Cuba to update Soviet-era principles
Havana — When Cuba adopted its current constitution, the sugar-based economy was being bolstered by aid from the Soviet Union, citizens were forbidden to run private businesses or sell homes and gays kept their sexual identity a tightly guarded secret.
Now a rewrite is on the way as the country’s communist leaders try to adapt to the post-Soviet world in which hundreds of thousands of Cubans work for themselves, American remittances and tourism keep the economy afloat and the daughter of Communist Party chief Raul Castro is campaigning for gay rights.
The country’s parliament is scheduled on Saturday to name the commission to draft a new constitution, consulting with the citizenry and eventually bringing it to a referendum.
Officials have made clear that the constitution will maintain a Communist Party-led system in which freedom of speech, the press and other rights are limited by “the purposes of socialist society.”
But Castro and other leaders apparently hope to end the contradictions between the new, more open economy and a legal system that calls for tight state control over all aspects of the economy and society.
The ban on dual citizenship collides with the government’s effort to reach out to exiles. The definition of marriage as between a man and a woman runs up against Cuba’s growing gay rights movement. Many small businesses employ workers even though the constitution now forbids “obtaining income that comes from exploiting the work of others.”
The constitution allows worker cooperatives, but only in the farm sector, and officials have allowed other types of cooperative but placed sharp limits on their growth and operations.
The government, too, is likely to see changes. Castro, who turned over the presidency last month to Miguel Diaz-Canel, has proposed limiting presidents to two five-year terms — a dramatic shift following a nearly 60-year run of leadership by Castro and his late brother Fidel, who both ruled into their 80s.
The Communist Party newspaper Granma has reported the new constitution could boost the role of parliament, which now usually meets for two days a year to listen to speeches and approve official proposals.