Dawn for Cuba a fresh? The draft constitution explained.

Dawn for Cuba a fresh? The draft constitution explained.

Cubans have already been attending state-organised meetings to go over the reforms since August [Desmond Boylan/AP Photo]

Since August, Cubans have already been gathering in a large number of government-organised meetings occurring over the island.

They came together in hospitals, schools and parks to go over a new draft constitution, which, if passed, would mark the most important political change in Cuba for a lot more than four decades.

Proposals include opening the entranceway for same-sex marriage, recognising private ownership and scrapping the purpose of creating a communist society, but rights analysts and groups say the brand new legislation is more of a nod to a changing world, than an upending of the status quo on the Caribbean island.

The public consultation period found a finish on Thursday, and the ongoing work of National Assembly to dig through the comments and suggestions now begins. 

Al Jazeera examines what the brand new constitution may mean for Cuba’s future. 

Why now and what’s next?

Decades of economic hardship and a changing global political reality has forced communist-run Cuba to reassess its fundamental principles so that they can keep pace with a global which has changed vastly because the Soviet-era once the current constitution was enshrined.

In July, the National Assembly – Cuba’s parliament – approved the brand new draft constitution and presented it to the general public for consultation the next month after greater than a year debating the overhaul of the 1976 constitution.

Speaking once the draft was approved, President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez said “each Cuban can freely express their opinions” to create a constitution that “reflects the today and future of the country”.

This was done during a large number of meetings where officials took handwritten notes with the public’s feedback. 

The Assembly will now consider those comments and make changes to the draft before Cubans obtain final say in a national referendum scheduled for February 24, 2019.

How will the brand new constitution affect Cuban politics?

While reaffirming several areas of the existing system, the proposals would significantly reorganise the country’s government.

The draft reintroduces the post of Prime Minister, who lead the cabinet, referred to as the Council of Ministers, in the daily running of the national country. The candidate will be put by the president for approval by the National Assembly forward.

It also proposes having governors for Cuba’s 15 provinces, replacing the existing system of presidents of provincial assemblies and introduces age and term limits for the presidency.

Cuba will maintain steadily its single-party system however the president will share power with a PM [Irene Perez/Cubadebate via Reuters]

The president – who’ll continue being elected by the Assembly, instead of voters – would serve no more than two terms and will be no over the age of 60 in the beginning of his / her first term, notable in a national country where in fact the elderly Castro brothers held the reigns for many years.


The goal of advancing towards a “communist society” has also been dropped, drawing much attention internationally, however the impact of the may very well be limited. 

The new constitution revises desire to to “the construction of socialism” and, crucially, Cuba shall maintain steadily its single-party system beneath the Communist Party of cuba (PCC), which holds complete control over politics, the society and economy generally.

National Assembly President Esteban Lazo Hernandez said soon after the approval of the draft that removing references to communism usually do not imply that Cuba’s leadership are “renouncing our ideas,” but instead remain focused on the vision of a “socialist, independent, sustainable and prosperous country,” in accordance with comments carried by state TV.

Will US-Cuba relations improve?

Cuba’s relationship with the United States has been fraught since 1959, when left-wing fighters, led by Fidel Castro, overthrew the US-backed government of Fulgencio Batista in the Cuban Revolution.

The US began blockading Cuba the next year, halting tourism and trade with the island. Tensions escalated further with 1961’s Bay of Pigs invasion and peaked through the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Cuba’s relationship with the united states is notoriously tense [Javier Galeano/Reuters]

A brief thaw came under former US President Barack Obama who, alongside then-President Raul Castro, announced an historic reengagement in 2015, nevertheless the relationship has soured once more under President Donald Trump.


“THE UNITED STATES objection, the Trump administration’s objection, to Cuba is that it is not just a multi-party democracy just like the USA and the Cuban constitution doesn’t change that, actually the brand new constitution reaffirms the single-party system with the Communist Party in the best role,” said William LeoGrande, a professor in the educational school of Public Affairs at the American University.

