On July 21st, a preliminary project was approved by the Cuban National Assembly for the new constitution to be created by the government’s reform commission, headed by Raúl Castro and the newly appointed president, Miguel Díaz-Canel. This time, the regime has 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 could constitute an important change in comparison to the 1976 document, which only recognizes the state property and agricultural cooperatives. However, expectations of a real economic opening still seem unclear.
In the past month, the government published a set of regulations tightening control on the self-employed workers and hiking possible fines, including property confiscation. While 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 an important element of development on the island in an attempt to attract foreign currencies to alleviate the endemic economic crisis that the country has been experiencing since the fall of the socialist bloc, which could get worse if the instability increases in Venezuela – its main ally, and financier.
Sadly, no changes are expected in basic human rights issues, freedom of expression, freedom of association, or freedom of the press, while 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 (CCDHRN), more than 1438 cases of arbitrary detentions of citizens were reported on the island between January and June of this year.
The regime increases as well in this new reform the control and repression of artists through Decree-Law 349, which regulates in a more arbitrary manner, any activity related to art, thereby maintaining a 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 of this part of the constitutional reform by the leadership of the Communist Party, the legal definition of marriage was approved 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 both Castro brothers and Che Guevara, created the Cuban forced labor camps — where they sent thousands of homosexuals, religious people, political dissidents, and artists at the beginning of the socialist revolution (the so-called UMAPs) — are the same who maintain power today; and who are going to decide the future of the rights of the people they savagely repressed for not “fitting” into Castro’s vision of the revolution.
The 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 is pretty obvious that the regime is not planning any drastic political changes anytime soon, but why are they 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 will relieve some of the pressure it could receive from outside. Cuban dissident research groups like Estado de Sats argue that political changes are actually taking place to consolidate the Castro dynasty. Raúl’s son, Alejandro Castro Espín, for example, is in charge of the Cuban counterintelligence, while the former son-in-law runs a huge military company.
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 to an ideology and its 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 to the eyes of the world.
**Jorge C. Carrasco, I’m from Havana, Cuba, I’m an independent journalist and a Local Coordinator of Students For Liberty: Brazil**