THE new Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, discussed and analyzed by deputies, and enriched by the proposals of the population, was approved by roll-call vote of the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP) on December 22, during the closing session of the Second Ordinary Session of its Ninth Legislature, attended by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Party Central Committee; Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez; and José Ramón Machado Ventura, Second Secretary of the PCC.
Of the 602 deputies that make up the ANPP, 19 were absent and 583 voted Yes on the Constitution.
Following the approval, Esteban Lazo, PCC Political Bureau member and ANPP president, summoned all citizens eligible to vote in the Referendum, on February 24, to support the new Magna Carta, born of a momentous exercise
of collective construction, which offers Cuba a modern Constitution, adjusted to the country that we have, and that we want.
Homero Acosta Álvarez, secretary of the Council of State, clarified that in order for the new Constitution to enter into force, the people must be consulted, which is why it must be submitted to a referendum.
During the session, the title of 2019 was also announced: “Year 61 of the Revolution.”
ALWAYS WITH THE PEOPLE
Although the draft Constitution had already been studied by deputies independently and in working subgroups, prior to the approval of the new Magna Carta, the closing session of the Second Ordinary Session of the Ninth Legislature returned to focus on analysis of the text, and of the changes introduced following the popular consultation process.
The first interventions were focused on highlighting the commendable work of the Drafting Commission, led by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, reflecting a widespread sentiment.
On behalf of the Commission, Homero Acosta expressed thanks for the support, and highlighted the work of the entire group, under the leadership of the Army General, “because if there is a founding father of this Constitution, it is this deputy,” that helmsman, as he said before, who has always steered us to safe harbor.
Deputy Yolanda Gómez recommended that the reference to Cuban patriots in the Preamble of the text be revised in order to clearly reflect the resumption of our independence struggles in 1895. She also proposed a modification of the order of the paragraphs referring to the twenties and thirties, and the U.S. intervention in 1898.
In response, Drafting Commission member, Eduardo Torres Cuevas, added that the preamble of the document seeks a synthesis that encompasses all our history, and that the indicated content offers a dialectical sense of continuity to our revolutionary process.
The wording was structured beginning with the general and moving to specifics, and the sole intention was to reflect the revolutionary struggles of our people. “Moving everything would be to alter the order achieved,” he said.
Likewise, Deputy Doraine Linares congratulated all Cuban educators on their Day, and proposed that student organizations also be included in the preamble, in recognition of their contribution to the revolutionary process.
Raúl Palmero, president of the Federation of University Students and member of the Drafting Commission, noted that even if mention of students is not included in the text, this will always be a Constitution of students.
On this point, the proposal was voted on and approved by the Assembly.
Deputy Enrique Alemán stated that the Constitution is unique, and that he, as a religious man, felt honored to be part of the debate. “There is a religious community in Cuba, and religious Cuban women and men advocate the unity of this people. May light and progress fall on this land,“ he concluded.
In this regard, deputy Pablo Odén Marichal, executive secretary of the Cuban Council of Churches, added that according to reports from the U.S. State Department, which monitors religious freedom worldwide, but not in its own country, Cuba is included on the list of nations that supposedly violate this freedom.
Odén rejected such statements, and noted the religious community’s decision to address the issue of fundamentalism within so-called evangelical groups. The supremacism practiced by them is, in the first instance, political, to rupture national unity; and secondly, religious, to establish control over their followers, he stressed. He noted that this task was based on the premise that he who betrays the poor, betrays Christ.
THE CONSTITUTION MUST ENCAPSULATE POPULAR WILL
Deputy Vivian Patricia Alvarado Godoy proposed an amendment to the second paragraph of Article 24 (originally the last paragraph of Article 23), which deals with the socialist property of all the people. The purpose was to avoid the vulnerability of the State when entrusting these assets.
Elba Rosa Martínez, a member of the Drafting Commission, clarified the arguments made in the working subgroups on the subject of the preferential right of the State, which is very explicit.
Homero Acosta explained that this section expresses a current objective, which is not to transfer public resources, and that the reformulation made is on a level with aspects of the country’s economic and social development, and offers the possibility of exceptions, which the Council of Ministers will evaluate and regulate, with its requirements, and without affecting the political underpinnings.
Other members of the Commission asked to speak on this matter. Yumil Rodríguez noted that State control leaves no room for doubt. Meanwhile, Marcia Cristobalina stressed that the Constitution is of a broad and general nature, while a large number of new legal regulations must be drafted to cover such specificities.
José Luis Toledo Santander explained that the State will always be protected by the clauses of Article 58.
Despite this explanation, the deputy maintained her amendment proposal, which was rejected when put to a vote.
