Monday, July 23, 2018

The Constitution as Nkisi: Hope, Desire and Distrust in Cuban Constitutional Reform/La Constitución como Nkisi: esperanza, deseo y desconfianza en la reforma constitucional cubana

Kongo (Solongo or Woyo subgroup). Power Figure (Nkisi Nkondi), late 19th-early 20th century. Wood, iron, glass, fiber, pigment, bone, 24 x 6 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. (61.5 x 17.0 x 21.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Arturo and Paul Peralta-Ramos, 56.6.98. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 56.6.98_front_PS6.jpg)  

La Asamblea Nacional de Cuba (Parlamento unicameral) concluyó este domingo (22.07.2018) dos días de debates sobre el anteproyecto de reforma de la Constitución, cuyo contenido será sometido a consulta popular entre los próximos 13 de agosto y 15 de noviembre. Antes, se incorporarán al texto las modificaciones aprobadas durante el debate parlamentario, y no es descartable que tras la consulta popular se puedan introducir nuevas variaciones al anteproyecto de Carta Magna, que finalmente deberá ser aprobado en referendo en una fecha aún por anunciar. [Cuba's unicarmeral national assembly concluded this past Sunday (22.07.2018) two days of debates on the preliminary draft of reform of the Constitution, whose content will be submitted to popular consultation between the next August 13 and November 15. Before then, the amendments approved during the parliamentary debate will be incorporated into the text, and it is not ruled out that after the referendum, new revisions may be introduced to the draft Magna Carta, which must finally be approved in a referendum on a date yet to be announced.] (Concluye en Cuba el debate sobre la reforma de su Constitución).
As part of the Coalition for Peace & Ethics's Technical Assistance Project--Reforma de la Constitución del Estado cubano 2018/Reform of the Cuban State Constitution 2018, I have been following the commentary that has sprung up around the project of constitutional reform in Cuba.  That interest emerged at the end of a long process of constitutional reform. It's beginning did not occur in 2018 with the delivery of a set of constitutional reforms to the Asamblea Nacional de Podel Popular by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) ostensibly on behalf of the people.  Rather it began a decade earlier when the PCC started a long and quite complicated journey of self reflection and debate about the conception of its political and economic system, the role of the PCC in state and social organs, the centrality of central planning and the complementary nature of private enterprise, and the character of global trade.  Much of that earlier work has made its way into the current debate about the form of the document that will serve as the vessel for all of those objectives, principles and outlooks.

Yet that arc of development, and of the role of the PCC in its construction, appears disconnected from analysis that seems singularly focused on the words of a document to be produced. That disconnect between the current analysis of the drafting of the emerging Cuban Constitution, and the longer term debates that produced the foundations for the current reform, can produce a parallel disconnect between an analysis of the words to be inserted into the revised Cuban constitution and the trajectory of Cuban constitutional reform. That disconnect might be on display in the current coverage of the Cuban constitutional reform effort, especially with respect to the objectives of state and party.

This post considers two examples. The first looks at foreign press coverage; the second at the coverage of constitutional reform from the perspective of the Cuban independent press. Both consider the ramifications of constitutional reform that now appears to place Cuba on a socialist (but not communist) path. For the West and its press, that change sometimes appears significant; for independent journalists in Cuba, it appears beside the point. My brief comments and some examples follow (in English and Spanish).

Among some of those who continue to practice the ancient religions of the Congo River basin, the Nkisi is an object that an initiated practitioner, usually a nganga, can use in the practice of the faith. These may served as containers, a particular place within which spirits might be infused for the purposes to which it might then be used. Nkisi become powerful only when activated, and the activation is usually directed by or through the nganga to serve a specific purpose reflecting the nganga and the quality (potency) of the (spiritually charged) materials used. Most are covered with sharp metal objects, each of which serve as a sign of activation, and more specifically of a particular action taken or sought (e.g., here).

