Cuba’s announcement of a new constitution that would remove references to a “communist society” and recognize the right to private property has generated a lot of enthusiastic headlines around the world. But I read the 755 paragraph document, and — trust me — it’s no step toward modernization.
On the contrary, it’s dreadful!
According to recent news reports from Havana, Cuba’s National Assembly on July 22 approved the draft of the new constitution, which is expected to replace the current 1976 Soviet-era charter.
The proposed Constitution will now go to a process of approval by a government-controlled referendum, and will almost certainly be approved later this year. Cuba’s president Miguel Diaz Canel claimed the referendum over the new Constitution reflects the country’s “genuine democracy.”
Cuba’s behind-the-scenes dictator Gen. Raúl Castro, clad in full military uniform, participated in the National Assembly’s sessions to approve the new charter.
The document would also create the position of prime minister and could pave the way to recognition of same-sex marriages, according to the first reports in Cuba’s official newspaper Granma that drew worldwide attention last month. All of this fueled speculation that the new Constitution would open a small door toward an economic and political opening.
But the full text of the constitutional draft approved by the National Assembly has been made public in recent days, and it shows a completely different picture.
In fact, the new constitution aims to consolidate Latin America’s oldest and most decrepit dictatorship and to make it more difficult for any pro-democracy movement to start changing the system from within.
Article 3 of the new Constitution says that “socialism and the social and political revolutionary system established by this Constitution are irrevocable.” It continues saying that “Citizens have the right to combat by all means, including armed struggle, when other means are not available, against anybody who seeks to topple the political, social and economic order established by this Constitution.”Translation: The new constitution says Cuba’s existing hereditary dictatorship can’t be challenged, and nobody can, for instance, create an opposition party to confront it. If somebody dares to challenge the ruling order, “citizens” — the regime’s euphemism for its civilian-clad secret police — can now legally kill the offenders.
Article 5 says that “The Communist Party of Cuba, and no one else, guided by the teachings of (independence hero José) Martí, Fidel (Castro) and Marxism Leninism, organized vanguard of the Cuban nation…is the superior leading force of society and the state.”
Translation: If anybody had any doubts about what Article 3 meant, the regime made it more explicit here. While a similar clause exists in the 1976 Constitution, it now adds the words “and no one else.”
Article 224 says that “under no circumstance can the clauses about the irrevocable nature of socialism and the political and social system established in Article 3…be subject to reforms.”
Translation: If there is one thing that can’t legally be changed in the future, it’s the dictatorship’s right to remain in power forever.
Rosa Maria Payá, an activist of the opposition Cuba Decide project, told me that “this Constitution is worse than the previous one. By adding that the Communist Party ‘and no one else’ will be in charge of the country, it further closes the doors to any possibility of a multi-party system in the future.”
Indeed, even the new constitution’s references to private property should be taken with a grain of salt. While it recognizes the right to private property, it adds that it will be subject to regulations.
And just released regulations for Cuba’s self-employed, such as home restaurant owners, are often more stringent than the previous ones.
Make no mistake: now that the full text of the new constitution is out, it’s nothing to be celebrated. It looks like a desperate measure by a decrepit dictatorship to cling to the past and further delay Cuba’s economic and political modernization.