When the Constitution of a State expresses the sovereignty of its citizens, reflects political diversity, and guarantees freedoms, it constitutes a powerful instrument for participation, development and the common good. When it ignores those foundations, it is nothing but a millstone.
Delegates from nine political parties, directly elected by the people, participated in the drafting of the 1940 Constitution. Its second article expressed its democratic and pluralistic origins: "Sovereignty resides in the people, from which all public power emanates". Even Fidel Castro acknowledged the value of it when, at the trial for the assault on the Moncada barracks, he said: "a legitimate constitution is one that emanates directly from a sovereign people."
The Constitution of 1940 –recognized for its progressive nature– was never repealed by direct representatives of the people. It expanded the rights and freedoms stipulated in the Constitution of 1901, ratified the division of powers, endorsed women's right to vote, and legitimized "adequate resistance for the protection of individual rights," among many other advances. It constitutes, therefore, a text that must be consulted when undertaking any constitutional reform in Cuba.
The 1976 Constitution, by ignoring the aforementioned principles, became a millstone, to such a degree that its authors, in the midst of a crisis of legitimacy, have been forced to make changes.
In the 21st century, in the era of globalization and the latest information and communications technologies, when democratization is a requirement for governance, the Party-State-Government created a Commission composed of 33 deputies of the National Assembly of the Popular Power (ANPP), members of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), to draw up a new text.
On April 19, 2018 the First Secretary of the PCC said that "in the next Constitution there will be no change in our strategic objective". On June 3, the President repeated that the reform "will not entail any change in the political system." It is as simple as that. Without prior popular consultation, the highest authorities in the country determined what could be changed and what could not. What is tragic is that it is precisely the factors that caused the regression that were shielded from any change.
Let us take a look at just six of them:
The one-partysystem. Each political party represents an ideology or a part of society. If the Constitution establishes the existence of a single political party, and prevents the existence of others, it reveals its antidemocratic character. If, at the same time, that Party declares itself above the Constitution itself, we are dealing with a totalitarian model. Such is the content of Article 5 of the text that will be submitted to a "referendum."
Ownership. Article 18 reads: "in the Republic of Cuba a socialist economy system prevails, based on ownership by all the people as the main form." Private ownership is subordinated to "ownership by all the people." But the Cuban people neither own nor decide anything about property that is exclusively the State's. Cuba is the only country in the West that prevents its citizens from being entrepreneurs, generating wealth, and hiring freely. The system of private ownership has proven to succeed all over the world, down through time, while "socialist ownership by all the people" has failed, everywhere, and in every era. It is, then, a fallacy.
Freedoms and rights. These, endorsed in Articles 46 to 80, are limited, as stated in Article 55, to their exercise "in accordance with the law and the aims of socialist society." That is to say, freedoms, which have no ideological stripes, are subordinated to the ideology of the Party-State-Government. Ergo, there are no freedoms, which prevents Cubans from participating as active agents in their country's political, economic and social affairs.
Popular sovereignty. Article 3 states that sovereignty "resides permanently in the people"; but it is then made clear that the people "exercise it directly through the Assemblies of Popular Power and other organs of the State stemming from it." That is, sovereignty is transferred from the people to the ANPP, which, in turn, is subordinated to the Party-State-Government.
The President of the Republic. According to Article 109, "the ANPP elects the President, Vice-president and Secretary of the Republic," but the ANPP is not directly elected by the people, but rather by a Candidacy Commission composed of members of the ruling party, to whom the President answers, not the people.
The irrevocable nature ofsocialism. Article 4 says: "The socialist system that this Constitution endorses is irrevocable ...The citizens have the right to fight against, by all possible means, including armed struggle, anybody who attempts to overthrow the political, social or economic regime established by this Constitution." If a system that ignores fundamental freedoms, abolishes the concept of the citizen, generates disinterest and demonstrates its ineffectiveness is declared irrevocable, its Constitution aims to moor the country to an unviable system, one that Communists and non-Communists must be willing to shed their blood to sustain.
With these characteristics, the Constitution will be submitted to a referendum – under the State's monopolistic control over the media, with all the institutions and all the mechanisms of the Party-State-Government engaged in a vociferous publicity campaign for the "Yes" vote.
Even if it is "approved", thanks to the political illiteracy that has been cultivated in Cuba, which prevents most Cubans from associating their miserable living conditions with the Constitution, the growing discontent will be reflected in the vote for "No", and abstentions.
Because the "new" Constitution fails to address the problems of both today and tomorrow, it will undoubtedly be the shortest-lived in Cuba's constitutional history.