CARACAS.— In the first week of a process that will gather the contributions of more than 21,200 Cuban collaborators in Venezuela through October 15, members of the Higher Education and Culture missions in this capital demonstrated the importance of the consultation process that will see 11 million Cubans voice their opinions on the carefully prepared draft Constitution.
In the presence of Rogelio Polanco Fuentes, Cuban ambassador to Venezuela, and Orlando Álvarez Acosta, head of the National Working Group, the collaborators offered their comments and proposals in a meeting that made clear both their professionalism and their love for Cuba. Chaired by Graciela Góngora Suárez and Tania Fernández Chaveco, heads of the Higher Education and Culture missions, respectively, the attendees quickly “opened fire” with their ideas on the supreme law of the Republic.
Commenting on the Preamble, Professor Wilfredo Falcón argued that the explicit recognition in the current Constitution that only socialism and communism can guarantee the full dignity of human beings should be maintained in the new text. He also proposed that Article 5 incorporate the national aspiration of directing efforts toward the construction of socialism, but also toward the advance to communism.
Meanwhile, Professor Francisca Arranz suggested that “peace” be included among the essential objectives of the nation included in Article 1. This reporter, moreover, proposed that the adjective “united” be added in reference to the Communist Party in Article 5, to reflect the nature of an organization that has fostered and guaranteed national unity, and continues to do so, in order to steer the nation forward.
Roberto Unger Pérez argued that Article 11 should establish that the Cuban nation is an archipelago, which more than a toponymic issue, has an impact in terms of current geopolitics and the economic plans of the country, which include territories outside both the main island and the Isle of Youth.
Meanwhile, José Carlos Pérez proposed that in Article 12, where it states that Cuba’s economic, political, and diplomatic relations with other states can never be negotiated under aggression, threats or coercion by “a foreign power,” the latter term should be replaced by “a foreign country,” taking into account that today – as Venezuela well knows – it is not only the great powers that exert pressures of all kinds on other states.
Yoel Rodríguez went on to argue that “sports” development should be added to the “educational, scientific, technical, and cultural” development identified as an essential purpose of the Cuban state in paragraph 60, Article 13.
Ulises Cruz pointed out that Article 20 should define what the fundamental means of production are, a view that generated debate on – in the opinion of several of those present – the disparity in the document in terms of details provided on socialist ownership and the ambiguity surrounding private and personal property.
Regarding Article 22, Aleida Llanes proposed that, instead of the state working to prevent the concentration of property, it should work toward preventing the concentration of “wealth.”
José Carlos Pérez made clear the doubts generated by paragraph 105, Article 25, which states that “The State is not responsible for the obligations contracted by enterprises, nor are the latter responsible for those of the State.” Professor Llanes intervened again to request greater clarity on the autonomy of enterprises and state regulation in Article 26.
Caridad Jiménez argued that Article 40, which relates to guarantees of equal rights, freedoms, and opportunities without discrimination on the basis of “sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnic origin, skin color, religious belief, disability, national origin,” should also include “age.”
Meanwhile, Tania Fernández proposed that Article 64, which establishes the right to address complaints and petitions to authorities, include the term “identified persons,” in order to reduce the number of degrading investigations initiated on the basis of anonymous complaints.
Esmaile Preval argued that it is not enough for people to have “the right to dignified employment,” as stated in Article 75, but that the Constitution should make clear that it is a duty of all citizens to seek employment in a country that is facing population ageing, in which experienced workers need to be replaced.
Caridad Jiménez took the floor again to state that, as in other nations, adjustments to the national minimum wage must consider the cost of the basic basket of goods, and that the country must ensure, through legislation, a constant link between wages and GDP growth.
Regarding Article 76, Yaíma Rodríguez said that the state should establish by law special attention to wage growth, and proposed that paragraph 205, instead of establishing that all persons receive the same salary for work “of equal value,” should read “of equal complexity and skill.”
Wilfredo Falcón referred to the newly proposed figures of “Governor” and “Intendant” in the draft text, terms associated with the Neocolonial Republic and the 17th century, respectively, and questioned whether other terms may not be more appropriate.
Regarding Article 170, the professor also proposed that the Governor be elected through a direct and secret popular vote in the province concerned, rather than designated by the President of the Republic. Along the same line, Yoel Rodríguez argued that the Governor should be elected from among the members of the Provincial Council.
In concluding the discussion, the Cuban Ambassador to Venezuela commented on the symbolism of discussing the future Magna Carta in a country that itself is emerged in a constituent process, and added that experiences have been gathered from the homeland of Bolívar and Chávez to contribute to the current process underway on the island. “We are experiencing a tremendous moment of our revolutions: in the midst of a dynamic process, we are going to change the structure of the state and expand the guarantees for citizens,” Rogelio Polanco stressed, summing up the consultation process with the best phrase of the evening: “We are constructing Cuba, ladies and gentleman!”
THE POPULAR CONSULTATION PROCESS ABROAD:
- More than 1,400,000 Cubans will participate
- From around 120 countries
- Cuban health collaborators who provide their services in 66 countries will play a leading role. The necessary organizational conditions have been created to conduct the process, including providing the relevant documents and establishing a timeframe, preparatory meetings, and the training of two-person teams who will moderate the discussions conducted.