These are the thoughts that come to mind as I follow the commentary about Cuba's well publicized, and now well performed, construction of a powerful Nkisi--its new constitution. This container of spiritual power has been filled with a large number of spiritually charged materials--especially its deep political context and the quite clear pronouncements, written, oral, and evidenced by action, many of which I have spoken to before (see, e.g., here, here, here, here, and here). I have been equally struck by the ceremonials through which the nganga that has prepared this extraordinary Nkisi, the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), through the Cuban Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular, has engaged a national and global audience (e.g., Aprobado proyecto de Constitución; Videos of constitución cuba debate). Even as the principles underlying constitutional change was a decade in the making, the PCC and its organs spent time considering the form within which these would be contained.
Homero Acosta, miembro de la Comisión creada al efecto hace un mes y que preside el exgobernante Raúl Castro, dijo que desde 2013 se habían estado estudiando para esta asignación del Politburó textos constitucionales de países como China y Vietnam (que han desarrollado sistemas socialistas de mercado) y otros como Venezuela, Bolivia y Ecuador (que emprendieron revisiones bajo gobiernos afiliados al Socialismo del siglo XXI). También otros de Africa y América Latina. (Nueva constitución en Cuba: artículos "en piedra" y mutaciones en derechos y economía(21 July 2018))
These suggest the search for a vessel that might better memorialize the Leninist fundamentals of the organization of the state, while also acknowledging the national and cultural characteristics of the administrative organization of the state apparatus (under the leadership of the vanguard). While in that context it is clear that the state would be used to oversee a developing socialism, that historical development of socialism would be led by a vanguard whose objective remains the establishment of a communist society, though one with Cuban characteristics. Indeed, these notions were made clear by the media organ of the PCC in its coverage of the constitutional consideration of the National Assembly.
El socialismo y el sistema político y social revolucionario, probado por años de heroica resistencia frente a las agresiones de todo tipo y la guerra económica de los gobiernos de la potencia imperialista más poderosa que ha existido y habiendo demostrado su capacidad de transformar el país y crear una sociedad enteramente nueva y justa, es irrevocable, y Cuba no volverá jamás al capitalismo. El Partido Comunista de Cuba, martiano y marxista-leninista, vanguardia organizada de la nación cubana, es la fuerza dirigente superior de la sociedad y del Estado, que organiza y orienta los esfuerzos comunes hacia los altos fines de la construcción del socialismo y el avance hacia la sociedad comunista. (Cuba no volverá jamás al capitalismo).

I also have been struck by the way that these domestic and international outsiders have drawn meaning from these performances and from the power of the Nkisi itself, one that tends to take from out of that exercise some sort of vision that accords with their hopes, dreams, and expectations. This constitutional Nkisi, then, can be infused with a second layer of power, one that is drawn from within the hopes, experiences and expectations of those exposed to it, rather than from the materials within or form out of which the constitutional Nkisi is activated and used. This second and simultaneous manifestation of the spiritual power of the constitutional Nkisi, detached from its primary context, is what tends to be the most useful element of the commentary that has formed around the current Cuban constitutional project.

Two quite different infusions of hope and expectation have emerged. The first is from the Western news outlets, and the second is a reflection of the Cuban constitutional reform process from within the Cuban independent press. As one reflects on these, one might see more clearly the way that these may open more of a window of the context of the community from which the writer emerges than from that of the PCC nganga.

The Western press outlets look at the language of the draft constitution and see that the words no longer include the object of building communism, but instead of building socialism. This, in conjunction with a limited opening for the holding of private property and the recognition of the complementary character of private markets, suggests some sort of deep movement toward more markets oriented globally compatible system. And yet, a deeper engagement with the foundational documents on which constitutional reform is based, produced over the last decade, suggests the opposite: that the constitution actually reaffirms the centrality of central planning as the foundation of the regulation of economic activity, that the private market will be tolerated only to the extent it is heavily managed (with respect to supply, demand, pricing, and the like) and that its object is the further evolution of of society toward the communist ideal of a worker state. These stories serve as a reminder that analysis of words in documents, even foundational documents, will inevitably more accurately project the desires and expectations of the reader rather than the realities of what might be meant to be conveyed. Here the central focus is on the words detached form its context and acquiring meaning only within the four walls of the constitutional document itself.  That has been the core ideological basis of approaching constitutional analysis on the West.  It is far less useful beyond states that adhere strongly to those traditions and in which the written constitution is meant to serve as the core memorialization of the political organization of the state.