On the same Article 24, deputy Ania Guillermina Lastre proposed a modification to its wording, so as not to give place to any misinterpretations, to specify that it referred to key infrastructure.
However, deputy Irma Martínez stated her agreement with the draft as it stood. Given this scenario, both proposals were voted on and the amendment was finally approved.
Fernando González, a deputy from Santiago de Cuba, proposed to include in Article 30, refering to the distribution of wealth, that this would be increasingly just.
Deputy for the Isle of Youth, Yailin Orta, member of the Drafting Commission, considered this a relevant proposal, implying a more comprehensive vision of wealth distribution, in correspondence with the spirit of the article, and the Assembly agreed.
Jorge Gómez, deputy for Diez de Octubre municipality, made reference to Article 32, subparagraph h), on freedom of expression in the arts. He suggested avoiding distinctions between form and content, and endorsing that cultural policy will always be based on the humanist principles that have always inspired the country’s writers and artists, on which the value system of Cuban society is built.
Based on this proposal, he suggested replacing the current wording with reference to the promotion of the freedom of artistic creation in all forms of expression.
In this regard, deputy and Commission member, Elier Ramírez, noted that the proposal offers a more comprehensive and complete vision, and that after consulting with specialists and officials of the Ministry of Culture, it was considered correct. The deputies also agreed.
THE VALUE OF COLLECTIVE CONSTRUCTION
Deputy Juan Carlos Rodríguez Díaz, from Pinar del Río, expressed his support for the proposed Constitution, as one of the most important collective constructions of the Cuban people.
He particularly commended subparagraph c) of Article 32, on the knowledge of history.
Rolando González Patricio, deputy for Campechuela, reflected on the relevance of including, in Article 42 on discrimination, the issue of social status, taking into account that the Constitution and the work of the Revolution, in its 60 years, have been based on social justice.
He added that his proposal is far from a vision of egalitarianism, a position that is not revolutionary because it demobilizes and doesn’t correspond to the principles of equality and revolutionary values.
The Constitution, he stressed, reflects the vision of the Comandante en Jefe, regarding a Revolution with the humble and for the humble.
As such, when it is approved, it must be either explicitly or implicitly clear that those with more material wealth can not discriminate against the more humble.
In this regard, Commission member Yoraida Núñez Bello explained that the Article lists some forms of discrimination, but cannot cover all. For this reason, the phrase “any other condition or personal circumstance that implies a distinction detrimental to human dignity” was included. The proposal can be considered contained within this.
Homero Acosta commented, in addition, that the introduction of another term could complicate the wording of the article, which was appreciated by the deputy.
Deputy Belkis María López Vázquez proposed inverting the order of the second and third paragraphs of the same Article 42, as, in her opinion, the meaning was not well understood. Yailin Orta, on behalf of the Drafting Commission, considered that this was inappropriate, as the meaning was not affected.
Deputy Daicar Saladrigas, from Camagüey, endorsed the concept of freedom of the press reflected in Article 55, and proposed deleting the reference that this is a freedom of the “people,” as, in her opinion, it is an exercise inherent to journalism and the media.
She also suggested making it clear that the fundamental media can not be the object of any other type of property than that of the State. She noted that according to the wording of the draft, only private property was specified, which could result in confusion due to the diversity of forms of property that the Constitution itself recognizes and legitimizes today.
Responding to these proposals, Yailin Orta explained that “people” in this case referred not only to individuals, but to subjects of law in general, and as such the current text should remain. She considered the second proposal relevant, since the fundamental media should only respond to the principles defended by the Cuban State.
Meanwhile, Homero Álvarez disagreed with the first proposal regarding the deletion of “people” in Article 55, noting that freedom of the press is also an individual right, as it extends, for example, to those citizens who, while not journalists, have a blog or other platform of expression. The Assembly approved the second proposal; while voting against the first.
FOR THE UNITY OF THE FAMILY... AND THE PEOPLE
Luis Ángel Adán Roble expressed his support of the wording and content of Article 82 (previously 68) “as a deputy and LGBTI person.”
He emphasized that there were no sides, or losers in this regard, adding that the only winner is the people, and that all families, regardless of their structure, are strengthened by the modifications made to the draft text, based on the principles of justice and equality.
He pointed out that other elements will have to be specified in the Family Code, which will be discussed and voted on, and which he hopes will establish social legitimacy for all people. He called for the educational work on these issues to be expanded.
Adán concluded his presentation with a call on all to vote Yes to the Constitution on February 24, before stressting that the Homeland belongs to everyone, and that this Revolution has always been based on the participation of all.
The young deputy for Marianao municipality, Danhiz Díaz Pereira, reflected that, after all the working group and Assembly debates, as well as informal meetings, deputies return to their territories in a better condition to explain all the changes introduced in the text.
