Approved draft of new Cuban constitution put to public debate

World Today

Approved draft of new Cuban constitution put to public debate

For the first time in over 40 years, Cuba could soon have a new constitution. The National Assembly approved a draft in July, and now, the public is being given a chance to weigh in.

CGTN’s Nitza Soledad Perez reports.

Cuba’s new draft Constitution is on tour; traveling the country, open for review and rare public debate of its provisions.

Ordinary citizens are encouraged to voice their opinions and make suggestions to the text. Miguel Diaz-Canel – the new president – backs a new Constitution as a way to modernize the nation in a post-Castro era. This is the first time since 1976 that Cuba’s Carta Magna will get a makeover.

The current draft was approved by the Cuban National Assembly in July, and some of its articles are bringing even more heat to Cuba’s already hot summer – like one that recognizes same-sex marriage.

“It’s a very controversial issue, because it’s never been… but, fine, one does what one wants with their life and that is not a bad thing because we are all human beings who express what we feel,” says Isabel Palacios, a nurse that participated in one of the open discussion sessions.

But not everybody is as open. Cuban artisan Leoncio Sanchez argues that, “I respect everyone’s decision regarding sex and whatever they like. But I wouldn’t like gays teaching in schools.”

Other proposed amendments would institute a two consecutive five-year term limit on the president, and a first-term president could not be older than sixty. In another significant shift, the draft recognizes private property, a development already embraced by the government in recent years, but never before guaranteed by the Constitution.

One tenet that notably doesn’t change is adherence to the one-party system. Article 5 states that the Communist Party of Cuba is the one and only. Alexis Saavedra, a 47 yr old musician, believes that it’s time for his government to listen to other voices. “I want them to discuss the possibility of other political parties, with different proposals,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be just the Communist party of Cuba, and it doesn’t mean that it should be pro-empire, or submissive to the US.”

For Carlos Alzugaray, an educator and former Cuban diplomat still living in Havana, it’s more a matter of social evolution. “I don’t think that you can guarantee the non-existence of other parties or the hegemonic role of the party by writing it into the Constitution,” he explains. “It is the question of the mind of the people.”

These public discussions will continue for three more months. Then, once the debate closes and suggestions are processed, the legislature will draft a final document and submit it to a nationwide vote in February of next year.

Some of the changes to the Constitution are significant, but it’s hard to predict how many of the changes will be broadly embraced.