Cuban independent media tend to look at the process of constitutional change from an almost opposite set of presumptions.  In the process, it also tends to ignore the decade long movement toward constitutional reform.  It prefers to emphasize the political and pragmatic realities of the Cuban version of the Party-State system over the debates that ultimately produced an ideological position that might disappoint many but that was the product of some reflection within the Cuban political class.  This is an analysis in which the constitution may not matter precisely because the state is managed.  But oddly, it is also a view that accepts the notion that the only constitution that matters is that which mimics those of the West.  Here again, the failure to recognize the realities of the system, even one criticized as heavily flawed, reduces the value of the analysis and distorts the understanding of the actual reform attempted--for all of its failures and irregularities.   

Of course, for every example of this sort of analysis, there are some that, however deeply embedded in stories with other focus, does suggest a more sophisticated knowledge of events .
That complexity was best expressed in reporting by Reuters:
The current draft omits a clause in the 1976 constitution on the ultimate aim of building a "communist society", instead simply focusing on socialism.

"This does not mean we are renouncing our ideas," the president of the National Assembly Esteban Lazo was quoted as saying by state-run media.= Cuba had simply moved into a different era following the fall of the Soviet Union, he said. (A new draft of Cuba's constitution drops communism and allows same-sex marriage)
Also helpful is reporting from the New York Times:
During his two terms as president, Mr. Castro took steps to loosen the state’s grip on the economy and open up the nation to a small but vital private sector and to more foreign investment. “Essentially, they’ve changed so many things in the last two years that a lot of things that are happening are technically unconstitutional,” said Ted Henken, professor of sociology and Latin American studies at Baruch College in New York. While the draft omits a clause from the current, 42-year-old Constitution laying out the goal of building a “communist society,” it still reinforces the one-party system with the Communist Party as the guiding force in society (New Cuba Constitution, Recognizing Private Property, Approved by Lawmakers)
And, indeed, Cuban independent journalists recognize the trap that reading words in isolation may produce:
"Lo que resulta de todo punto increíble, en ese contexto, es que, mientras se borra esa alusión de la nueva Constitución, siga manteniéndose el papel del Partido Comunista de Cuba como “fuerza dirigente superior de la sociedad y del Estado”. ¿Tiene algún sentido que, cuando ya no existe aquel hipotético objetivo, continúe usufructuando el mando la agrupación política cuya tarea se supone que sea precisamente conducirnos hacia lo que anunciaban como el “Paraíso en la Tierra”!" [What is absolutely incredible, in that context, is that, while this allusion to the new Constitution is erased, the role of the Communist Party of Cuba continues to be maintained as "the leading force of society and of the State". Does it make any sense that, when that hypothetical objective no longer exists, the political grouping continues to usufruct the command whose task is supposed to be precisely leading us towards what they announced as "Paradise on Earth"!] (Acerca de la “nueva” Constitución castrista).

While it will be interesting, indeed, to see the changes that will be made to the constitution, it is useful to remember in this process that the text of the constitution of the Socialist Republic of Cuba ought not to be read with the sensibilities of elite Western academics or policymakers,.  Indeed, that is almost surely a guarantee of misreading, or rather of reading into that constitution, the hopes and expectations of the West,.  At least since the 7th Congress of the PCC, Cuba's current leaders have made it quite clear that this is a vision rejected in almost every possible way.   The object of constitutional change sis to memorialize changes already made, and to engage in that process in a way that is most helpful to Cuba's foreign relations.

Voice of America
 21 July 2018
HAVANA — A draft of Cuba's new constitution keeps the Communist Party as its leading political force but states as its aim the construction of socialism rather
than communism, reflecting changing times, top officials told lawmakers this weekend.

Cuba is replacing its Soviet-era constitution with a new constitution to reflect and implement political and economic changes designed to make its one-party socialist system — one of the last in the world — sustainable.

The constitution will, for example, recognize private property, something long stigmatized by the Communist Party as a vestige of capitalism, the secretary of the council of state, Homero Acosta, told lawmakers on Saturday.

This should give greater legal recognition to the micro businesses that have flourished in the wake of market reforms.

Cuba's current 1976 constitution only recognizes state, cooperative, farmer, personal and joint venture property.

The draft also appears to strengthen political institutions and create a more collective leadership structure, after nearly 60 years of rule by late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and his younger brother, Raul Castro.

