The National Assembly retains its status as the supreme body of the state. Photo: Juvenal Balán

What are the main changes proposed in the draft Constitution, which is currently being debated in neighborhoods, workplaces and schools, regarding the structure of the Cuban state and government? What motivates this decision?

In a panel held at the headquarters of the Union of Cuban Journalists, Dr. Martha Prieto, vice president of the Cuban Society of Constitutional Law and tenured professor at the University of Havana, acknowledged that the proposed changes in the leadership structure of the island are among the most novel of the draft Constitution.

The new proposal separates the functions of the President of the Republic and those of the Prime Minister, which were previously merged into one, based on collegial decision making.

“Now, although he (the President) is the head of the Executive, he must also be a deputy, approved by the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP). This is a necessary measure, because it prevents Assembly-state leadership separation,” the jurist explained.

The President of the Republic comes from within the Assembly, which is a representation of the people, and he or she is accountable to this body, which can recall or remove him or her.

Meanwhile, the Council of State, a body of the ANPP that represents it in the period between sessions, puts its resolutions into effect and complies with all the other duties assigned by the Constitution, serving as the permanent representative and coordinator of the work of the National Assembly standing committees. The Assembly will decide all senior leadership positions, although some will be directly subordinated to the President of the Republic.

Empowering municipalities is one of the objectives of the new structure. Photo: Juvenal Balán

“The proposal, as can be seen, totally changes what exists now,” said Martha Prieto. “The Council of State becomes the permanent body of the Assembly: the eyes, ears, and those who will ensure all legislative activity on behalf and in representation of the Assembly.”

Today, our head of state is also the head of government, representing the entire apparatus, he is part of the representative body and, in addition, leads the executive/administrative sphere and the Council of Ministers, she continued.

The draft Constitution proposes a head of state who directs relations with other states, and issues relating to national security and defense. He or she must be a deputy elected by the Assembly, between 35 and 60 years of age when elected for the first period of his or her term, which may only be extended once, for a total of two terms of office.

Among the main functions of the President according to the draft text are to fulfill and ensure respect for the Constitution and the country’s laws, and represent the state and direct its general policy. His or her administration is accountable to the ANPP or the Council of State. The President will propose candidates for the positions of Prime Minister, President of the Supreme People’s Court, the Prosecutor General of the Republic, the Comptroller General of the Republic, the President of the National Electoral Council, members of the Council of Ministers, and Provincial Governors.

“He or she will objectively respond to the Assembly and will demand responsibility and accountability from the Council of Ministers,” Prieto noted.

Therefore, the position of Head of State will not resemble that which existed during the pre-revolutionary period, she added.

Regarding the figure of the Prime Minister, leader of the Council of Ministers, the expert assured that he or she will be responsible before the ANPP and the President of the Republic for the management of the Council of Ministers, and of its Executive Committee.

As such, he or she “must have become a deputy by popular vote, and then, on the proposal of the President, the Assembly appoints him/her Prime Minister.”

Another change being debated at the grassroots level is the disappearance of the Provincial Assembly, Prieto noted.

“If we want to enhance local autonomy,” she argued, “the Assembly at the provincial level cannot be too strong, as what will happen is what happens now, that although it is constitutionally foreseen that municipalities enjoy the powers to decide and have legal capacity, they can’t take or implement initiatives until the province approves them.”

Therefore, the new Magna Carta proposes Provincial Councils composed of the presidents of the municipal assemblies, who are delegates elected through popular vote.

These are essential changes that should also change the way we view the leadership of deputies, elected by the people on the basis of their merits and record. It will provide them with greater autonomy, Prieto stressed. •
— The President will serve for a period of five years, and up to two consecutive terms, after which he/she cannot hold office again.
— The National Assembly retains its status as the supreme body of the state, which represents the sovereign will of the entire people.
— The President of the Republic will be the Head of State, while the Prime Minister will be in charge of the Government of the Republic. Both are required to be deputies of the National Assembly of People’s Power.
— The Council of State maintains its character as the permanent body of the National Assembly of People’s Power, with greater interaction with the Assembly since, among other aspects, the President, Vice President, and Secretary of the two bodies will be the same individuals.

— An important novelty in terms of state bodies is the establishment of a National Electoral Council, a permanent institution devoted to this area, while the inclusion of the Comptroller General’s Office in the Constitution has been achieved.

— In terms of local bodies, Provincial Assemblies of People’s Power are eliminated, and established is a Provincial Government composed of a Governor and a Council at this level.

— Municipalities acquire a greater role on the basis of recognition of their autonomy, which they exercise in accordance with national interests.

— The Municipal Administrative Council is reaffirmed as the body that directs Municipal Administration, under the leadership of a Superintendent, a term proposed to replace those of “president” and “chief” currently used.