The Constitution in a communist country, unlike those of Western democracies, is a rhetorical element, with general statements that are bounded in reality by laws, administrative rules and even verbal or written instructions. But It happens all too often that laws, regulations and “guidelines” contradict the provisions of the articles of the Constitution and in practice prevail over it. This is further facilitated in Cuba by the fact that there is no Court of Constitutional Guarantees, but only those in charge of enforcing the application of laws.
Why now ?
Although it is said that since 2013 a group of people was established for studying the possible changes to the Constitution, the truth is that this also happens with many other issues that never materialize concretely. So, why all the fuss? It may be that Raúl Castro wants to “leave all the knots well tied”. But there are also other international implications that gives a sense of urgency to the issue from Castro’s perspective.
The debate over the so-called “new” constitution provides fireworks for the new propaganda offensive in Havana –turned low since the election of Donald Trump – now that the economy in general as well as Tourism and foreign investment are in down turn spiral and Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and the FARC drug traffickers “compañeros” are on the defensive.
The Cuban government wants to recycle the old slogan that “this time true changes are coming “hoping this will attract foreign investors and – who knows ? – perhaps explore the possibility of making some sort of deal with President Trump. If it can be done with North Korean why could not Cuba imitate it ?
Meanwhile, Raúl Castro – who in a somber speech on July 26 acknowledged the precariousness of his tactical and strategic situation – wants to revive the flow (from 2014 to 2016) of “bold and visionary” entrepreneurs who risk investing “to get here first” as soon as they hear the mythological mermaid songs.
While the eyes of the world are once again focused on the fake news headlines on the “new” Constitution, the eyes of Cubans in the island are fixed in the parallel wave of draconian measures approved in recent days against the self-employed sector because in Cuba those are the norms – not the Constitution – which will rule their existence. And, for the moment, the constitutional debate and the parallel approval of a series of laws against the private entrepreneur are traveling in opposite courses.
How real are the “changes”?
a) The rhetorical acceptance of private property and market economy may in the future open the door to a “piñata” that, – without benefiting the entrepreneurs of the island and the diaspora-, may transform the elite authoritarian bureaucracy into an elite proprietary class , as it happened in other countries.
b) To change the wording from “ communist society” to “socialist society” does not imply a repudiation of the totalitarian political State that remains untouched and is considered eternal in this new version of the constitution.
c) The creation of new management instances -such as, for example, a prime minister- does not imply a distribution of power. They are not the new “shareholders” of the Castro Brothers Corporation but merely new CEO positions within it.
What remains intact?
A closed society, with no separation of powers or Rule of Law, which represses basic freedoms, with a State that continues to abrogate the right to regulate the economy and any market functioning to its whims, and where a small group controls, from the top of the military and repressive institutions, the single political party, the National Assembly, as well as the councils of ministers and of State. A country where it’s already possible to have a sex change procedure , but not to deviate from the official ideology.
What is worrisome.
The legal capacity that the so-called National Defense Council will have, which is described as “a superior organ of the State that directs the country during exceptional situations and disasters”. That is, in the case of the always precarious situation of Cuba …. at any given time of its choosing.If in the first constitution of the Republic of Cuba the Platt Amendment enshrined the right of intervention by the United States if it believed its interests on the island were threatened. Now the military power elite constitutionally establishes that its right to bypass the rules and throw aside appearances in order to intervene every State institution if they wish to do so and whenever they declare it “necessary”.