Raul Castro, then 86, handed over the presidency in April to his mentee, Miguel Diaz-Canel, although he remains head of the Communist Party until 2021. He also heads the constitutional reform commission.

Prime minister's position

Under the new constitution, the president will no longer be the head of the council of state and council of ministers, according to Acosta. Instead, it creates the position of prime minister and designates the president of the assembly also as head of the council of state, Cuba's highest executive body.
The draft also sets an age and term limits for presidents, stating they must be under 60 when they first take office and can carry out no more than two consecutive five-year terms.

The draft omits a clause in the current constitution on aiming to build a "communist society." Instead, it simply talks about building socialism,
reflecting the fact Cuba has moved into a different era following the fall of the Soviet Union, according to the president of the National Assembly, Esteban Lazo.

"This does not mean we are renouncing our ideas," Lazo was quoted as saying by state-run media.

One of the most hotly awaited and controversial changes in the draft is the recognition of marriage as between two individuals rather than a man and a wife, opening the path to same-sex unions.

The national assembly was expected this weekend to pass the document, which will then be submitted to a popular consultation, meaning changes are possible. A final draft will later be put to a national referendum.

Cabinet mostly retained

At the start of the assembly meeting on Saturday, new Diaz-Canel named his cabinet, keeping a majority of ministers from Castro, including in the key posts of defense, interior, trade and foreign relations.

Marino Murillo, the head of the Communist Party's reform commission and previously one of the council of ministers' vice presidents, was the only top figure omitted from the new lineup.

Under Castro, Murillo spearheaded reforms to the state-run economy to give a greater role to foreign investment and the private sector. He remains head of the party's reform commission and a member of the political bureau.

The reforms have slowed, however, in recent years amid fears they have allowed some Cubans to enrich themselves, fostering inequality, and weakened the control of the state.

This month, Cuba issued regulations tightening control of the private sector and limiting business licenses to one per person.

Two octogenarians will remain vice presidents while two 50-year olds will be promoted to that position, reflecting the slow generational transition in Cuba's leadership.


Cuba ditches aim of building communism from draft constitution: Document also recognises private property and opens door to gay marriage
The Guardian
22 July 2018

A draft of Cuba’s new constitution omits the aim of building a communist society, recognises private property and opens the door to same-sex marriage, although it keeps the Communist party as the guiding force of the one-party system.

Cuba’s national assembly was this weekend debating a draft of the document to replace its Soviet-era constitution, reflecting political, social and economic changes designed to make its brand of socialism sustainable.

Once lawmakers have approved the draft, it will be submitted to a popular consultation. The final document, which could include changes, will then be put to a national referendum.

The draft omits a clause in the 1976 constitution on the ultimate aim of building a communist society, instead simply focusing on socialism.

“This does not mean we are renouncing our ideas,” the president of the national assembly, Esteban Lazo, was quoted as saying by state-run media. Cuba had simply moved into a different era following the fall of the Soviet Union, he said. “We believe in a socialist, sovereign, independent, prosperous and sustainable country.”

Unveiling the new constitution to lawmakers on Saturday, the secretary of the council of state, Homero Acosta, said it included the recognition of private property, a principle long stigmatised by the Communist party as a vestige of capitalism.

That change should give greater legal recognition to the micro-businesses that have flourished following market reforms to the ailing state-run economy. They have fostered a small but vibrant private sector and attempted to attract more foreign investment.

Cuba’s current constitution recognises only state, cooperative, farmer, personal and joint-venture property.

The draft also appears to strengthen political institutions and create a more collective leadership structure, after nearly 60 years of rule by the late revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro ,and his younger brother, Raul Castro.

Castro, then 86, handed over the presidency in April to his mentee Miguel Díaz-Canel, 58, although he remains head of the Communist party until 2021. He also heads the constitutional reform commission.

Under the new constitution, the president will no longer be the head of the council of state and council of ministers. Instead, it creates the position of prime minister and designates the president of the assembly also as head of the council of state, Cuba’s highest executive body.

One of the other top items at the assembly on Saturday was the recognition in the draft constitution of marriage as being between two individuals rather than a man and a woman.

The draft also sets age and term limits for presidents, stating they must be under 60 when they first take office and can carry out no more than two consecutive five-year terms.

