Cuba: The People as a Constituent Body


CIEGO DE ÁVILA.–Discussions of the proposed new Constitution of the Republic continue – contextualized, with abundant collective intelligence, and no unanswered questions.

All proposals, without exception, are to be evaluated by the National Assembly commission, and a new updated proposal will return to this body, where it will be discussed once again and approved, to then be submitted to a popular referendum in which every citizen can cast a direct, secret ballot vote.

The debates are democracy in action, popular tribunals in which everyone can express their point of view. There are some articles that generate more debate, like those on citizenship and marriage. Others are less commented upon but are at the center of popular participation, like Title V: Principles of Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Policy, since it is no secret that since January of 1959, work has not ceased to foment and promote the nation’s history, and ethical, moral, civic, and patriotic values among citizens.

It is no accident that, of the more than 9,200 proposals made in the province thus far, only 85 address this title and its 13 paragraphs – evidence that the majority agree that the state directs, foments, and promotes education, the sciences, and culture in all its manifestations, as it has for almost 60 years.

Referring to paragraph 271 (Education is the responsibility of the state, it is secular and based on the contributions of science and the principles and values of our society), participants argued that education, in the first place, is the responsibility of the family, which must be the first to develop a high level of ethical, moral, civic, and patriotic values in children, as is stated in the following paragraph, number 272.

On this and other issues related to artistic expression, there were those who spoke of the lack of quality creations. If we understand art as a product of human beings, this is what is really declining among exponents of some expressions, above all music, in which composers and groups prioritize banality for economic gain, to the detriment of social interests.

Likewise, more than a few commentaries advocated that the Constitution reaffirm that artistic expression is free, and give no backing to censorship of cultural products.

In this regard, others expressed the opinion that the document should add that although freedom of artistic expression is protected, ethical and civic values of Cuban socialist society must be respected.

FROM THE CONSTITUTION OF ’76 TO THE CURRENT POPULAR CONSULTATION

– The current Constitution proclaimed February 24, 1976, is the document that has remained in effect for the longest period in our constitutional history. Its drafting was the responsibility of a joint Party-state commission established by agreement of the Council of Ministers, February 22, 1974.

– The draft proposal was submitted to popular discussion, and once all opinions had been collected and considered during the First Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba Party, the text was submitted to a direct, secret ballot referendum, and approved with the support of 97.7% of voters.

– It is a text that reflects the economic and social circumstances of the period during which it was written, of the construction of socialism, and drew from the constitutional experience of socialist countries in Eastern Europe, especially the Soviet Union.

– This Carta Magna established an exclusively parliamentary procedure for reform, recognizing that the scope of any reform could be partial or total, with reinforced voting requirements, as well as the obligation to hold a referendum if certain issues were involved, although no clauses were identified as unalterable.

– The current Constitution underwent an important reform in 1992, to reflect the changes that had taken place nationally and internationally, as a result of the fall of European socialism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and to reflect agreements reached at the Communist Party of Cuba Fourth Congress on the perfecting of People’s Power bodies, among other questions.

– The scope of the changes led to questions as to whether or not the reform was partial or a total one, which would require approval in a referendum, but the discussion did not extend beyond academic circles.

– The last reform took place in 2002, an initiative taken by mass organizations, to change the reform mechanism and establish an inalterability clause, which involved eliminating any mention of total or partial reform and establishing the irrevocable nature of Cuba’s political, social, economic system and the prohibition on negotiating under force, coercion, or threats thereof by a foreign power. In this way, the country’s socialist system was protected and its destruction by constitutional means prohibited.

– After the Communist Party of Cuba’s Sixth Congress was held in April of 2011, where changes in Cuba’s socio-economic system were introduced, and the First Party Conference made adaptations to the organization’s work methods, the need for a future reform of the Constitution was foreseen.

– In May of 2013, the Political Bureau created a task force, presided by Raúl Castro Ruz and composed of 12 other members, to evaluate the Constitutional impact of recent decisions, and those projected for the future, in line with the process of perfecting the country’s institutions. Working over a full year, this group prepared the foundations that would serve to guide the reform process, which were approved by the Political Bureau on June 29, 2014.

– As part of studies conducted, analyzed was the legal impact of the Reform and Renewal processes carried out, respectively, in China and Vietnam, countries which continue the construction of socialism based on their own particular characteristics.- Also necessary was research on constituent processes in the Latin American environment, in particular, the most significant that took place in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Likewise, a broad study was conducted of various constitutional texts from our constitutional history, as well as the extensive literature on these issues.- The task force held more than 100 analysis meetings at different times, in which positions were addressed and possible solutions projected. It was necessary not only to respond to the current economic situation, but also to the challenges our society faces in the future.- In February of this year, over several days, the Political Bureau learned of the studies carried out and important precisions were made. A month later, the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee heard reports from the Political Bureau meeting, and also formulated several recommendations.- The Council of State, which represents the National Assembly of People’s Power between sessions, convened an extraordinary session to consider the beginning of the reform process, which took place on June 2, when this body agreed to create a Commission of its members to prepare the draft constitutional proposal.- The Commission is chaired by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz and is composed of 32 deputies representing different sectors: intellectuals, journalists, scientists, historians, jurists, educators, political leaders, and those of mass organizations. It includes eight individuals from the initial group established by the Political Bureau in 2013.- The Commission worked intensively, taking as a reference all previous work done, which undoubtedly contributed to progress in drafting the proposal.The National Assembly discussed the draft for two days (July 2-3) and after a broad discussion, in which diverse opinions were expressed, including opposition to some articles, consensus on the proposal was achieved. It should be noted that the debate was followed closely by the population on television and other media.

– The National Assembly voted to submit the document to popular consultation with a view toward improving and enriching the text with the direct participation of the people, including Cubans living abroad, diplomatic missions, and professional collaborators working in other countries – in a clear example of the effective participatory democracy that distinguishes the process and makes it unique. The people have become a constituent body.

Information from the presentation by Homero Acosta Álvarez, Council of State secretary, during the opening of the 2018 International Law Congress