Cuban citizens will soon begin deliberations on a new draft constitution as part of a nationwide consultation process. The country’s national assembly approved the draft on July 23 and placed it before the citizens for their suggestions and comments. The draft was prepared by a special committee headed by Raul Castro that was empowered by the assembly. The main aim of the constitutional reform is to institutionally address the current socio-economic realities of the state while keeping intact its socialist characteristics. The new draft was made mainly under the framework of late Fidel Castro’s vision for Cuba and the directives of the Communist Party of Cuba. Progressive constitutions of Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador were also consulted.
The draft includes a preamble, 11 titles, 224 articles, 24 chapters and 16 subsections. It has quite a few significant provisions that aim at the modernization of the state and its legal system, such as the legalization of same sex marriage. The current constitution defines marriage as an agreement between a man and a woman, while the new draft defines it as an agreement between two persons. The existing norms for Right to Equality are further enhanced by prohibiting discrimination based on gender, ethnicity and disability.
Major administrative reforms are also in store. The draft constitution designates the president as the head of the state. The tenure of the president is fixed for five years and any individual can occupy the post for two consecutive terms. The post of prime minister has been reinstated and designated as the head of the republic’s government.·A national electoral council will be created. Greater autonomy for municipal governments has been recommended, which is to be exercised in accordance with national interest. At the provincial level, the governing structures are likely to be changed in such a way that the provincial assemblies of people’s power will be replaced by provincial governments with a governor and a governing council. A key legal reform proposes that an individual can claim compensation or redressal for grievance caused by the improper action of a government official while discharging official duties.
The draft also incorporates certain significant articles that enhance the process of political and economic reforms initiated in Cuba after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The new constitution guarantees the security of foreign investment in the country. The new draft proposal also reiterates the state’s commitment to protect the natural resources of the country.
The co-existence of public and private property in society will be allowed and there will be a mechanism to oversee the sale of private property. The current constitution, which was drafted in 1976, had abolished private property. After the 1992 amendments, it recognized joint venture properties along with state and co-operative property. It also welcomed foreign investments in the country. In 2002, there was another amendment which underscored that the socialist characteristics of the Cuban state is irrevocable. In this draft too, while making recommendations with far reaching impact, the principal the role of state and the party in Cuban society is re-emphasized as is the commitment towards building a socialist society.
The draft of the new constitution will be discussed and debated in about 135 participatory meetings attended by trained citizens across the country from August 15 to November 12. Cuban diaspora also can be part of the deliberations as they can send their suggestions through the website of the foreign ministry. The suggestions and recommendations from the Cuban people will be considered by the next session of the Assembly.