OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
The law establishes how the Cuban flag may be used by individuals in public events, homes, and workplaces. Photo: Ariel Cecilio Lemus Alvarez

“I believe that symbols represent all our struggles, (...) That is, they do not represent a part of history, they represent our entire history.” Fidel Castro Ruz


When the Symbols Bill was recently presented to National Assembly of People’s Power deputies, Havana City Historian Eusebio Leal Spengler, before mentioning the norm itself or its relevance, spoke of the history that precedes us, that which resides in symbols, because they “represent the dream, the courage, the struggles and the sacrifice of generations of Cubans.”

Thus the importance of this law. Because our symbols are sacred, venerable, and at the same time, must be accessible to those who wish to honor them. It is precisely this balance that the proposed bill seeks to establish, “more flexible use of our national symbols to allow them, within an orderly framework, in accordance with legislation, to attain greater presence in our society.”

According to José Luis Toledo Santander, president of the National Assembly Constitutional and Legal Affairs Standing Committee, responsible for developing the new bill, the proposed law seeks to resolve contradictions that exist today between current norms in this area and the given, or attempted, use of our symbols by some citizens.

“The need to update all legal regulations was evident, as well as specifying and providing greater precision in the content,” so that Law No. 42 of December 1983 and Decree No. 143 of April 1988 could be revoked with the entry into effect of this law.The supporting arguments that precede the bill highlight that, although there are other national symbols, the expressions of our people’s struggles throughout our history, the single-starred flag, the royal palm shield and the anthem of Bayamo are the national symbols that represent the Cuban nation, both nationally and internationally, and those to which the law refers.ORGANIZATON & CONTENTThe bill consists of five titles, divided in chapters that contain a total of 76 articles, along with transitory provisions, five special and two final stipulations. In addition, the law contains two appendices: a glossary of terms used and directives to regulate the design of the flag and shield, as well as the score of the national anthem.Title I addresses general aspects related to the purpose of the law, which is to “define the attributes that identify national symbols and establish rules for their fabrication, use, honors to be conducted, and conservation.”Title II is dedicated to the flag and the meaning of its features. Noted is “the option of manufacture with other fabrics, in order to lower the cost of production, and thereby facilitate acquisition by all individuals and legal persons.

”Likewise, the flag’s dimensions are specified according to use, the site it must occupy, always preeminent and of maximum honor, the height of the staff. In addition, the ways it may be employed by individuals in public events, homes, and workplaces is established, and restrictions are eliminated regarding its use during night hours.According to the bill, use of the flag is prohibited in the following cases:-

Crossing another flag;- In the form of a curtain, drapery, cover, canvas, rug or any other placement that prevents it from unfolding freely, except to cover coffins or urns;- To decorate, cover podiums, tables for those presiding events, or in front of platforms;- In advertisements, trademarks, symbols, or commercial publicity; - When broken, damaged, or faded;- Printing, writing, painting or signing the flag is prohibited;Title III refers to the characteristics, uses, and respects paid the national anthem, with emphasis that it “should not be performed as commercial publicity, and with the vigor of a battle anthem, after the flag has been raised.

”The particulars and uses of the national shield and the seal of the Republic, as well as the respect that is given to the former, are established in Title IV.In this regard, the law specifies that, in the future, the Great Seal of the Republic will be held by the head of state’s Secretariat, the authority recognized to utilize it.With respect to the shield, stipulations indicate that it cannot be used in advertisement, trademarks, commercial publicity or symbols; reproduced in articles of non-official use; used in part, or as part of other figures; or in private buildings, unofficial documents, or painted, engraved, or drawn on vehicles, except those belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces.

For its part, Title V deals with the use of national symbols in educational institutions, and emphasizes the responsibility of all those caring for and educating children and young people to teach the characteristics, historical significance, and honors that these symbols merit.Defined are the conditions under which other uses are acceptable on articles of clothing, objects, works of art, and texts, in accordance with the greatest respect and decorum outlined; always taking into account the context in which they are used and the object on which they are reproduced.In clothing, the bill explains that any national symbol “must be placed in front, and not be part of pants, skirts, pockets, handkerchiefs, underwear, or swimwear.

”And as a means of publicity, their use is acceptable, Article 76 states, “only to convey messages that promote patriotic values.”In this way, as stated in the initial argumentation, “The legislation is in harmony with our social reality, a just demand of many is met, and compliance and respect for the law is strengthened.”As is well understood, however, the law cannot solve distortions by itself.

Training is necessary, and then systematic enforcement.And given the importance of these matters, the transitory provisions include the option of issuing reprimands for contravening public order, to those who do not show due respect for national symbols. Thus, they would be subject to preventive notification or a fine, provided that the acts in question do not constitute crimes.

A FERTILE DEBATE

The maxim guiding this legislative effort is that the final version of the law must be a collective product, as will be the case for all those that emanate from the new Constitution, which, once proclaimed, become obligatory references in terms of citizen participation.Thus, March 27 through April 3, as has become customary, local meetings will be held, with deputies and directors of competent bodies across the country, to discuss the National Symbols Bill.Citizens may also send their opinions to the e-mail address: leydesimbolosnacionales@anpp.gob.cu, after consulting the text, which is available in full on the National Assembly of People’s Power website: www.parlamentocubano.gob.cu.