New Cuba Constitution: how profound will the changes be?

After the end of almost 60 years of Castro rule for Cuba, and 57-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel has become the new Chairman of the State Council, it was necessary to wait for further changes. The changes were not long in coming, RISS expert Igor Pshenichnikov pointed out. National Assembly of People’s Power of Cuba on July 22 at its meeting approved a constitutional reform. The first thing that stands out in this document is the recognition of the role of the market and private property, as well as the introduction of the post of President of the Republic.

A draft of a new Constitution will be submitted to a popular consultation from 13 August to 15 November. In the meantime, everyone is satisfied with the extensive editorial commentary, which is published in the newspaper Granma and gives a fairly complete picture of the innovations in the Cuban basic law. The new Constitution consists of a Preamble and 224 articles, which is 87 more than in the current Constitution.

The Granma comment places all points above "I". It is emphasized that the draft Constitution defines Cuba as a "legal socialist state". At the same time,"the Communist Party of Cuba is the governing political party and the leading force of the state and society, with democratic and permanent nature of relations with the people."

At the same time, the draft Constitution "establishes such basic principles of the economic model as the people′s socialist ownership of fixed assets and planned economic management, which was previously contained in the Constitution, and adds the recognition of various forms of ownership," including private ownership. For the first time since the Cuban revolution of 1959, the basic law of the country will recognize the right to private property and legalize market relations. I.Pshenichnikov draws attention to the fact that the draft Constitution provides the market regulation "within the framework of economic planning, depending on the interests of society in the implementation of the principle of preventing inequality that this market generates."

What caused a need for the new Constitution? The Granma comment clearly answers: the language of the draft Constitution "corresponds to the terminology that should characterize ... our economic, political, and social reality." That means that the current Cuba Constitution, in the opinion of the country's leadership, is simply outdated in the context of the modern world, the expert believes.

RISS expert believes that the Cuban leadership at first will try to carefully look for new ways of economic development in order to prevent distortions and sharp stratification of society, which may contradict the socialist principle of equality of citizens and equal access to material goods and social security. It is possible that Havana is carefully studying the successful China’s experience and it will try to apply it in Cuba. Cubans are not prevented from implementing the Chinese model and, at least, to bring the country’s economy out of the protracted crisis and solve the problem of deficit.

The new Constitution introduces the post of President of the Republic as the head of state, as well as the post of Prime Minister, who will lead the government. Both of them must be members of the National Assembly of People’s Power. At the same time, the President cannot hold more than two terms of five years each. The Provincial Assemblies of People’s Power will be abolished and Provincial Governments headed by governors will be created.

The expert drew attention to the fact that there is the idea of strengthening the people’s role in the state management and strengthening of what is collectively called human rights in the context of relations "state-person" in the Granma comment. "I believe this was done in response to criticism from the collective West about the "human rights violations" in Cuba. For example, it is said that every Cuban will have the right to judicial protection and due process. The basic law will enshrine the right of citizens to apply to the court for compensation for damage caused as a result of actions or inaction of state bodies," the expert says.

In expert’s opinion, there is another nod to the West in the draft Constitution. The current concept that marriage is only possible "between a man and a woman" has changed, and it is defined that marriage is "a union between two people." Simply tell, Cubans legalize same-sex marriage. It is difficult to say how it will be in reality, given the fact that the traditional thinking of the Cubans strongly denies same-sex cohabitation, RISS expert said.

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