By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – Cuba’s new Constitution is as totalitarian in nature as the last, it’s a fact. However, something has changed and it would be in our good interests to take notice of it and use it when moving forward.
This time, the government has made a greater effort to “simulate” Rule of Law, with elected institutions (even if they are elected indirectly and the electoral process is rigged), rights and freedoms are explicitly recognized, along with the people’s sovereignty. Not out of kindness or a commitment to justice, but because they need to appear “democratic”.
All this is void in practice by the lack of a Constitutional court which would allow us to file human rights violations. The law seems to be above the Constitution in most cases, because of the ambiguity is was written with. In spite of the superiority bestowed upon the Cuban Communist Party in Article 5. (which really is the icing on the cake), there are legal loopholes that we can use to our advantage and we don’t.
Should we really be taking everything at face value, being passive in the face of injustice and letting the Communist/conservative caste take the lead of our national political affairs? Is there nothing else we can do than say this doesn’t work over and over again and wait for Trump to break them by tightening down on the embargo until we starve to death? The latter being a questionable course of action, of course, whether it does or doesn’t have a successful outcome.
I believe that there is a lot of room for us to maneuver in and we can do a lot as citizens. For example, the Constitution stipulates: “ARTICLE 3: In the Repubic of Cuba, sovereignty resides nontransferably with the people…”. They may still just be HOLLOW WORDS, but if we acted upon them, things might be different.
This constitutional precept means that, regardless of the Communist Party (PCC) being “the leading and superior political force in society and the State”, the people are above them, in legal terms, and could (theoretically-speaking) turn it into a protocol body like European monarchs are today, who only stand at the front of the State. Over time, they would be able to make the ultimate decision about this, in an election.
What really makes the PCC the ruler of Cuba today, are the laws that make up Article 5. in this Constitution, which are conveniently overdone to the point that the people are stripped of the right to exercise their sovereignty. Not the article in itself, which is a dead weight of course. However, laws are something which, in theory, people can gradually reform, using real rights that the Constitution grants them, if they act as citizens with rights. It might be hard, it might even be impossible, but we will never know if we don’t try. Anyhow, even if we fail, taking civic action would bring about great civil growth.
A clause (k) in Article 164, grants the population the right to propose laws to the National Assembly, as long as they have with them the signatures of 10,000 voters. And in clause (f) of Article 227, about constitutional reform, the people are given this same right as long as they have 50,000 signatures of voters who support their proposal.
These two rights are a small window for real popular sovereignty, tough to break into, but it does exist. It isn’t exploited for obvious reasons, but in politics there are “erroneous areas”, real individual and collective weaknesses, which the adversary (i.e. the government) uses to its advantage.
There is also the precedent of the failed Varela Project, which was rejected by the National Assembly and rather promoted the constitutional inclusion of the Cuban State’s “irrevocable socialist nature”. However, we are no longer living in 1998, Fidel Castro is no longer the president, nor are we as disconnected as we were back then, nor do we have to present such a comprehensive project like the Varela Project which wasn’t really a legislative proposal, but a broader petition.
It would be better to do this today, topic by topic, in the form of proposed laws, which are well-written and articulated, taking great care not to contradict any of the constitutional precepts. When the population is more used to taking part, to take this constitutional right as their own and we’ve had an impact on them becoming more active citizens to take part in public affairs, then we can push for one or two constitutional ammendments with 50,000 signatures.
We have better chances today of showing our civil society projects to the general population. The organized political opposition, which would surely support any cause that helped the country to become more democratic, might come in handy when collecting signatures and acting as an example. They are the social group with the least fear of being active when it comes to fighting for a democratic Cuba.
Today, we also have independent national counsel giving expert advice on legal affairs, which is committed to bringing about democratic change, and would surely cooperate in the elaboration or revision of proposals to avoid there being any clashes of vocabulary.
Internet, social media and independent media, would help us to spread this information swiftly about what we are proposing and counteracting any slander that we know will ensue in pro-government media. In the long-run, it would be ideal if they could learn to respect citizens and their spontaneous actions, instead of being offended, as if we are unable to think for Cuba, claiming that everything is being done on the Empire’s orders. This is our affair, as Cubans, although we are grateful to all of our allies who support us in our fight for a democratic Cuba.
I would automatically be considered a mercenary for throwing out these ideas, which come to me on my own, without being influenced by anyone. And they come to my mind because of the injustice and impotence of being “regulated” (banned from traveling) by State Security for 720 consecutive days already, without any legal grounds to justify it.
However, beyond the Cuban Communist’s repressive power is the right and the duty to try and contribute to a better country for us all. This is why I dare to write my ideas and publish them.