Clive Rudd Fernandez (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — My grandmother was obsessively opposed to letting things go to waste, particularly food and clothes. If you helped yourself to a large serving of food and only ate a small part of it, my she would say you were “eating with your eyes only” and that you were inconsiderate. If you bought clothing you never wore, she harped on and on about your wasteful ways.
These episodes of my childhood in Nuevo Vedado, Havana, came back to me quite vividly after hearing rumors about the possibility of establishing a new constitution for Cuba.
At the beginning of the month, an article titled ¿Una nueva Constitucion? (“A New Constitution?”), published by Cuba’s official weekly newspaper Trabajadores (“Workers”), suggested that, “in addition to providing a legal framework for the reforms,” such as the need to restrict the terms of the main government positions to a maximum of two, consecutive five-year periods and other economic issues, the decentralization and autonomy called for by a number of sectors in the country must lead us, among other things, to giving citizens greater participation in the making of legislation.”
Cuba has been in urgent need of a new constitution for many years, for the two constitutions established during the reign of the Cuban Communist Party are full of inadequacies and silent about the fundamental rights of Cubans, while the few rights that they establish are seldom exercised.
Separation of Powers
What my grandmother simply did not tolerate under any circumstance was going to a tailor, having a suit made to one’s measurements and then putting away in a closet and never using it. And that could well happen to a new constitution. First, the three government powers (the Judiciary, Legislature and Executive) must be separated. The media must also be independent (currently, they are all operated by the government, the Communist Party, that is, which is defined by the current constitution as the “higher, leading force of Cuba’s society and State”).
Therefore, whenever there is any doubt in Cuba as to whether something is constitutional or not, the Communist Party, the undisputed leader of society, has the last word, such that a Constitution, even one tailored to the country’s needs, has very little weight and very few consequences for Cubans.
I doubt very much that any revision of the constitution will give greater importance to the right to freedom of expression and association of Cubans. None of Raul’s reforms, when all is said and done, have pointed in that direction.
Rumors of Change
Rumors of change aren’t the only ones being heard these days – rumors of this nature rarely come unaccompanied. The accompanying gossip says that the Cuban government’s main commercial partners, the ones that are investing hundreds of millions into projects such as the Mariel port, have approached Raul Castro and suggested he modify the constitution so as to offer investors greater guarantees. It makes complete sense.
If both rumors are true, we may be about to witness one of the most flagrant affronts on the rights of Cubans. The cries of civil society are completely ignored, but the requests of Raul Castro’s business partners are a top priority – something that makes sense when you don’t need the people to elect you directly and democratically.
In any event, I have a message for all investors who lay their trust on Cuba’s new constitution. If it comes about, tailored to your needs and interests, it will most likely be put away in a closet so as to never be used again. My grandmother will of course complain about so much wastefulness at the top of her lungs, and you will regret having invested in a country where the constitution is one more decorative garment in a general’s wardrobe.