Participating in the broadest sense of the word, taking on our individual and collective responsibility to the future of Cuba, is the only way to conduct a truly powerful popular consultation regarding the proposed new Constitution of the Republic.
This was how the process was described by National Assembly member Yumil Rodríguez Fernández, from the National Assembly commission charged with developing the first draft, during a meeting with the press, held at the Union of Cuban Journalists headquarters.
If we only attend a meeting, the essence is undermined of a process that must enrich not only our Constutution, but our people as a whole. It’s about commitment, support for the collective construction of the nation’s most important legal document. It’s about feeling more Cuban, feeling like a constituent.
One indispensable element must be conscious study of the document, made available to all Cubans, in both print and digital form. When the time for the consultation meeting arrives, in a workplace or community center, we can ask questions, make proposals to change the constitutional text (aware that these will all be collected and analyzed), and help with our opinions establish the consensus needed to make our political and social system more mature.
The goal is a broad democratic exercise in which the majority of citizens may participate and express their opinions, with no limitations of any kind, to construct the constitutional text together, among ourselves.
“This is about the population feeling part of the process, assuming it with great responsibility, since the document will chart the principle lines that will govern the society’s order, from the legal, economic, political, and social point of view,” Rodríguez stated.
More than 12 million participants are expected at consultation meetings, since many will attend more than one. The purpose, Rodríguez said, is not to take a vote on proposals, but rather to collect them all, including those submitted online, although the principal opportunity to participate is in workplace, school, and community meetings. And a methodology has been established for the subsequent processing of all proposals.
The training of those responsible for conducting the consultation meetings is also key to success. The National Assembly member commented that these teams have already received preparation and some have experience from previous consultations like that focused on Policy Guidelines approved at the Seventh Party Congress. To support citizens’ understanding, added to the proposal is a glossary of key legal and political terms used.
Addressing another issue, Rodríguez recalled that not all proposals will be included in the final draft. As was explained in the National Assembly, “This is a text of minimums,” to which deputy and historian Eduardo Torres Cuevas added, “It is not a regulation, we must protect the constitutional text, so it says only what it needs to say.” Principles are established and complementary legislation will be written to complete essential ideas.
Along these lines, deputy Elba Martínez Amador insisted on the importance of considering the document as a whole, without focusing on whether one particular point or another is included or not. We must emphasize the wide range of guarantees and rights established for citizens, and the humanist social principles the text affirms, she said, highlighting the role of political and mass organizations in preparing for consultation meetings.
This process in which we have the opportunity to participate has no precedent, the commission members stressed. Placing the content of the country’s fundamental law in the hands of the people has never happened anywhere else, Torres Cuevas said.
Strengthening citizens’ exercise of their rights and responsibilities is as important as understanding the content, he said. What is most significant is that we are going to have a 21st century Constitution that will be considered one of the world’s most modern.
HOW WILL THE CONSULTATION PROCESS BE CONDUCTED?
• Meetings will begin August 13, and will continue through November 15.
• During the month of August, these will take place in workplaces and communities, since educational institutions are closed for summer break.
• Consultation meetings are to be held in locations with adequate conditions to facilitate an event of this kind.
• The introduction to the proposal will be read aloud in its entirety, and discussion will first be focused on the preamble, then the articles and finally complementary dispositions (special, transitory, and final).
• Minutes will be taken during each meeting, with the full name of every person and his or her proposal. The Party Central Committee’s Center for Socio-political Studies (Cespo) will collect these minutes and organize opinions according to article addressed.
• Once the information has been processed, it will be conveyed to the National Assembly commission charged with writing the proposal. This group of deputies will consider proposals and decide what will be included in the final draft to be submitted to the National Assembly, with an explanation of how many of the modifications submitted were included or not, and why.
• The Constitutional reform proposal is available in digital format on the National Assembly of People’s Power website and those of the country’s principal media.