the street. In a humorous format, through the voice and image of Pánfilo and his neighbors in Vivir del cuento, a convincing example of this was expressed.

The controversy generated in the UNEAC features a much more serious nuance. Members of the pro-government organization complained about the decision not to be able to discuss the constitutional future of the island with its intellectuals in a Plenary Session. The President’s Office justified the measure after accusing independent media of "misrepresenting the nature of the debates."

In figures published in some state media, such as Prensa Latina, last Monday some of the 15 provinces, such as Ciego de Ávila and Sancti Spíritus, reported the conclusion of the process that began on August 13, a date charged with symbolism for the Government: Fidel Castro's birthday.

According to one of the last official reports, 110,000 meetings had been held, with participation by more than 7,370,100 people.

As the MINREX announced in August, Cubans abroad have also been able to make "proposals and comments" on the text approved on July 22 by the National Assembly of the People's Power.

The Government then expected the almost 1,400,000 Cubans scattered across some 120 countries to get involved in the process, as long as they did not voice positions contrary to the system chosen.

In the State press there abound reports of debates and opinions expressed on the page established for this purpose, but limited to the "missions" that the Government has deployed abroad, and related associations.

In early November the Secretary of the Council of State, Homero Acosta Álvarez, once again described the "popular consultation" process as "a unique exercise", not only on the Island, "but also in the world."

Of the 755 paragraphs that the text contains, only 8 have not been the subject of proposals for modification, addition, elimination or questioning, he said.

A national team is responsible for processing opinions on certain issues in the Constitution, which will also "serve as a basis for future legislative reforms," ​​other authorities added.

Thus far 81% of the proposals that reached the hands of those designated at the beginning have been processed.

The role of the Communist Party of Cuba in the Constitution is an issue that remains among the most hotly debated.

Where is the power of the people in the future Constitution?

In a recent program aired on television, it was reported that the minutes of 111,872 meetings have been filed; along with those of 1,445,289 interventions; 659,527 proposals; 560,003 modifications; 27,238 additions; 38,505 eliminations and 33,781 questions.

In general terms, the paragraphs that have generated the most proposals are 192 of Article 68, on marriage; 403 of Article 121: "The President of the Republic may serve for two consecutive terms, after which he may not serve again", in addition to 119 of Article 31: "Work is a fundamental value of our society ..."

Also, paragraph 405 of Article 122 has received great attention: "It is also necessary to be at least 60 years of age to be elected to this position ..."; 566 of Article 165: "In each province a Provincial Government rules, consisting of a Governor and a provincial council ...", and paragraph 158-f) of Article 48: "receiving legal assistance for his defense ..."

Other paragraphs receiving a great number of proposals are 401 of Article 121: "The President of the Republic is elected by the National Assembly of the People's Power, from among its deputies"; 572 of Article 170: "The Provincial Governor is appointed, upon a proposal by the President of the Republic", and 215-Article 82: "The right of the people to decent housing is recognized".

Outside the framework of the official press, it is well known that the direct election of the president and the right to invest in the island are some of the demands most often repeated by Cubans with regards to the Constitutional reform. Cinema director Ernesto Daranas made this patent again. There are also the demands for livable salaries, and the questioning of the possibility of higher education being charged for.

Opponents of the regime, international figures and even ordinary Cubans believe that the new Constitution is intended to cement the current system and shield the legacy of Castroism before the death and the definitive withdrawal of the so-called "historical generation".

They object that the new constitutional text being drawn up for Cuba "does not include respect for several fundamental rights, including the existence of political parties, freedom of the press, assembly and association." Therefore it "is not based on democratic principles or the political and social plurality of Cuban society."

The project ponders the recognition of private property, and divides the power of the State into several authorities, but maintains the PCC's power over all of them.

Although the text no longer refers to the construction of Communist society, but rather a "socialist state of law", it insists that socialism is "irrevocable" in Cuba.

It diversifies economic and social actors, like the owners of small businesses, and upholds non-discrimination based on sexual identity. However, it keeps the press under ownership by the State, which also regulates the concentration of wealth.

The document also mentions treason, and calls for the maximum punishment for those who commit it, which in Cuba means the death penalty.

Despite the fact that the State press, the Government says, presents the Constitution as "a collective work", there are inaccuracies and contradictions in nine of the articles that describe the power structure in Cuba. So, just where is the power of the people in the new Constitutional draft?