Reflecting the desired gradual generational transition in Cuba’s leadership, Díaz-Canel named his cabinet at the start of the assembly meeting on Saturday, promoting two officials in their 50s to become vice-presidents alongside two sitting octogenarians and a septuagenarian.

Díaz-Canel kept a majority of ministers from Castro including in the key posts of defence, the interior, trade and foreign relations, in line with his April promise to provide continuity.

Marino Murillo, the head of the Communist party’s reform commission and previously one of the council of ministers’ vice-presidents, was the only senior figure omitted from the new lineup.

Under Castro, Murillo spearheaded changes to the state-run economy and he remains head of the reform commission and a member of the political bureau.

The reforms have slowed in recent years amid fears they have allowed some Cubans to enrich themselves, fostering inequality, and weakened the control of the state.

This month Cuba issued regulations tightening control of the private sector and limiting business licences to one per person.


Acerca de la “nueva” Constitución castrista: El proyecto de carta magna que debate la Asamblea Nacional constituye una nueva manifestación de continuismo comunista

René Gómez Manzano
Domingo, 22 de julio, 2018 | 2:00am

LA HABANA, Cuba.- Los jerarcas comunistas —¡por fin!— se han dignado ofrecer información sobre la reforma constitucional en curso al pueblo en cuyo nombre gobiernan. Esto, al cabo de años de trabajo, pues éste comenzó mucho antes de que la actual legislatura de la Asamblea Nacional nombrara la Comisión encabezada por Raúl Castro. Lo anterior se conoció gracias al prolijo informe sobre todo el proceso brindado por Homero Acosta, secretario de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros.

Una vez más —pues— los castristas mantienen la notabilísima diferencia con las prácticas de la Cuba democrática de antaño. En 1901 y 1940, la redacción del texto supralegal la realizó una asamblea constituyente de carácter pluralista, que representaba las distintas corrientes de opinión existentes. Ahora, al igual que en 1975, la tarea correspondió a órganos de un solo color, en los que todos los miembros están plegados al poder establecido y que, en su inmensa mayoría, milita en el único partido legal: el Comunista.

Si en 1940 los debates de la sesión plenaria eran transmitidos en vivo por radio, para que todos los interesados pudieran conocer de primera mano lo que se estaba debatiendo, ahora el potaje se ha cocinado en medio del mayor secreto, y es únicamente en esta etapa que se ha brindado alguna información al pueblo.

Sólo en este momento se ha conocido que, dado el carácter total de la reforma, en puridad se trata de aprobar una nueva Constitución, y no de hacer modificaciones a la existente. Se ha informado asimismo sobre el restablecimiento de títulos antiguos: En Cuba habrá de nuevo Presidente de la República y Primer Ministro, y las provincias volverán a estar regidas por gobernadores.

Recupera su rango constitucional la institución del hábeas corpus. Se anuncian cambios en lo tocante a la regulación de los derechos ciudadanos. Se establecen límites de edad para el más alto cargo del país (no menos de 35 años ni más de 60 al momento de ser escogido por primera vez). El Presidente sólo podrá serlo durante dos mandatos. Como se esperaba, se reconocen nuevas formas de propiedad.

En la Administración de Justicia, se mantiene el principio de la integración de todos los tribunales por jueces profesionales y legos. La introducción de estos últimos personajes fue calcada de la antigua Unión Soviética. Pero la copia se hizo mal, y en Cuba hay magistrados no graduados en derecho incluso en el Tribunal Supremo. ¡Una verdadera barbaridad! Ahora se sientan las bases para subsanar esa insensatez, pues no será obligatorio que, en todos los actos judiciales, estén presentes jueces legos.

Hay otro cambio de importancia. Y me atrevo a augurar que será uno de los que más atención merecerán de la ciudadanía durante el próximo debate popular. Se trata del cambio en la definición del matrimonio: actualmente es “la unión […] de un hombre y una mujer”, mientras que a partir de ahora sería la “de dos personas”. Con esto no se establece en Cuba el llamado “matrimonio igualitario”, pero sí se abre la puerta para que una ley pueda hacerlo en el futuro. El tema amerita un análisis profundo, pero parece más apropiado dedicarle un artículo separado.

