Following the establishment of the Constitution of 1976, there have been two constitutional amendments. The Constitutional Reform of 1992 took into account the necessary adjustments in economic policy provoked by the collapse of the socialist bloc and the loss of Cuba’s commercial partners. It modified the 1976 constitutional requirement for state property with respect to the means of production (which excepted land owned by small farmers and agricultural cooperatives as well as self-employment). The 1992 Reform mandates state ownership of the principal means of production, thus giving constitutional recognition to a complementary role for private property, including foreign property and foreign investment, in a process of economic and social development directed by the state. The 1992 Reform also introduced changes in the administration and structure of the state, including a provision for the direct popular election of deputies of the National Assembly and delegates of the provincial assemblies, in which voters respond yes or no to a list of candidates approved by the National Assembly. The 1992 Reform was developed with an extensive popular consultation.
The Constitutional Reform of 2002 responded to the “Bush Plan,” that is, the plan of the U.S. administration of George W. Bush to undermine socialism and reestablish capitalism in Cuba. The 2002 Reform declared the irrevocable character of Cuban socialism, and it declared that Cuba will never return to capitalism. In addition, the Reform declared that Cuban relations with other states cannot be negotiated under aggression, threats, or coercion by a foreign power. The National Assembly approved the Reform following the signing of its ratification by more than 8 million voters (nearly 100% of the number of registered voters) during a three-day period.
Now, responding to the development of a new social and economic model in 2012 and to changes in Cuban society, a new constitution is being developed. The process has six steps. First, the National Assembly of Popular Power formed a Constitutional Commission, composed of deputies of the National Assembly. Secondly, the Commission developed a draft of the new Constitution and submitted it to the National Assembly, which voted on it article by article.
Thirdly, a popular consultation was conducted from August 13 to November 15, 2018. Prior to the consultation, a work structure was established, with training for the conducting of the meetings and the recording of the opinions expressed by the people. Some 133,680 meetings were held in neighborhoods and places of work and study, in which the people were given opportunity to express opinions and to make proposals. The meetings included 79,947 neighborhood meetings; 45,452 meetings in places of work; 3,441 meetings among small farmers and cooperatives in the countryside; 1,585 meetings among university students; and 3,256 meetings among junior high and high school students. There were 8,945,521 participants, with an estimated two million attending more than one. The participation rate, therefore, was approximately three-quarters of the adult population, defined as at least 16 years of age. There were 1,706,872 interventions by the people, with 783,174 proposals, that is, proposed modifications, additions, or eliminations. The media of communication, both television and newspapers, provided extensive coverage and analysis of the process. There was widespread satisfaction with the extent and quality of the popular consultation.
Fourthly, based on the opinions and proposals of the people (which I will discuss in a subsequent post), the text of the constitution was revised by the Constitutional Commission. The Commission tried to take seriously every opinion, even those that were not expressed frequently. The opinions were divided into groups for analysis and discussion. The commission debated each proposal, and it called on experts to aid in the reflection, consulting with various entities and organizations, universities, scientific centers, academies of science, legal specialists, and government ministries.
Based on this reflection, the Commission made 760 changes in the text, involving the addition or elimination of articles, paragraphs, sentences, or words. More than 50% of the proposals of the people were included in the modifications. The revised text has 229 articles, as against 224 articles in the original version. Nearly 60% of the articles were modified in some form.
Fifthly, the National Assembly received the revised constitution, debated it, and introduced further changes. (I will discuss the debate of the National Assembly in a subsequent post). Sixthly, a popular referendum, involving the secret vote of every citizen, will be held on February 24, 2019.
The Cuban daily newspaper Juventud Rebelde described the process as “an entire people constructing their constitution.” That it is to say, it is a Constitution developed by a constitutional assembly formed by the people. Does such a process have precedent?