In an extensive speech, deputy Mariela Castro Espín noted that the reformulation of Article 68, now contained in Article 82, should be interpreted as an advance in a process as complex as the reform of the most important legal document of our social and political context.
Contrary to the misrepresentations on social networks, Article 82, referring to marriage, maintains the principle of equality and non-discrimination based on sex, which is also contained in the proposed Article 42.
She explained that the constitutional reference to marriage is now found in a novel chapter, that addresses the family in all its diversity.
She noted that the use of the term “spouses”, in reference to those who have formalized a marriage, does not prevent people of the same sex from marrying.
Castro also stressed that the essence of Article 68 is maintained in Article 82, but that this transcends the previous proposal.
She emphasized that now the first challenge is to guarantee the positive vote of the majority of the electorate in the democratic exercise scheduled for February 24.
Regarding the modification of the Family Code, she suggested that this should take as references not only the most advanced experiences on the global level, but also our own social reality.
She insisted that faced with the manipulative campaigns of the counterrevolution on social media, to sabotage the referendum, we have the duty to undertake a serious campaign to inform the people and the world about the principles of the Revolution and that the rights of all people are protected in the new constitutional text.
The deputy also congratulated the ANPP and the Drafting Commission for their rigorous work, and conceptual and methodological contributions to the discussed text, as well as for their critical spirit to perfect the next processes to be held.
She also had words of recognition for Homero Acosta, for his masterful work as a jurist and educator of all deputies, and the people of Cuba, and for the political maturity, contributions and responsibility assumed in this process.
Mariela dedicated a special message of congratulations to Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, an educator who has been an inspiring example in her life, and thanked him for his example “as a father and as a revolutionary.”
These words were received with prolonged applause and a standing ovation from deputies as Mariela hugged Raúl. On returning to her seat, she made public the words of her visibly moved father: “You have to remember your mother.”
Mariela stressed that her mother, also a deputy since the constitution of the ANPP, along with her father, was and continues to be an inspiration, and introduced her to this struggle.
“They both taught me that we had to fight for these issues in the Revolution, something difficult and complex, but that had to be done; and life gave me the opportunity, at the head of the National Center for Sex Education, attached to the Ministry of Public Health, to be able to develop this work, and I am trying to do so in the best possible way,” she concluded.
Deputy Julia Dolores Cabrera Raymond reiterated recognition of the aforementioned Commission that, together with the contributions and popular wisdom manifested during the consultation process, made it possible to enrich Article 48 on due process, which gave rise to the section: “Guarantee of Rights.”
This recognizes legal guarantees that were not included in the previous draft, which helps to improve the procedure to deliver justice in the country, the essence of which has been manipulated and distorted by enemies and detractors.
She likewise spoke of subparagraph b) of Article 95, which addresses procedural guarantees, and requested that the Drafting Commission reformulate it, as it was not clear when the process began - whether at the time of the arrest or when a lawsuit is filed.
Ariel Mantecón, deputy and member of Commission, responded that the content on due process contained within the mentioned articles was one of the most enriched by the debate.
It can be said that they are articles on a par with any other constitution, as they arise from experience and have an eminently humanist vocation. Important contributions were received from the legal community in order to draft them, he stressed.
He clarified that the beginning of the criminal process can not be defined by the Constitution, but by the Criminal Procedure Law, and exemplified that proceedings can be opened to pursue an alleged offence, with no known culprit.
Joaquín Bernal Rodríguez, deputy for Santo Domingo municipality, Villa Clara province, referred to the second paragraph of Article 147 (Title VI: State Structures; Chapter 5: Courts of Justice), which includes the way in which courts are constituted.
Bearing in mind that various elements are always taken into account in this regard, and that the collegiate structure is most widely used, he requested that the phrase “collegiate or not,” be eliminated, in order to make explicit the practice and avoid misinterpretation.
The plenary accepted his proposal and, before concluding his intervention, the deputy conveyed congratulations to the workers of the People’s Courts and the Attorney General of the Republic, institutions that recently celebrated their 45th anniversary, and constitute a bastion of legality in the country.
Rubén Remigio Ferro, president of the People’s Supreme Court, acknowledged that one of the many values of the constitutional draft is the way in which access to justice is strengthened, as well as the rights and guarantees of the people.
He stated that once approved, the new Constitution, drafted with the participation of the people, will be at the forefront of modern constitutionalism worldwide.
He agreed with what was expressed by deputy Joaquín Bernal, and acknowledged that the way in which courts are constituted must be included in the corresponding Law. Once submitted to a vote, the proposal was approved unanimously.