By Waldo Mendiluza* Havana (PL) From August 13 to November 15, the Cuban inhabitants will have the chance to express their opinions and issue criteria on the draft of a new Constitution, a text that, if approved in a referendum, would replace the current constitution in force since 1976.
Work and study centers, and neighborhoods will host meetings to make proposals for the document prepared by a commission of 33 deputies to the National Assembly of People’s Power, a body that approved the project on July 22 and called a popular consultation.
More than one million copies were printed for the meetings, with the aim of guaranteeing that the citizens go to the consultation having an in-depth knowledge of the new Constitution, a total reform of the current one.
Several legislators insisted on the importance of the people’s prominent role when it comes to achieving a Magna Carta that consolidates Cuba’s socialist course and puts the country on a par with the present times.
All the views will be collected and considered, hence the need for people to come to the consultation prepared to have an opinion without any limit, warned Yumil Rodriguez, one of the members of the commission in charge of writing the text.
According to Eduardo Torres-Cuevas, another of the Parliament’s members, it is an unprecedented process of popular participation, from which different points of view will emerge, ‘something very good and necessary, because it will enrich the Magna Carta.’
For the deputy, an issue to be taken into account is that the Constitution represents a document of ‘minimum legislation and not a regulation,’ so that some opinions exposed by the population could be reflected later in the complementary rules and not necessarily in the law of laws.
The Center for Socio-political Studies and Opinion will guarantee the processing of this information for the National Assembly to finally elaborate the Magna Carta, which will be submitted to a referendum.
The project to be discussed has a preamble and 224 articles (87 more than the current Constitution), divided into 11 titles, 24 chapters and 16 sections.
In chapter I, it is ratified that Cuba is a socialist State of Law, democratic, independent and sovereign, as well as the leading role in the society of the Communist Party, ‘a one-party system based on Marti, Fidel, Marx and Lenin’s philosophy.’ Likewise, it reflects changes in the structure of the State, including the creation of the offices of President, Vice President and Prime Minister of the Republic, and grants constitutional rank to several foreign policy principles defended for decades by the Cuban Revolution.
In that regard, it advocates for world peace, Latin American and Caribbean integration and protection of the environment; it defends human rights; it condemns terrorism, interference in internal affairs of States and aggression, and it calls for disarmament, including the elimination of nuclear and mass destruction weapons.
Similarly, it recognizes the role of the market and new forms of property in Cuba, including private one.
Regarding rights, it broadens access to them, since in addition to maintaining free health and education, it enhances the rights to defense, due process, popular participation and non-discrimination, in the latter case incorporating ‘by gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnic origin and disability.’
Another innovation is the institution of marriage, which in the project is defined as the ‘voluntarily union arranged between two persons with legal capacity for it,’ while the current Constitution limits it to ‘a man and a woman.’
CUBAN CITIZENS LIVING ABROAD
Cuba’s government invited Cuban citizens living abroad to participate in the discussion on the new draft Constitution.
The invitation made on August 3 represents an unprecedented fact in the history of the Revolution, because for the first time all Cubans, regardless of their geographical location, may be part of discussions on such an important initiative as it is to build the country’s Constitution.
This is a significant decision, based on the growing number of Cubans living abroad and the magnitude of the reform that is being proposed, told the press the director of Consular Affairs and Cuban Residents Abroad (DACCRE) of the Foreign Ministry, Ernesto Soberon.
According to the official, those who live outside the Caribbean island have the opportunity to contribute to the development of a socialist and democratic society, guided by premises such as humanism and solidarity, aspects reflected in the proposed new Constitution.
This step means an unequivocal demonstration of our government’s will to continue advancing in a process that began in 1978 to strengthen ties with residents abroad, he stressed.
In Soberon’s opinion, participating in discussions on the document gives these people the chance to help create the Constitution ‘wanted by Cubans for the present and the future, guided by the premise of unity around the Revolution.’
The invitation is in tune with the updating of the migration policy implemented in recent years, which has ‘increased the number of Cubans living abroad that travel to their country of origin,’ he said.
It is also known that of this large number (about 1,400,000 Cubans live in some 120 countries) only a minority advocates the destruction of the Revolution and the return of capitalism that prevailed before 1959, he said.
For residents abroad, the chance to comment and issue proposals on the text will begin in the first week of September, once created the technical conditions for their participation.
Soberon explained that the contribution of criteria by residents abroad will be carried out through a section enabled on the website Nation and Emigration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (http://www.nacionyemigracion.cu/).
Through this portal they will have access to the new draft Constitution and to a form that will allow them to issue the proposals for changes or comments, he explained.
In statements to Prensa Latina News Agency, Cubans from different sectors expressed expectations of a popular discussion process on a Magna Carta, something unprecedented in Cuba and perhaps in the world.
I think it is very important, first, the access to the new draft Constitution, and second, the consultation, because it is up to the people to give their opinion and propose, in order to have a law of laws that resembles the prosperous socialism to which they aspire, said Manuel Gonzalez, a 75-year-old retired man.
For her part, the housewife Regla Mesa considered that having the text means appropriating the intellectual tools for debate and discussion around the construction of a more just and equitable country.
‘I will be in the debate at work and also in the consultation in my neighborhood, because I want to be part of this historic moment,’ said Blas Perdomo, a resident of the Havana municipality of Playa.
* Head of Prensa Latina News Agency’s National Editorial Department.