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Revised Constitution Adds More Contradictions

The preview published by the government combines irreconcilable opposites, and leaves many questions unanswered, in the midst of all the opacity.


"Irrevocable" socialism, but with a "recognition of the role of the market "and private property." A state that is "socialist, under the law, and democratic", but with the Communist Party "as the supreme leading force." A defense of the "democratization of cyberspace", but condemning the use that the government considers "subversive"...

This past weekend the regime's press presented a preview of a preliminary draft of the new Constitution being devised under the direction of Raúl Castro. The publication was preceded by a period of silence during which Cubans had no information about the content of the discussions, or the arguments, agreements or disagreements between the members of the commission in charge.

The advance published raises many questions about the contradictions the document apparently contains. Below we indicate some:

- The draft version defines the Cuban State as "socialist, under the law, democratic, independent and sovereign, organized with everyone and for everyone’s good," its essential objectives including the "enjoyment of political freedom."

This affirmation of democratic aspirations, however, is contradicted by the imposition of a single party, and Marti's phrase ("with everyone and for everyone's good") evidently excludes alternative political options.

- In regard to international relations, the draft "supports the democratization of cyberspace and condemns its use for ends that are subversive and destabilizing to sovereign nations."

But, how does one define what is subversive and destabilizing? Up to now this has included everything that the government has considered contrary to its interests, or that reveals its violations of freedoms and rights.

The introduction to the new Cuban Constitution could justify the most draconian possible administration of Internet access and the passage of legislation to control or close sites that are not controlled by the regime, to repress the diffusion of information that does not coincide with that authorized by the Government.

- With regard to the economic system, the proposed text maintains "socialist ownership, by all the people, of the fundamental means of production and planning, as the main component of management". However, it adds "recognition of the role of the market and new forms of property, including private."

How can individual prosperity be protected when state ownership is privileged and the government has made it clear that it does not intend to permit the accumulation of wealth?

 - State companies will continue to be "the main entities of the national economy," says the advance version, despite the fact that the economic figures show that companies operating under other formulas (agriculture, small private businesses offering services), are more productive than state ones.

- With regards to the citizenry, the draft states "the principle of effective citizenship, consisting of the idea that ‘Cuban citizens, in the national territory, are governed by that status, and cannot exercise foreign citizenship’". What does this "principle of effective citizenship" entail that has not been implemented to date? What does it mean for Cubans with dual nationality within Cuba? Does it imply that emigrants will not be able to renounce citizenship, and will have to continue paying for a Cuban passport to enter the country?

- According to the version disclosed, the preliminary draft incorporates the right to equality and "non-discrimination due to gender identity, ethnic origin or disability."

Does non-discrimination based on gender identity include same-sex marriage, as Mariela Castro Espín intended to include in the revision?

- The proposed creation of the figures of President and Vice-president of the Republic (the first with two consecutive terms of five years, without being able to exercise the presidency any longer), as well as that of Prime Minister, which would help to draw a line between the government (Prime Minister-Council of Ministers) and the state (President of the Republic-Council of State-National Assembly of Popular Power).

However, the government and the state remain subordinated to a single party in the constitutional order, which generates questions about the efficacy of such a division.

- The preliminary version mentions the incorporation of a "National Electoral Council to deal with matters related to electoral processes in the country," and the consideration of this new body, and of the already existing General Comptroller's Office of the Republic, as "state bodies of constitutional rank."

Yet, how can the existence of the National Electoral Council be reconciled with the proscription of opposition parties and political campaigns? Will it work as in Venezuela, as an incontrovertible instrument of the regime?

- The document aims to include "guarantees of the rights to petition and local participation," including "the possibility of convening popular referendums on matters of interest to the locality, the people's right to propose analyses of issues at assemblies, and proper attention to requests, proposals, complaints and denunciations by citizens."

The possibility of convening popular referendums will, foreseeably, be blocked, in practice, by the authorities, based on their interests. And we have already seen the scant value of measures advanced by Raúl Castro at the beginning of his term, supposedly meant to allow for the airing of grievances.

- With regard to reform of the Constitution, the advance says that the "parties authorized to promote it will be specified," but "the clauses concerning the irrevocability of socialism and the political, social and economic system, are maintained."

This kind of "shielding" seeks to nip any possible reform in the bud.

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