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The draft also contains a prohibition on negotiating under threat and coercion, codifying an oft-repeated condition lay out by the Castros and recently reiterated by Diaz-Canel.

“I believe it’s designed to send a note to america that when somehow america continues to be hoping that it is going to have the ability to coerce Cuba into making concessions about its domestic politics, it’s mistaken,” LeoGrande told Al Jazeera.

What impact does it have on the economy?

Cuba’s economy was severely damaged by the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, which pumped huge amount of money into propping up the island, and the crushing ramifications of the ongoing US embargo

Raul Castro, who took over from his brother Fidel in 2006, introduced a series of economic reforms, which opened the united states up to limited but impactful amount of private industry and foreign investment so that they can avoid collapse.

Poverty is widespread on the island, where in fact the state may be the main employer [Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters]

The draft constitution continues this work, by officially recognising practices that already exist in Cuba mostly, including self-employment, in a restricted way.


“The marketplace” and “private property”, capitalist concepts, shunned by the communist leadership previously, are contained in the new national charter, suggesting an effort to create room for these realities within a “socialist” economy that could remain largely beneath the control of hawaii through central economic planning.

With the economic proposals, Cuba shall seek to modernise without democratising, as has been done in Vietnam and China. However, unlike these national countries, Cuba remains worried about the accumulation of private wealth creating an unequal society so the permissions for the private sector remain tentative.

“The target is not to permit the concentration of wealth, which reinforces the uncertainty of any foreign investment,” said Carlos Seiglie, a professor of economics at Rutgers University.

“The primary challenge to economic growth in Cuba may be the amount of state control of the economy. For Cuba to cultivate and develop, the method of production must be transferred into private hands. If hawaii really wants to alter the distribution of income after such [a] transfer, they might take action via redistribution and taxation to those that fare less well,” he told Al Jazeera.

In November, Diaz-Canel embarked on a tour of communist allies including Russia, North and china Korea so that they can boost economic ties and attract investment to the island.

Will human rights improve?

Cuba have not allowed usage of independent monitors or human rights organisations for a long time and contains refused to ratify several key international human rights treaties, lately at the United Nations‘s Universal Periodic Review in-may. 

All media on the island remains state-controlled, with the population’s usage of the web also being extremely limited and independent bloggers facing arrest.

Rights groups have discovered little cause for celebration in the proposals, saying that lots of of the rights on offer include caveats.

Freedom of speech and assembly are tightly controlled on the island [Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters]


“What we see with revisions to the constitution is, on the main one hand, an appearance that it is expanding rights, but on a closer reading you note that the rights on offer are limited by what already exists in national legislation,” said Louise Tillotson, Amnesty International‘s researcher for the Caribbean. 

“The revised constitution proposes the ‘democratisation of cyberspace’ but condemns the usage of the web for what it calls ‘subversion,'” she told Al Jazeera. “The language is still quite hazy and opens the entranceway for criminal laws to be employed towards people who are deemed to be ‘subversive’.”

The country’s judiciary remains tightly bound to hawaii, with arbitrary detentions commonly used to silence dissent, in accordance with Amnesty. 

The redefinition of marriage would open the entranceway for same-sex marriage [Reuters]

A silver lining may be within the introduction of the presumption of into the penal articles and code in the brand new draft to ban any kind of workplace discrimination predicated on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and disability and make provisions for older people. 

Marriage is redefined to be between “two persons”, instead of “a guy and a female”. Homosexuality is really a divisive issue in Cuba. A noticeable change in attitudes, however, is credited to the task of Mariela Castro largely, Raul’s daughter, at the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), and also the growing acceptance of the essential proven fact that discrimination of any sort being incompatible with the revolution.


“It could really be considered a welcome step of progress, needless to say, if in the constitution same-sex marriage is legalised, it could be the initial independent nation in the Caribbean to take action, it might be important for the spot really,” said Tillotson.  

“But concurrently we must recognise that silencing any voices, including LGBT voices must change if we will see real progress.”