What Should Cuba’s New Constitution Include at the Very Least?

Haroldo Dilla Alfonso

Photo: Bradys Barreras.

HAVANA TIMES – The “Laboratory of ideas” Cuba Posible, has called upon a group of intellectuals (covering a broad scope) to give their opinions about our current constitutional reform. This call has been made under the suggestive title of “minimal agendas for a wide-ranging debate” and also with the invitation to briefly explain the seven subjects that they consider to be the most important in this constitutional debate.

Those summoned have responded with very different points of views and in many ways. Some have written with a professor’s precision, while others have written messy and sloppy answers. Some have been very critical and exact with their words, but they are full of metaphors that invoke post-modernistic subjectivities just as much as at workers councils. And, of course, there are those who take caution and say nothing, or speak about each point and then say the exact opposite the next time they speak, like an old and talkative ex-official.

Bearing in mind the fact that “minimal” doesn’t mean the least, but the most important (the organizers have specified this) and that the participants have different social and professional backgrounds, I thought it was a good idea to read their comments, focusing on what I believe are the two most important points in this new constitution.

The first point refers to the need to establish a pluralist political structure so as to satisfy the demands of a society which is (implictly and explicity) diverse. This implies many things, but without resolving one of these, nothing else will work: the Communist Party being revered as the only political nucleus, which is stipulated in Article 5 of the new Constitution. Film director Pavel Giroud calls it “the core and non-negotiable” in his contribution.

The second point refers to the international nature of Cuban society, which is only growing in demographics outside of its national borders, and it also holds a huge wealth of human resources and first-class culture. It is also the right arm of a large part of people’s consumption on the island. We have no other choice but to put Cuba back on a Latin American level, giving emigres their civil rights back which includes them being able to return without authorization, free movement, property ownership and political participation.

Out of the 22 intellectuals summoned (at the time of writing this article), ten didn’t mention Article 5. They might discuss the need for political pluralism, but they leave out the Communist Party (PCC) issue completely (very few people do, to tell you the truth). They might also voice pathetic points of views, such as a cultural activist who swears that belonging to the PCC and Communist Youth (UJC) “doesn’t give you any privileges… nor does it imply discrimination against others who don’t belong to them”, leading us to believe that he never learned about Cuba’s political leadership’s principles, nor has he ever experienced a Cuban institution from the inside.

However, let’s please recognize the fact that over half of these intellectuals have spoken out against Article 5 and that this is an important step forward within this reformist group that Cuba Posible embodies. However, omissions or slippery dealings on the subject indicate fear, guilt or, in the best of cases, ignorance.

For example, discussing electoral procedures in Cuba without bringing up and questioning our single party, is like talking about love without talking about sex. Quite simply because introducing a system of plural nominations is the only way to bring about a change in the way nomination committees work or in the way the population choose between different candidates, the PCC being able to participate like any other party. The designers of Cuba’s electoral system have reached the limits of their farce. There is no future within this system.

The situation of emigres’ citizenship and rights is even more serious. Only six intellectuals interviewed mentioned the issue of property. The rest of them kept quiet or only referred to the subject by reaffirming the shoddy orders dictated by Raul Castro’s government in 2013. Unforgiveable fraud because without solving its transnational problem, Cuban society won’t be able to move forwards towards a real democracy. And it’s unforgiveable because of the implication that upholding these omissions have while professionals advance implies ties with the emigre community and are funded by ties that these programs have with this community. 

Obviously, giving emigres their full civil rights would mean that thousands of people with other ideas about the value of association, other voting tendencies and a culture of speaking out as their right (which doesn’t exist on the island), will influence the Cuban landscape.

Doing what the government does today – allowing them to enter for a longer period of time, establishing ways to process repatriation requests from some thousands of people who regret leaving or pensioners, manipulating pro-government emigre committees and allowing emigres to have their say online, with their passports in order—, is the limit that the system can allow without beginning to disown them.

I recommend that you read this interesting exercise which, I guess, will include new intellectuals’ thoughts in the future. It helps us to get an insight into the thinking of Cuban intellectuals who enjoy the government’s consent to be able to give a mediated criticism, which is opportunistic at times, but sophisticated nonetheless. And to understand what this sector of society’s apprehensions are with regard to this new Constitution. 

Even though I don’t vote in Cuba, my stance is very clear, and I invite you to share it with me: if the new constitution doesn’t open up a space for political pluralism and reestablish emigres’ full civil rights, the only healthy (and decent) vote is “NO”. 


4 thoughts on “What Should Cuba’s New Constitution Include at the Very Least?

  • I would love to know how Osceaola defines the “working class” of Cuba. Does that include those who sit all day playing dominoes, or those who in the course of their work pilfer from the state to sell on the mercado negra? Tell us all Osceaola how these “working class parties” are going to make state owned businesses more efficient?
    One can only agree with your indication that the Communist Party of Cuba has failed to do that.
    Are you a critic of the Chinese and Vietnamese Communist Parties introducing capitalism on a massive scale and improving living standards by their actions, or are you like Fidel, a Stalinist adherent and want to keep everyone at the same basic level of existence?

  • Democracy isn’t something that’s trans historical. There are different democracies for different social formations. By vaguely talking about plurality and deemphasising the role of the communist party, what your implying is capitalist democracy and in essence a full out capitalist restoration of Cuba.
    Now don’t get me wrong, cuba is definitely far from giving full and direct political power to the working class and multi parties could help improve that. But only working class parties should be allowed. Meaning parties that recognize the primacy of state sector over private and work to improve them. Instead of privatizing them, making them more efficient. Mitigating the bureaucracy in them. Making sure the workers are invested in their work and they have a sense of ownership of the enterprises instead of alienation.

  • We can read and look at pictures from the past. Those that lived it as adults are dying.. there passions about there experience go with them. The revolutionary
    Adults in power today are the siblings of the dying adults. There passions are weaker but they have to keep the appearance of the old way until the last one is dead.
    They are looking to structure the system to insure there lifestyle . The exile community has the same condition. Depending on they’re age and experience .
    .Its a slow transfusion . the new blood is wanted buts its regulated . Its a matter of time. Is like a estate auction one parent is dead one is dying and the kids are fighting on how to settle things .

  • I am a Cuban by birth i was in Cuba until my 11th birthday and through the years i have seen through pictures how my neighborhood of Luyanó in habana has deteriorated i think its time the government of Cuba started updating the country in every level instead of keeping closed doors to all its not fair the freedom of speech and opinion should not be denied to anyone. And oppressing the people only creates negative results i really think a bit of freedom and some updating could spark a new beginning for all Cubans in Cuba

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