Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – On August 3rd, I was on a family trip to Santiago de Cuba when the tabloid featuring the draft Constitution started being sold and I wasn’t able to buy a copy.
Copies ran out early Monday morning and I didn’t manage to get my hands on one. It seems that here, in Holguin, they didn’t print enough and the reality was that a citizen interested in politics, like myself, was unable to get a copy. However, I finally managed to read a copy someone lent me and so I am able to write the following analysis.
Like its concise predecessor, this new Constitution, which the Cuban Communist Party is proposing to us via the National Assembly, continues to be full of contradictions regarding sensitive but key points. And you can pick up on this as early as Chapter 1.
In the first Article, it recognizes “… a Socialist Rule of law, democratic, (…), which has the enjoyment of political freedom, equity, social justice… as its main objectives.”
According to this order, we will be able to enjoy political freedom once it is passed. Which has been impossible until today under Cuban socialism which only recognizes Communists’ rights and discriminates against the rest of civil society that have different political persuasions, even if they belong to other socialist movements. Can this be true?
We quickly discover that this isn’t the case. Reading on, we don’t get very far before we end up filled with doubts and see that this doesn’t seem to be a real right, even though this is what is being set out. In Article 5, it says: “The Communist Party of Cuba, the only party, Fidelista in nature, (…) is the superior leading force of society and the State.”
The document really doesn’t say anything about other parties not being allowed to exist in legal terms because what you could perfectly interpret is that there can’t be any other Communist party apart from the one mentioned in the text. Even though we know what the writers want to say, it really doesn’t make any specific mention to every party in perfect Spanish, it only talks about the Communist Party. This would be debatable (if it isn’t amended beforehand, of course) especially if it says that it guarantees “political freedom” in Article 1.
However, if it places the Communist Party above the people and State, what political freedom would Cubans really have? To be Communists or apolitical, even though we are longing to participate in national politics from another position, with other views about what is better for the country. Beyond that, you either have to emigrate or be a social outcast in your own land, suffering discrimination and repression, if you dare to oppose the Communist Party’s unchanging government.
Are they referring to the freedom of only nominating leaders on the lowest rung of the political ladder, to choose a Representative without any power or resources, to then indirectly vote for every leader above them via even more indirect nominations, controlled by the Communist Party? I call this a democratic farce, not political freedom.
Then, in Article 10, (deliberately hidden almost because it should really be in Article 1, but if it were it would put the contradictory content of Article 5 into question), it says: “… sovereignty resides in the people, from whom all of the power of the State emanates.”
How are we supposed to understand this riddle? Who is really the sovereign power here in Cuba, the Communist Party or the people? It’s a contradiction, a paradox, because if one thing is clear here in Cuba, it’s that the majority of our people aren’t Communist.
I don’t see any other sovereign power than the Communist Party. The Cuban people rather seem to be the “party’s” hostages or a kind of owner without any power to give orders, as if the Cuban people were a “sovereign minor” and the Communist Party is their “almighty guardian”.
This Constitution isn’t any more democratic than the one currently in force. It’s the same, just more comprehensive, better explained with small and insignificant changes to the separation of roles and others of nomenclature. But, in essence, nothing is changing. Just like today, the Cuban people won’t really be able to elect their Government and the State’s leadership. The “Party” will do this, the same people who have written both constitutions and it explicitly states this in the preamble.
The Cuban political system (which remains intact) is so indirect and abstract that leaders are so far-removed from the population and we don’t even memorize their names. We can’t forget the “big shots” though because their names are repeated over 500 times per day in the media, like Fidel used to say when he talked about Imperialism’s same commercial propaganda campaign with Coca Cola, “like conditioned mental responses.”
We will only continue to directly elect the neighborhood government (for real almost), who doesn’t decide anything or handle any resources. And even so, if somebody “the party” doesn’t like or is popular among the people wants to nominate themselves, we have already seen how the Party’s secret police make sure that they don’t attend the nomination meeting, using any means necessary. Important positions at a municipal, provincial and national level are decided in a similar manner and controlled by “the party” via the not-so-casual Candidature Commission. Nothing has changed and nothing will change.
A responsible citizen, a democrat like myself, wouldn’t be able to approve a Constitution that doesn’t adjust to our needs as a country and as a people. This Carta Magna won’t make a more democratic and inclusive political system possible, not even a tiny bit more than the one we currently have. It is exactly the same. Just because they are expanding the concept of marriage (which I believe to be fair), while they ignore or obstruct the rest of human being’s basic rights, isn’t reason enough to vote “YES”.
It won’t free the dormant forces of production of our hard-working society, as they have proven themselves to be outside of our borders, because it will limit personal wealth and development and will keep the same forms of production that have failed time and time again; it won’t provide a solution to the US blockade, to migration, to national reconciliation, as it holds onto the spirit and the motives that have led to them or convert them into problems.
They don’t even have a way to bring about this prosperous and sustainable socialism which they are still promoting from within the authoritarian regime, headed by the Communist Party. In reality, its precepts reject it and make it unfeasible, even though they contemplate it as an objective. We are clearly losing a great moment to “change everything that needs to be changed” and of having the “sense of a historic moment”.
As a democrat, I would accept the Communist Party governing Cuba if that was what our people wanted and was reflected at the polls, directly, in free and fair competition with other political options. However, as long as this political power that comes from the Communist Party itself within this controlled and manipulated landscape politically-speaking, constitutional supremacy that only belongs to the people will never exist. Even if they lock me up for another three days, I need to say it. It’s my duty as a “noble follower of Marti”.
And lastly (for now), nothing other than the “people are sovereign” can be labeled “irrevocable” in a Constitution. It would be a paradox. Every article in the Constitution emanates from the practice of this popular sovereignty, which has the power to change anything the people desire in it. Once again, it has become clear that the “Revolution’s” leadership isn’t trained to give Cuba what Cuba needs. How different our destiny as a Nation would be if they really were! I will vote “NO”, there’s no doubt about that.