The Preamble of the new Constitution declares that Cuban citizens, in adopting a new Constitution, are inspired by the heroism, patriotism, and sacrifice of those that struggled against slavery, colonialism, and imperialism for a free, independent, sovereign, democratic, and just nation. It declares that Cuban citizens are determined to carry forward the Revolution that triumphed in 1959, guided by the ideals and the examples of Martí and Fidel as well as the ideas of Marx, Engels, and Lenin.
The Constitution affirms the socialist character of the Revolution and the nation. It proclaims that Cuba is a socialist, democratic, and sovereign state. It proclaims that its socialism and its revolutionary social and political system are irrevocable (Articles 1, 4, 229).
As in the Constitution of 1976, the proposed new constitution names the Communist Party of Cuba as the Martían, Fidelist, Marxist, and Leninist vanguard party that organizes, educates, and leads the people toward the construction of socialism (Article 5).
The new constitution conserves the structures of Popular Power that were established by the Constitution of 1976. The new constitution names the National Assembly of Popular Power as “the supreme organ of the power of the State;” it is “the only organ in the Republic with constitutional and legislative power” (Articles 102-3). The National Assembly makes laws and interprets the Constitution, elects the highest offices in the executive and judicial branches of the government, and approves the state budget (Articles 107-9).
The National Assembly of Popular Power is elected by the people. “The National Assembly of Popular Power is composed of deputies elected by the voters in a free, equal, direct, and secret vote, in accordance with procedures established by law” (Articles 104). Inasmuch as the National Assembly is the highest authority in the state, and the National Assembly is elected by the people, the State is the expression of the sovereign will of the people. “In the Republic of Cuba, sovereignty resides untransferably in the people” (Article 3).
The new Constitution affirms the right of Cuba to sovereignty in international relations: “The economic, diplomatic, and political relations with any other State can never be negotiated under aggression, threat, or coercion.” It affirms Cuba’s foreign policy principles of sovereignty, anti-imperialism, and self-determination. It recognizes the need for the unity of the Third World in opposition to colonialism, neocolonialism, and imperialism. It reaffirms its commitment to integration and solidarity among the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean. It condemns interference in the internal affairs of states. It describes wars of aggression and conquest as international crimes. It recognizes “the legitimacy of struggles of national liberation and of armed resistance to aggression.” It rejects the existence, proliferation, or use of nuclear arms and arms of mass destruction as well as the employment of new arms, including cyber arms. It repudiates terrorism in all of its manifestation, especially terrorism carried out by states (Article 16). A similar anti-imperialist approach to Cuban foreign policy was formulated in Article 12 of the 1976 Constitution, with minor differences reflecting a changed international situation.
Like the 1976 Constitution, the new constitution protects civil rights. It affirms due process rights, including the presumption of innocence, the right to a lawyer, and the right to a fair trial (Articles 94-95); and no arbitrary search and seizure (Article 49). It guarantees freedom of thought and expression (Article 54), freedom of assembly (Article 56), and freedom of religion (Article 57). It affirms freedom of the press, in the context of a system with state ownership of the fundamental means of communication (Articles 54-55). It asserts the right to leave and enter national territory (Article 52). These rights were guaranteed in Articles 52 through 58 in the 1976 Constitution.
Like the Constitution of 1976, the new constitution affirms social and economic rights. All persons have the right to dignified work, to equal salary for work of equal value, to workers’ safety and workers’ compensation, and to a limit to the working day. All citizens have the right to adequate housing; free, quality health services; free and accessible public education from the pre-school to university post-graduate level; to physical education, sport, and recreation; to art and culture; to potable water; to a healthy and adequate diet; and to social security. Persons of low income and the unemployed have the right social assistance (Articles 64-79; Articles 44-51 in the 1976 Constitution).
The Cuban Revolution has a commitment to science, in two senses. First, there is recognition of the need for scientific and technological development in order to promote economic development. Accordingly, the Revolution always has funded a form of scientific research that is integral to production for the enhancement of human needs, particularly as they pertain to the Third World. Secondly, the political education of the people is rooted in knowledge in all its fields, including philosophy, history, social science, and natural science. Indeed, well-educated petit bourgeois intellectuals played a central role in the formulation of the revolutionary project, since its origins in the second half of the nineteenth century. Accordingly, the new Constitution affirms that the state supports the development of science and culture.
The state promotes education, science, and culture. Its cultural, scientific, and educational policy is based on the advances of science and technology. Its policy stimulates scientific-technical research with a focus on development and innovation, giving priority to resolving the problems related to the interest of the society and the benefit the people. Its policy promotes knowledge of the history of the nation and the formation of ethical, moral, civic, and patriotic values. Its policy defends Cuban culture and identity (Article 95; see Article 38 in the Constitution of 1976).
Like the Constitution of 1976, the new constitution affirms the principle of gender equality.
Women and men have equal rights and responsibilities in economic, political, cultural, social, familial, and other areas. The State guarantees that the same opportunities and possibilities are offered to both. The State fosters the integral development of women, and their full social participation. It assures the exercise of their sexual and reproductive rights, and it protects them from gender violence in any of its manifestations (Article 45).
In his address to the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 26, 2018, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel declared that the arrival to political power of a new generation of Cubans is characterized by continuity, not rupture. He maintained that the leadership today continues with the development of the revolutionary project forged with intelligence and courage by the generation of the Revolution (see “Cuba is still Cuba: Continuity, not rupture” 10/4/2018). The constitutional process unfolding in Cuba today confirms the Cuban President’s proclamation.
However, all revolutions and societies evolve, and thus some changes will occur. In my next post, I will focus on the changes that have been evolving in Cuban society and in the Cuban Revolution, and that are legitimated in the new Constitution, signaling an even more inclusive and more pragmatic revolution.