A Preview of the Next Cuba / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Reinaldo Escobar

  • Interview with Manuel Cuesta Morúa from Constitutional Consensus
  • Options under discussion: Change the 1940 Constitution, the 1976 update or create a new constitution
  • The Project involves most of the relevant organizations from the civic and political community, inside and outside Cuba
Manuel Cuesta Morua
Manuel Cuesta Morúa

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana | May 23, 2014

Question. What is the objective of the Constitutional Consensus project?

Response. To convene civil society and citizens to work for constitutional change, and to create a new Cuban constitution that is based on three key realities and requirements: citizen control of the State, which is the premise of democracy; the rule of law, which ensures that no one is above the law; and the limitation of power, without which there is no respect for fundamental freedoms. This is the central objective, seen through three integral and interdependent paths.

    We are still governed by what is probably the last Constitution in the Soviet mold still in existence in the world

There is another collateral purpose, basic to the consistency of a society and a constitutional state. This purpose is the cultural empowerment of Cubans with regard to laws, citizenship and the rule of law, accompanied by and based on the contributions of the independent organizations of Cuban jurists. As experience shows, the best constitutions sleep the sleep of the righteous if they are not based on a culture of rights and law. And the issue of constitutional culture in Cuba needs to be tackled hard for two main reasons: the first is that as the so-called Revolution has been and is the quintessential source of law, we Cubans are not familiar with the law and its value for coexistence; the second is that we are still governed by what is probably the last Constitution in the Soviet mold still in existence in the world — I do not know if you remember the Russian Constitution of 1936 that became the model for the current Cuban constitution — and as you know, it has nothing to do with our traditions and culture.

Q. What organizations sponsor you?

R. Constitutional Consensus is a horizontal proposal without hierarchies or rigid organizational charts. Participating are the majority of the most relevant organizations of the civic and political community, inside and outside Cuba. At www.consensoconstitucional.com you can see a list of all the sponsors, which I am not mentioning here because the list should continue to grow.

Q. At what stage are you now, and when (not in terms of a date but in signs) will you consider you have fulfilled your purpose?

A. Right now we are preparing Constitutional Initiative Discussions across the country, and we are preparing for the various meetings to be held outside of Cuba. In late May, between 8 and 10 people will meet in each of these Constitutional Initiative Discussions with the purpose of bringing us to a reasonable point for constitutional change: if is it the Reformed Constitution of 1976, if it is the paradigmatic Constitution of 1940, or if it is a new constitution. We first want to find a consensus that focuses on public legitimacy, unfortunately it cannot be among all Cubans, and then start designing a draft that will be drawn up by the Constitutional Initiative Committees, formed by lawyers and specialists in various law-related materials within a constitution.

These meetings will also be held in Madrid and Puerto Rico, and in July multiple organizations will come together in Miami at Florida International University (FIU).

We will have achieved our purpose, and for now I’m being a minimalist, when we have drawn up this draft that reflects the consensus of all participants, when we have collected up a critical mass of citizens’ signatures demanding a new constituent process, and when we have managed to stabilize Constitutional Initiative Discussions in each municipality as permanent spaces for interaction and exchange with citizens throughout the legal process. If we citizens do not set up a monitoring program over the quality of laws, compliance with legality, and the arbitrariness inherent to all immune and unpunished power, it’s worthless to have the best constitution. We had the Constitution of 1940 and Cuba finds itself rating less than zero on constitutional and legal culture.

There is, of course, a maximalist goal: to have a constitutional and legal system that is an expression of our needs, of our rights and of our demands to coexist in a truly civilized way. Uncivil behavior is the deepest reality of our country, from top to bottom. Fromthe powers-that-be to society. The rules of the game require a constitution that includes all Cubans. Inside and out of Cuba.

The Constitutional Consensus is to define the what, not the who. We care more about the nature of power than the individuals who exercise it.

Q. Do you believe that the country’s leadership has an essential quota of good faith that is required for the project not be aborted or even treated as a hostile action intended to overthrow the government?

R. The Cuban government is not characterized by good faith. The logic of power is not born able to understand the rational tie with the rest of the mortals, but is one of pure and hard domination. So there can be no good faith. However, this government shows capacity for pragmatism precisely because it wants to retain power. Reality force, and hopefully in this case, that of the constitutional change, the facts will impose themselves. In Latin America there is a strong movement towards constitutional reform that can and should include Cuba. Moreover, there is always an unspoken consensus, at times explicit, on the need for reforms in the laws.

Promoted from other spaces, albeit with an elitist viewpoint, is the need to reform the current constitution. And the designated President himself has expressed this direction. Our proposal, on the other hand, is not conceived with the mentality of toppling those up above. We care more about the nature of power than the individuals who exercise it. So there is no hostility towards power, but an attempt to define new rules of the game from where it is exercised. If among them citizens decide that the government should be in the hands of the same people who hold it today, I won’t like it but I have to respect those rules that contributed to defining it along the rest of the citizens. The authentic and interesting thing from this constitutional perspective is that the next be of the citizens.

A Cuba where citizen safety and effective control over the uncertainties allow the defense of fundamental freedoms and the creative explosion, in all directions, of Cuban society.