Proceedings to Draft New Constitution Lack Transparency

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, July 10, 2018 — We now know that at its seventh plenary session the Communist Party Central Committee reviewed the draft of the new Cuban constitution. It was reported that the text of the document is now a fait accompli. In the coming days deputies to the National Assembly will approve what is still a draft. It will then be released for public comment after which the final draft will be submitted for a referendum.

In the time that has elapsed since the commission was formed to come up with a preliminary draft, no media outlet, political leader nor any government official has indicated what changes will be allowed in the revised constitution, or even if the current one will be completely reformulated.

The only thing that has been confirmed is that there will be no change to the “irrevocable” status of the socialist system and that Article 5, which proclaims the Cuban Communist Party to be the “guiding force of society and the state,” will be preserved.

As happens in any mystery, information is being replaced with speculation. Among the issues generating the most speculation are how this new Constitution will treat the issue of private property and whether same sex couples will be allowed to marry. Substantial changes to regulations governing foreign investment, government control of the economy and some new item having to do with citizenship are also anticipated.

To a lesser degree there is also speculation about a constitutional change limiting high-ranking government officials to two five-year terms, the recognition of the new provinces and a probable modification to the makeup of the National Assembly.

During the period when delegates have been drafting this document, not one of these issues has been the subject of public debate. We do not even know what was debated behind closed doors much less what arguments the advocates for various positions have used.

Considering that all the commission’s delegates are members of the Communist Party, it is worth remembering the debates held by the constituent assembly which drafted the 1940 constitution. That body was made up of seventy-seven elected members, with the governing coalition’s thirty-five participants in the minority. The opposition had forty-two, some of whom were communists.

Those historic proceedings were broadcast live on radio. Everyone knew what was being debated and what each delegate’s position was. Labor unions held daily demonstrations in front of the National Capitol, where the debates were being held, to make sure that their demands were heard. In a age before either television or social media, editorial writers from the nation’s most prominent newspapers made their own proposals and questioned others.

There is not an even minimally convincing argument to justify the lack of transparency surrounding the working sessions of this commission. One of the most striking results of this lack of transparency is the public’s indifference. People are not talking about it in the bread lines nor at the bus stops nor during informal chats at the workplace, where the World Cup and the latest installment of the nightly soap opera are what capture people’s attention.

In order to win approval for the new constitution in the upcoming referendum, the government must make sure the gears of tedium are well-oiled. The Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) will summon voters and go through the usual process. During a hasty but brief campaign with no counter arguments, it will insist on a yes vote for the fatherland, for sovereignty, for a bright future.

The current silence is not the result of negligence nor is it an oversight. It has been meticulously planned in order to minimize the time citizens need to become aware of the value of their vote.


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