On July 21, the Cuban National Assembly approved the preliminary project of the new constitution created by the government’s reform commission which is headed by Raúl Castro and the newly appointed president, Miguel Díaz-Canel.
This time, the regime promised a full reform, replacing the previous partial reforms made to Cuba’s current Soviet-era Constitution of 1976 in 1978, 1992 and 2002. Sadly, however, there’s little reason to believe that it will include any of the real changes Cubans desperately need.
In this preliminary project, Article 21 recognizes for the first time other forms of ownership such as cooperatives, mixed ownership, and private ownership, which may constitute an important change in comparison to the 1976 document, which only recognized the state property and agricultural cooperatives. However, expectations of a real economic opening still seem unclear.
On the past month, the government published a set of regulations tightening control on self-employed workers and hiking possible fines, including property confiscation. In recent months, business licensing of non-state workers has been reduced, according to Reuters, arbitrarily preventing more citizens from entering the non-state commerce sector.
The economic system will maintain, as essential principles, the socialist ownership of the fundamental means of production by the state and the central planning economy. In addition, the government recognized the role of the market and foreign investment as a necessity and important element of development on the island, in the attempt to attract foreign currencies to alleviate the endemic economic crisis that the country has been experiencing since the fall of the socialist bloc and which could get worse if the instability increases in Venezuela, its main ally and financer.
Sadly, no changes are expected in basic human rights issues, freedom of expression, freedom of association, or freedom of the press. In fact, the repression of independent journalists and political dissidents has dramatically increased in the last few months. According to The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, more than 1,438 cases of arbitrary detentions of citizens were reported on the island between January and June of this year.
In this new reform, the regime increased the control and repression of artists through Decree-Law 349, which regulates in a more arbitrary manner any activity related to art. This maintains the government’s monopoly on culture to avoid any dissident artistic manifestations, as was the case of Bienal 00, the first independent art convention on the island that took place in May of this year.
Despite the apparent rejection by the leadership of the Communist Party, constitutional reform was approved to define the legal definition of marriage as the union of two people, without specifying gender, which opens the doors for a future legalization of same-sex marriage.
Sadly, the people who, together with Castro and Che Guevara created the Cuban forced labor camps — where thousands of homosexuals, religious people, political dissidents and artists were sent at the beginning of the socialist revolution — are the same who today continue to hold on to power, and are going to decide the future of the rights of the people who they once savagely repressed for not “fitting” into Castro’s vision of the revolution.
Article 5 of the constitution will be maintained, which enshrines the unilateral leadership of the Communist Party, and the “irrevocable character of socialism,” imposed by Fidel Castro at the beginning of this century to avoid a transition from within the system.
It’s obvious that the regime is not planning any drastic political changes anytime soon — but why are they are faking a “historical change”? Because it is in the interest of the regime to give to the world the impression that it is carrying out reforms since it relieves a little of the pressure it could receive from outside. Dissident Cuban research groups like Estado de Sats argue that political changes are actually taking place to consolidate the Castro dynasty.
None of these issues were the subject of public debate while the constituents were working on their draft. It was not even possible to discover what was discussed behind closed doors, and the citizens, who are not part of this complex reform process, will not be allowed to choose the future of their own country, as has been the custom on the island for almost 60 years.
The regime, subordinating the country’s needs for an ideology and preservation of power, has opted for a reform “inside the revolution,” and once again, cosmetic changes will be carried out in Cuba with the aim of cleaning up the image of the island’s totalitarian regime in the eyes of the world.
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