The modification of a country’s Constitution entails the subsequent revision of its entire legal system and constitutes one of the most significant processes for its future, due to its scope and complexity.
Hence the importance of the approval June 2 by deputies of the 9th Legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP) of the beginning of the constitutional reform process, during their first extraordinary session; as well as the Commission created for the drafting of the new Constitution, chaired by Army General Raul Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba.
During the session, deputies also learned of the results of the experiment taking place in the provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque, and agreed on the ten standing committees of the National Assembly, and the composition of its parliamentary friendship groups.
With the presence of the Army General and Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Councils of State and Ministers, the day began with a minute of silence in tribute to the victims of the tragic plane crash May 18, in the vicinity of the José Martí International Airport.
The President of the National Assembly, Esteban Lazo Hernández, also expressed gratitude for the messages of solidarity received from different regions of the world, on behalf of parliaments, friendship groups, and legislators.
EFFORTS THAT ADDRESS THE CAUSES OF PROBLEMS
The ten standing committees of the Cuban Parliament, approved June 2, are composed of 380 deputies and among their prioritized tasks are the monitoring of the constitutional reform process; supervising efforts to prevent and tackle crime, corruption and indiscipline; as well as continuing the perfecting of the People’s Power system and attention to the proposals of the population.
As was reported, of the total members of these committees, 57.6% are women, 82.8% completed higher education, and 17.15% mid-level education. Black and mixed race Cubans represent 42% of committee members, and 62 members are young people up to 35 years of age.
Regarding the work of the standing committees, Lazo Hernández stressed that it is necessary to identify and tackle the causes of problems, and that proposed solutions raise the quality of life of the population, with the certainty that we can be an increasingly hardworking, disciplined, and revolutionary people.
During the session, parliamentary and friendship groups with 93 countries were also approved, composed of 179 deputies. Their work, assured the ANPP president, is to disseminate the Cuban reality, defend the principles of the island’s foreign policy and dismantle the media campaigns orchestrated against the country.
ARTEMISA AND MAYABEQUE FURTHER PERFECT THEIR GOVERNANCE
Although there are still difficulties, associated mainly with administration, the overall outcome of the experiment underway since 2011 in the provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque was described as positive by Leonardo Andollo Valdés, member of the Standing Committee for Implementation and Development.
As part of the information offered to deputies in this regard, he recalled that by agreement of the ANPP, August 1, 2011, it was decided to conduct an experiment in these provinces, within a period not exceeding 18 months, through the development of a working model for People’s Power local government, based on the separation, in different persons, of the leaderships of assemblies and their administration bodies.
This agreement, he noted, provided continuity to a process of experimentation that began with the creation of the two provinces, and put into practice a new structural and functional model of the provincial and municipal administrations.
This experiment was extended on three occasions (2012, 2014 and 2016) due, fundamentally, to shortcomings detected particularly in the actions of administrative bodies.
According to Andollo Valdés, during the last extension period, which concluded at the end of the 8th Legislature, more integrated work was developed, which allowed “some general progress” to be achieved.
Regarding the administrations, he highlighted the sustained growth of agricultural production, the increase in sales and income of the state enterprise system, as well as better indicators in the budget settlement. Similarly, he mentioned the positive results in health, education, sports, and culture, together with the gradual improvement of infrastructure.
However, he explained: “The provincial and municipal administrations, especially the latter, present a group of deficiencies on which we must continue to act. Therefore, it is expected to continue refining the model implemented.
“The Council of Ministers will be in charge of approving, for their subsequent extension (to other provinces), the operation, structure and composition variables of the administrations considered most appropriate.”
However, Valdés noted that the experience in the separation of the leaderships of the assemblies and their administrative bodies had seen superior results.
In this regard, he referred to the increase, both in Artemisa and Mayabeque, in the number of sessions of the assemblies, and of delegates’ attention to the proposals of the population. He also highlighted participation in the recently held general elections, where Mayabeque saw a turnout of 90.67%, and Artemisa 89.04%.
“Although there are other aspects in which they must continue working, the final evaluation is positive,” he said. In addition, he emphasized the importance of the position of vice president for administrative bodies, recently rolled out in all provinces, a vital step for the subsequent extension of the separation of functions, as considered pertinent.
SERVING THE PEOPLE: THE ESSENTIAL MISSION OF PEOPLE’S POWER
Although difficulties have manifested in the structure and functioning of administration bodies in Artemisa and Mayabeque, the results in the management of the assemblies support the appropriateness of the separation, through different people, of their own responsibilities and those of their respective administrations, emphasized José Luis Toledo Santander, president of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, upon providing the report on the experiment.
This separation, he noted, grants greater stability and professionalism to the administrations, designated by the assemblies, and makes their governance more efficient.
Meanwhile, the process allows assembly presidents to more effectively exercise control over administrative activity and, in turn, devote more time to the functions of the assembly, its standing committees, and people’s councils, as well as to direct and timely attention to delegates and the population.
In these conditions, he stressed, local administration and attention to the needs of territories are strengthened, and efficiency in the fundamental mission of assemblies – that of serving the people – increases.
Given all the above, he said, the separation of functions is considered relevant and the modification of article 117 of the Constitution is appropriate, with a view to extending this model to the rest of the country. Such results, he recommended, will be sent to the Commission in charge of drafting the constitutional document.
After the approval of the report by deputies, Tamara Valido, president of the Mayabeque Provincial Assembly, noted that despite the difficulties, the transformations have allowed greater attention to the opinions of the population and a superior response capacity to accumulated problems.
Meanwhile, Teresa Valentina Martínez, head of the Artemisa Administration Council, considered the People’s Power improvement program, which means strengthening the structures of government and the training of cadres, to be “opportune.”
The deputies also heard expert reports that emphasized the legislative procedures of the constitutional reform, as well as the functions and powers of the National Assembly, the highest government body of the country, and the only body with legislative and constituent powers.