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'No Constitutional reform is going to change our lives'

The Government should modify articles that lie about the reality of the country, say Havanans.

La Habana

The constitutional reform measures introduced after February 24, 1976, have meant no significant changes in the lives of Cubans, reported the Havanans interviewed. Therefore, in response to the new process that will commence on June 2 on the island, apathy and disinterest prevail.

"Yes, people will go en masse to the polls, as always, to vote for changes when they do not even know if they will be for the better," said Aracelys Maturell, a worker at an industrial craft market in the district of Buena Vista, referring to the fact that the Government has promised to put the changes to a referendum.

"Ratifying the socialist nature of the Revolution is not reform, it is an imposition," commented herb seller Raudel Cabrera. "And we [the people] will act as if they consulted us," alluding to the fact that, , in his farewell speech as president of the Councils of State and of Ministers, Raúl Castro warned that any changes would respect the "irrevocable nature of socialism [...] and the leading role of the Communist Party."

Limiting political and Party positions to two terms of five years has been, in the opinion of those consulted, the only proposal for political reform introduced by Raúl Castro.

However, for "habaneros" like Gonzalo Morán, a resident of the district of Diezmero, expressing that decision as a law will hardly matter on the island, as the current head of government, Miguel Díaz-Canel, expressed in his inaugural speech that his predecessor "will oversee the making of the most important decisions for the present and future of the nation."

"No Constitutional reform is going to change our lives," insisted Morán, who was a port worker for 40 years before being forced to retire due to a work accident. Now disabled, he lives in a cramped room with six family members.

"I have read the Constitution, and it is necessary to change Article 9 for me to continue to believe in this [the Revolution]," he said.

Article 9 indicates that the State, "as a power of the people, at the service of the people themselves, guarantees [...] that there shall be no person incapacitated for work who goes without decent means of subsistence [...] and no family without a comfortable home."

Alina Massip is a clerk at a private bakery in the district of Las Cañas. She says she graduated with a degree in History, but never worked in that field because during the Special Period (the economic crisis of the 1990s) "museums closed, and there was no way to be a teacher."

"If you conducted a survey, nobody would remember what changes were made to the Constitution in 1992 and 2002," Massip speculated. In that latter year, Castroism included the "irrevocable nature" of socialism in the country’s charter.

State salaries and entrepreneurs

Though the document is not widely read by the population, among the most well-known articles of the Constitution, interviewees mentioned number 14, which states that in Cuba the economic system is socialist, based on the people's ownership of the fundamental means of production, and also the principle of socialist distribution: each according to his ability, each according to his work.

"When will [the Government] realize that neither the economy nor the distribution based on socialist principles have benefitted workers and the truly humble?" lamented Alberto Noa, a mason who receives a pension of 350 pesos monthly - approximately $14 - after almost 35 years of work.

"Right now it can be said that Cuban workers live indebted to the State. The price of our contribution to the country's energy development and savings is the debt for all the household appliance that they pushed on us," Noa said.

In a country where the average salary does not exceed 30 dollars per month, and 50.6% of its citizens receive wages below that, the consensus among the respondents was that if the government is reluctant to establish a capitalist economy, it should at least permit the expansion of the private sector.

Real changes in the economy could be thwarted as long as the government seeks to prohibit the amassing of property and wealth by those who decide to start businesses, they said.

Lino Alberto Cañizares, a former secondary school Geography teacher, pointed out the danger posed by Article 25, which authorizes the expropriation of property for reasons of public expedience or social interest, and with due compensation, "in a country where the arbitrary interpretation of the law is standard practice."

Together with his wife, Joheslin Reyes, Cañizares successfully runs a hostel for foreigners.

Both believe that Article 45 of the Constitution, which says that "the socialist economic system promotes economic and social development, without recessions, and has eliminated unemployment and eliminated seasonal unemployment forever," should be revised in line with the times.

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