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Constitutional reform

A Constitution, or Raúl Castro's Bequest?

Castro II does not want to leave any legal possibility that might permit an upstart Gorbachev to carry out thorough reform and derail the militarised transition that is already being organised with GAESA.

Los Ángeles

As I wrote in this publication publication some years ago, in mid-1975 I asked Blas Roca – designated by Fidel Castro as president of the commission that drafted the Constitution of 1976 – which constitutional text had been more arduous to write: the one approved in 1940, in which he participated decisively, or the one whose final touches are soon to be approved.

The leader of Cuba's communists until 1959 answered me, in his slow speech, that the circumstances behind the drafting of the two constitutions had been very different. He told me, in a plaintive tone, that in 1940 every paragraph or important point had to be negotiated "extensively and intensely with the bourgeois members" of the Constituent Assembly.

Of course, he did not point out that this was, actually, a great expression of democracy. In fact, said process was so democratic that it allowed Blas and his five Communist colleagues in the Constituent Assembly to include concepts and points of view from the Communist Revolutionary Union Party (PURC) with regards to labour and social issues. Would Raúl Castro and his "constituents" do the same with the political parties on the island, despite the savage repression?

The Constitution of 1940 was drafted by a Constituent Assembly elected by the people at the polls and composed of 76 leading intellectuals, jurists and politicians, including the six Marxist-Leninist delegates of the PURC previously mentioned. The nation's entire political-ideological spectrum was represented in that assembly.

And, best of all, the debates, at the National Capitol, were broadcast on radio and enthusiastically followed by the people. The Communist Party (PURC) launched the "From the factory to the Capitol" campaign, and the workers filled the assembly hall.

That Constitution – which supplanted that of 1901 – established rights that many constitutions in the world did not have: the individual’s inalienable right to decent employment, a minimum wage, a maximum eight-hour day, paid holidays, the right to strike, free unionisation, and government aid in the event of unemployment, disability, old age and other contingencies.

It also enshrined the freedom of expression, assembly, and political association as individual rights. It recognised the right to private ownership of the means of production, and the separation of the three branches of government. That Constitution was a source of national pride, considered internationally one of the most advanced in the world.

What a sad contrast. Almost 80 years later, in the 21st century, in Cuba the most disgraceful process in the West's recent memory is underway to enact a new constitution. Its development is so outrageous that it will be undermined before the ink is even dry. The ultimate paradox is that it will be unconstitutional.

To begin with, it does not emanate from a Constituent Assembly elected by the citizens, but rather is being drafted in secret by a small group of cronies of the dictator, who appointed himself president of the team in order to exclude from the Constitution (that is, to place above it) the Communist Party (PCC) and the country's top military brass.

In any normal country the powers of the nation, including that of its military hierarchy, are subject to a constitution and a sovereignly elected civil power. Cuba, however, is "different". Raúl Castro, Cuba’s generals and the country's traditional military cadre, who also make up its high command, will not be subordinated to the Constitution, or to anyone or anything. They have never been.

Castroism's militaristic inner workings

Fidel Castro forged this quasi-fascist aberration upon taking office in 1959. Even without any governmental position, he began to direct the country as Commander-in-Chief of the Rebel Army, and issued orders to the provisional President Manuel Urrutia daily.

Then, after the institutionalisation of the socialist public powers and the PCC, Castro never accepted (as in the rest of Cuba's "kindred" countries) the PCC, or the armed forces, standing above him.

His experience as a Havana gangster in the 40s and early 50s made him an expert in thwarting conspiracies against him, and in keeping everything under control. He learned it from gang members as famous as Emilio Tro (his immediate boss), Mario Salabarría, Rolando Masferrer, José Fallat "El Turquito" and many others. In addition, his ego clashed with Leninist discipline. Castro II, who emulates his brother in everything, does not accept subordination to any civil power either, and only removes his general's uniform for certain formal activities.

With the exception of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, the Kim dynasty and Marshal Tito, in the other Communist countries leaders generally sought consensus on the most sensitive matters.

Fidel never did. He saw himself as an infallible genius. He ruled like Caligula, on the basis of irrational whims. For example, without convening the Political Bureau in 2002, he called General Ulises Rosales and ordered him to dismantle 66% of the sugar industry (95 of the 156 factories) and reduce the cane-growing area from two million hectares to 750,000.

The draft of the Constitution reiterates that the highest political power in Cuba is the PCC, but this is actually false. Real authority lies with the supreme military commander and the military elite that keeps him in power. They comprise the hard core that rules the country, which, does not even officially exist, operating from behind the scenes.

In the new constitution the PCC, as a political party, will not be subject to legal and institutional regulations, as is the case with other political parties around the world. In fact, it will not be subordinated to anything. Citizens' input regarding the new Constitution – until November 15 – is pointless, because those who rule on the island will not even heed it.

To tie the successors' hands

Why, then, a new Constitution? Because it is the political legacy of Raúl Castro and the old guard to tie the hands of his impending successors in power. They want to ensure, at the end of their lives, that the changes that will inevitably take place on the island will not transcend the neo-Castro succession scheme conceived by them, the "founders".

Castro II does not want to leave any legal possibility that an upstart Gorbachev might appear and carry out thorough reform, derailing the militarised transition that is already being organised with GAESA. They want to legally impede competition with a potentially surging private sector in the future, which could economically overwhelm the military.

They are eager to ensure control by the FAR and the PCC at the head of the neo-Castroist regime, to preserve the "revolutionary" legacy of Fidel, the Moncada, the Sierra Maestra, Playa Girón, etc., all locked up and safeguarded by the new Constitution.

Obviously, the new text will not actually acknowledge that the military - already owners of 70% of the national economy - are above it. De jure, the Constitution will be one thing, and de facto, another. And the highest power will not be the Party-State, but rather the supreme military chief, the real one.

I say "real" because the current Constitution states that the president of the Council of State is responsible for "the Supreme Leadership of all the armed institutions." And that will hardly be modified in the new text. Thus, according to the Constitution, Raúl Castro is not the commander-in-chief of the FAR, but rather Miguel Díaz-Canel. Is there anyone in Cuba who believes this?

No matter what the text says, Castro II will be the dictator until he dies. He and his son Alejandro will continue to head up the Military Junta, which is beholden to no one. Everything else is a joke.

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