Cuba under reform:
Cosmetic change on the way
by Jorge C. Carrasco
August 29, 2018 12:00 AM
On July 21, the Cuban National Assembly the approved a new preliminary constitution. It had been created by the government's reform commission headed by Raul Castro and the newly appointed president Miguel Diaz-Canel.
This time, the regime has promised a full reform, replacing the partial reforms made to Cuba’s Soviet-era Constitution of 1976, 1978, 1992, and 2002. Sadly, however, there’s little reason to believe that this new document will include any of the real changes Cubans desperately need.
Article 21 of the new constitution would recognize for the first time non-state forms of ownership, such as cooperatives, mixed ownership, and private ownership. That might constitute an important change in comparison to the 1976 document, which only recognizes the state property and agricultural cooperatives. However, expectations of a real economic opening are still unclear.
Within the last month, the government published a set of regulations tightening its control over self-employed workers and increasing possible fines, up to and including property confiscation. And in recent months, business licensing of non-state workers has been reduced, according to Reuters, arbitrarily preventing more citizens from entering the non-state commercial sector.
The new constitution maintains the socialist ownership of the means of production by the state and the centrally planned economy as essential principles. It also recognizes the role of the market and foreign investment as a necessity and an important element of development on the island, in the attempt to attract foreign currencies, to alleviate the endemic economic crisis that the country has been experiencing since the fall of the Iron Curtain. Economic conditions could also worsen if the instability increases in Venezuela, Cuba's main ally and financier.
Sadly, no changes are expected in basic human rights issues, freedom of expression, freedom of association, or freedom of press. The repression of independent journalists and political dissidents has dramatically increased in the last few months. According to The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, more than 1,438 cases of arbitrary detentions of citizens were reported on in Cuba between January and June of this year.
The regime increases as well in this new reform the control and repression of artists through Decree-Law 349. This law is the regime's attempt to maintain a monopoly on culture, to prevent future artistic gatherings such as "Bienal 00," the first independent art convention since communism, which took place in May of this year.
Article 5 of the Constitution will stay in place, enshrining the unilateral leadership of the Communist Party and the “irrevocable character of socialism.” This was imposed by Fidel Castro himself at the beginning of this century, in an attempt to avoid any transition from the current system.
In short, not much important would change. So, why is the regime pretending otherwise? Because the appearance of reform relieves a bit of the international pressure. Cuban dissident research groups like Estado de Sats argues that political changes are actually taking place to consolidate the Castro dynasty. The potential dynastic players are all in place: Raúl's son, Alejandro Castro Espín, is in charge of the Cuban counterintelligence, while his former son-in-law runs a huge military company.
None of these issues were the subject of public debate while the document was being drafted. It was not even possible to discover what was discussed behind closed doors. The citizens, who are not part of this complex reform process, will not be allowed to choose the future of their own country, which is exactly the way things have been for nearly 60 years.
The regime, subordinating the country’s needs to an ideology and its preservation of power, has opted for a reform “inside the revolution.” And so once again, cosmetic changes will be carried out in Cuba with the aim of cleaning up the image of the island’s totalitarian regime in the eyes of the world.
Jorge Carrasco, a native of Havana, writes from Brazil.ARTICLE LINK