In this post, I address the question, what did the people say in their 1,706,872 interventions in 133,680 meetings? Overwhelmingly, the people expressed approval of the socialist revolutionary road that has been in march since January 1, 1959. The very high level of participation in the constitutional process itself is an affirmation. Moreover, 62% of the interventions included some favorable expression with respect to the unfolding constitutional process. At the same time, there were a scant thirty expressions of rejection of the socialist character of the revolution; and there were only 262 proposals (0.03% of the proposals) that rejected the constitutional definition of the role of the Communist Party of Cuba as the guiding force of the nation. Going in the opposite direction, there were 4,802 proposals to change the name of the country to the “Socialist Republic of Cuba.”
Some proposals could be construed as criticism of the Cuban political system, without necessarily implying a rejection of the socialist direction. For example, the right of the accused to legal counsel was addressed in 2.33% of the proposals, which concerned for the most part a definition of the moment in which this due process right should begin. These expressions may reflect dissatisfaction with the existing procedures as they operate in practice. There is some sentiment among the people that those accused of crimes, in some cases, does not have a lawyer with sufficient time prior to the beginning of a criminal trial.
Similarly, there were 11,080 proposals (1.4% of the proposals and 0.6% of the interventions) in favor of direct election of the president. In Cuban political discourse, direct election includes the approval or rejection of individual candidates on a list. So some of these proposals could be expressing a desire that the people in a referendum approve the election of a president by the National Assembly. On the other hand, some of the proposals referred to elections with competing candidates in other countries, so they might have had some version of this in mind. Such a proposal is inconsistent with the structures of the Cuban electoral system, characterized by a combination of direct and indirect elections. It was put forward by a small percentage, and the raising of the issue did not stimulate discussion and debate at the meetings of the people.
There were more than 400 proposals for the elimination of private property, rejecting the greater space for private property granted by the new Constitution, in comparison to the Constitution of 1976. This could be interpreted as an ultra-Left criticism of the direction taken by the Party and the government in the New Social and Economic Model of 2012. However, inasmuch as such proposals constituted less than 1% of the proposals, this constitutes an implicit support for the new direction formally established in 2012.
By far, the theme most addressed by the interventions was that of marriage. The proposed new Constitution changed the language defining marriage from a union “between a man and a woman” to a union “between two persons.” Some 24.56% of the proposals addressed the issue, more than twice that of any other issue. Overwhelmingly, the proposals were in favor of reverting to the 1976 language of “a man and a woman,” or arguing that a constitution ought not enter into the issue. The theme was addressed in 66% of the meetings. Interestingly, in the section expressing the equal rights of all without discrimination, the insertion of sexual orientation and gender identity did not provoke controversy. The people seemed to be saying that, yes, all people have rights, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, but gay marriage ought not be legitimated or legalized.
The second theme most addressed in the popular consultation was the placing of a limit of two five-year terms on the office of the President of the Republic. Some 11.24% of the proposals addressed this theme, and they overwhelmingly expressed that no term limits should be placed on the office of the president. In a related vein, 2.33% of the proposals addressed the establishment of a maximum of sixty years of age for a person to be elected president for a first term. Overwhelmingly, the proposals eliminated the placing of an age limit on the office, or making the age limit higher.
Some 6.56% of the interventions addressed the article asserting that all able persons have the duty to work. The interventions reflected the sentiment in the society that too many persons are not working, yet they are receiving full rights and social benefits, and they may be living better materially than most, because of illicit activities or family remittances from abroad. The interventions overwhelmingly expressed the view that work should be obligatory.
A popular consultation is an open and public process. Therefore, anyone criticizing the fundamental direction of the nation is doing so publicly, which could inhibit people from expressing their true feelings. Not that there is any danger of legal action against them. It is just that, in any social context, when persons express ideas that are against the prevailing consensus, they risk the loss of prestige among their neighbors and co-workers. However, such rejection by fellow citizens would not deter anyone who is committed to his or her ideals. Therefore, unless and until there emerges an anti-socialist or counterrevolutionary commitment among the people, in which the advocates of fundamental change are prepared to risk all in defense of their ideas, as the creators of the socialist road in Cuba themselves did, the counterrevolution cannot be taken seriously as a political presence in Cuban society.
The popular consultation of August 13 to November 15 demonstrated the willingness and desire of the Cuban people to participate and to express themselves in the context of a national consensus in support of its socialist project; and to debate issues as framed by the Party, carrying out its historically assigned role as the vanguard of the Cuban nation. For the foreseeable future, Cuba is on a revolutionary socialist road, with the support and commitment of the people. I believe that the Cuban people, with the leadership and guidance of the Party, will continue permanently on that road, unless catastrophic events, caused by international developments, intervene.