By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
Photos: Jorge Luis Santos
HAVANA TIMES — Our current Constitution dates back to 1976 and even though some amendments were made later, it continues to be a contradictory Carta Magna in nature which denies Cuba the most basic democracy and the Cuban people’s sovereign rights. Based on the unspoken idea that a self-chosen group has the supreme confidence, intelligence and wisdom to rule over the rest of the population as a guardian. It clearly needs to be reformed or replaced.
Previous changes in the past and what they want to do now is basically just to fine tune the ruling political system: authoritarian socialism. Raul Castro at the head of the Constituent Committee is proof that they don’t want anything ad lib or to give reformist ideas a chance. A kind of guarantee or dike for any democratizing ammendment which could then lead to an eventual popular demand for national sovereignty.
Sovereignty continues to be usurped by the Cuban Communist Party. This has been clarified in advance so that nobody is left with any doubts. This is clearly not the constitutional reform we really need. It won’t be a step towards reorganizing the country, or its political institutions, or the economy or towards rescuing the human rights we so desperately need in order to help Cuba progress.
Cubans will approve it out of habit, I have no doubt about that. And also because of a lack of civic culture, because for over a half century we have been trained in fear and had our public spirit castrated by the only party in Cuba’s political and ideological machine.
Nevertheless, it won’t be like before with nearly unanimous participation and mass support. It’s expected that it will receive less than 90%, as a small group of society already have different knowledge, think for themselves and have recovered the civic conscience they need to lose their fear.
If most of our people knew just how important it would be to say “NO” and take advantage of this opportunity to demand the change we need; if a wide range of different opinions were heard alongside the government’s own, it would be another story. How good it would be if proposals from different groups were allowed, which would encourage a real national debate in the media.
Something as important as a Constitution deserves this. The change could even be called “finetuning the revolution” or “returning to the Moncada Program” so as not to trigger such an extreme movement which can also be accepted without fear and paranoia. However, that won’t be possible because they’ll never allow this. They only know how to impose their ideas and make it look like a democracy with debates and proposals collected at party-controlled assemblies.
This process is rigged 100% and there will not be any fair debate about the changes this country needs. Nobody outside of the official political circle will take part in writing up or discussing the final document, which will surely be a new version adjusted to the ideas and needs of the same failed political system. It will be a single-party monster, with a selective view and far-removed from a democratic spirit from its very conception.
Even that (unheeded) article which allows any voting citizen or group of voters to propose laws if they collect 10,000 signatures, might be changed. This was the legal resource that the late Oswaldo Paya tried to use to introduce a project of democratic reforms, “the Varela Project”. And as a result, in 2002, Fidel called for a referendum, via mass organizations that answer to the Communist Party, to make socialism irrevocable in the Constitution. And to them, socialism means authoritarianism.
That project wasn’t even debated and the constitutional reform it countered is another contradiction because if people recognize themselves to be “sovereign”, then nothing written in the constitution that can’t be modified by the Cuban people. Nothing is irrevocable.
Personally, I’m not thinking about voting in this referendum, not unless there is a trace of democracy or the slightest chance for democracy to exist in this new project. Something I doubt. I just hope that today’s political landscape be overcome sooner rather than later and that we can carry out real constitutional reforms. Which might even be just taking the 1940 Constitution and making two or three slight changes in order for it to meet our real needs today. That would be a wise thing to do.