No obstante, lo que más revuelo mediático ha ocasionado a nivel planetario es la eliminación de la alusión al “comunismo” como meta de la sociedad cubana. Excluir la mención a esa doctrina es un modo de reconocer (aunque sea en forma retorcida) su carácter utópico e inalcanzable. ¡Lástima que en nombre de esa teoría despistada hayan muerto veintenas de millones de seres humanos!

Lo que resulta de todo punto increíble, en ese contexto, es que, mientras se borra esa alusión de la nueva Constitución, siga manteniéndose el papel del Partido Comunista de Cuba como “fuerza dirigente superior de la sociedad y del Estado”. ¿Tiene algún sentido que, cuando ya no existe aquel hipotético objetivo, continúe usufructuando el mando la agrupación política cuya tarea se supone que sea precisamente conducirnos hacia lo que anunciaban como el “Paraíso en la Tierra”!

Si hacemos un balance general de las nuevas normas supralegales, no me parecería acertado plantear que todas ellas son negativas o improcedentes. Al hacer un análisis ponderado de esas cuestiones, parece más acertado matizar las conclusiones que saquemos, y reconocer el carácter contradictorio y ambivalente de las modificaciones.

Pero considero que constituiría un error limitarnos a poner en una balanza los cambios que se propone plasmar en la nueva Constitución con respecto a la hoy vigente, y tratar de determinar si el saldo que ellos arrojan es positivo o negativo. Creo, por el contrario, que es menester valorar el nuevo documento en su conjunto; tener en cuenta no sólo lo que se modifica, sino también lo que se copia de la carta magna de 1975 reformada en 1992 y 2002.

Lo esencial es el carácter antidemocrático que seguirá teniendo ese documento. Lo más importante es el continuismo y la arbitrariedad que entraña —por ejemplo— mantener el carácter dirigente del Partido Comunista, un cuerpo elitista al que pertenece menos del 10% de los electores. O mantener a ultranza la idea del “socialismo”, la misma doctrina que ha metido a Cuba en la crisis estructural en la cual se debate nuestro país desde hace decenios.

¿Y qué decir del procedimiento empleado para redactar el nuevo texto? Primero (según acaba de confesar Homero Acosta) trabajaron durante años especialistas escogidos a dedo. Después quedó instalada una Asamblea Nacional compuesta por los mismos 605 ciudadanos (militantes comunistas en más de un 90%) que los actuales jefes, por medio del procedimiento tramposo de las comisiones de candidatura, postularon con ese fin. Acto seguido ese propio legislativo escogió un cuerpo de 33 miembros, que encabezó el mismo mandamás actual, Raúl Castro. A continuación, el proyecto fue estudiado por el Buró Político y el Comité Central del partido único. Y ahora conoce de este asunto la Asamblea Nacional.

Estas realidades nos permiten afirmar que no se trata de una Constitución del pueblo, por el pueblo y para el pueblo. Todo lo contrario: estamos en presencia de un texto supralegal al cual, si queremos caracterizarlo de una manera parecida, tendríamos que calificar como de los comunistas, por los comunistas y para los comunistas.

Es por ello que fuerzas prodemocráticas influyentes —comenzando por el Encuentro Nacional Cubano— propugnan que, cuando el nuevo texto constitucional sea sometido a referendo, los ciudadanos vayan a votar y que lo hagan por el NO. Esperemos que así ocurra.

My doubts about Cuba’s New Constitution
Havana Times
June 7, 2018

By Julio Antonio Fernandez (El Toque)

HAVANA TIMES — On June 2nd 2018, a special session of the National Assembly of People’s Power was held, with 35 members absent, which is a lot for their first meeting. On that day, important agendas for Cuba’s present and future were passed without any kind of discussion.

When the only contribution to the administrative experiment (which has been developed in the Artemisa and Mayabeque provinces since 2011) was presented, the National Assembly’s plenary session approved the separation of duties between the presidency of Local People’s Power Assemblies and the presidency of their respective Administrative Councils; and as a result, the need to modify an article in the Constitution.

The Decree-Law of the Council of Ministers, which regulates the key points of the Artemisa and Mayabeque experiment, didn’t only refer to this separation of duties. Now, a huge doubt lingers about the rest of the matters they were trying out in these new western provinces. The idea was to fine-tune administrative duties, to make it work autonomously in everyday life, leaving People’s Power Assemblies with the tasks of governing, projecting and controlling.

