Reform the Essence of the Constitution, Not the Letter

Boris González, one of the promoters of the initiative. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 20 July 2018 — Despite the scarcity of information and the absence of public debate that have characterized the process of constitutional reform in Cuba, several civil society groups, the political opposition and the independent press have criticized some postulates announced by the official media.

In this context, the draft constitutional reform project undertaken by the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD) stands out. The text will be formally delivered to the authorities when it concludes a public consultation that began on July 11 and will end in mid-August.

Boris González, a member of MUAD’s executive secretariat, explained to 14ymedio that their committee that prepared a draft revised version of the 1976 Constitution, with its reforms of 1992 and 2002, did so not with the intention of modifying the letter, but rather the essence of the document.

“We concentrated on 82 articles. First we did an analysis of the content and then prepared a final form that not only included the proposals, but also the rationale.” Gonzalez emphasized how important it is for those who read the draft to know not only the suggestions for changes, “but also what is the reasoning that led MUAD to suggest them.”

Boris González said that one of the most significant contributions of the initiative is the strong will to extend the right of citizenship by birth to the descendants of Cubans who left the island in the middle of the last century. “We believe that the government’s willingness to change can be measured when it accepts that all Cubans who have left the country and their descendants are Cuban citizens with full rights,” he stresses.

Other vital aspects of MUAD’s projects are the recognition of private property, the right to create political parties, the establishment of a fair wage, the right to be compensated in case of dismissal, the right for citizens to enjoy a legal personality that allows them to invest in their own country, strengthening the concept of habeas corpus, and the creation of a Court of Constitutional and Social Guarantees.

The elimination of Article 5, which gives the Communist Party the role of the leading force in society, and of Article 62, which states that none of the recognized freedoms can be exercised against “the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism,” are the most radical modifications proposed in the draft.

Although González believes that it would be ideal for there to be a process of deliberation across the nation with the largest number of people, he is aware of what they are facing. “That would be beautiful, but we have many limitations, not only of resources but of the obstacles imposed by the current Cuban institutions,” he says.

Those working on the draft proposal have created “constitutional initiative roundtables” to gather the opinions of those who wish to participate. “We also hope to collect ideas for the writing of the final document through email,” he adds.

The 605 deputies of the National Assembly began their “individual study” of the preliminary draft of the constitutional reform that will be approved this weekend, probably unanimously, during the year’s first ordinary plenary session of the National Assembly of People’s Power.

The division in the ranks of the opposition is reflected in its differing positions with regards to constitutional reform. In addition to the MUAD project, there are other sectors that believe the appropriate response to the modification proposed by the Government is to ignore it and not participate in its endorsement. Still others believe that the correct thing is to vote against it, to express their rejection, while a final sector has not yet made public its position.

“To believe that it is not worth making proposals is the position of repudiating everything, but there is a gradualness in how much of the existing order should be repudiated. Our position is: they will not listen to us, but if they read our document, they may find something that interests them and it will be better than what they are going to do with the new constitution,” says González, defending himself before those who believe that it is not worth proposing alternatives.

With regards to the referendum on the document that will be approved by the National Assembly he is forceful: “Up until now there have been no signs that the Constitution the Government will submit to a referendum will fulfill our ambitions, but I can not say in advance what the position of all the organizations that make up MUAD will be with regards to how to vote on the constitutional referendum.”


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