The experiment originally had some omissions like the role of People Councils, which were blurred in the Decree-Law, and the new ways people could participate, which weren’t outlined anywhere, because it wasn’t one of the experiment’s priorities.

In reality, it was proven time and time again that the local population in Artemisa and Mayabeque had no knowledge about the experiment, they didn’t have any information about its objectives and the motives for its creation, and they formed no part of this transformative adventure.

In the heart of Artemisa city, I heard a resident talk about two new governments in his province. Using their ancestral knowledge, people had read that the only change here was an additional government headquarters, which wasn’t anything more than an office for the president of the administrative council (now Head), which doesn’t mean that there are two governments at all, but that nobody explained how this new order works to the population and, therefore, none of the population have consciously taken part in this new structure.

The duration of the experiment indicates that its results were confusing to say the least and now they are suddenly telling us that the duties of heads of local assemblies and the administrative council will be separated elsewhere in the country, but not a single thing has been said about how this experiment worked, what indicators improved, what benefits came from this abovementioned separation or what problems weren’t ever resolved.

It was even more worrying to see legislators not speaking in the right place and time for a discussion and debate, accountability and for democratic control, instead to watch them waiting for the show that two legislators from the analyzed provinces were going to put on to show how effective this new bureaucratic structure is.

The day unanimity became an insult to the Homeland, the National Assembly gave us a new lesson on silence and Party discipline which is great for a convent, hermit or monastery. There’s more discussing at a Papal Conclave to elect the a Pope than there is at Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power.

How can it represent the Cuban people with so much silence? Some of the legislators must have seen how chatty and rowdy Cuban people are, right? It was the time to talk and not a single comment was made about the experiment, not a single question, not a single doubt raised, the opposite: the National Assembly president told members of the highest Cuban state body that he hoped that they wouldn’t talk about this experiment during this Assembly again, thereby not recognizing the fact that legislators can talk about whatever they want to at an Assembly if they feel it’s important for the Cuban people.

Legislators didn’t make any comments about the integration of the National Assembly’s permanent committees either, as if it were just any routine drill. The day these new legislators appear to fulfill their duties, the majority of this legislative body’s members didn’t even put on the performance of a debate (which wouldn’t have been legitimate) but it would have been much better than the collective drowsiness we watched on national TV.

Later, we bore witness to the (unanimous again) naming and confirmation of the committee (headed by Raul Castro) that will write up the draft of the new Constitution, a reform which we know will be a complete do-over thanks to a flying remark made by the National Assembly’s President.

The approved committee leaves us with some significant doubts for the next few months. There is no working expert with knowledge of constitutional matters. There are some respectable jurists, professors, doctors in legal science among them, but none of them are studying or investigating Constitutional Law right now.

Why aren’t working Constitutional Law professors from every main university in the country on the committee? Why haven’t experts who have taken part in constitutional processes in Venezuela, Ecuador or Bolivia been invited? Why isn’t Cuba’s Attorney-General, the President of the Supreme Court, the Justice Ministry, the Dean of the Havana University’s Law Department on this committee?

The new Constitution will leave us with a new country, a new national project, it will stipulate who is the sovereign leader of the Cuban State, who Cuba’s natural resources belong to, what forms of property will exist and which will take dominance in the new economic system that is created as a result.

The Constitution that this committee with no experience whatsoever in writing such documents will have to consecrate human rights, guarantees so the Cuban people can exercise these rights, it will have to lay out how State institutions are organized, the limits of administrative duties, protecting the environment, the foundations and principals of the electoral system, the People’s Power’s resulting structure.

If none of these matters are written down or treated conservatively or in an unpopular or anti-democratic way, this will be on the shoulders of those who have now been named to draft the constitution.

It was really strange that no full timetable of the committee’s work was presented, nor includes when the first draft version will be put forward, how it will be made known, the way it will be discussed with the population and when this will happen, the time period the National Assembly has to present the final version and the day set for the final referendum.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to pass a “note” to the National Assembly’s President because if I had, I would have sent thousands of my own questions and those of others, questions which Cuba’s stupefied free citizens are asking themselves.


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