Reports from Cuba: Intellectuals, politicians, and activists denounce Cuban constitutional reform process

14yMedio reports from Havana via Translating Cuba:

Intellectuals, Politicians and Activists Denounce Cuban Constitutional Reform Process

Clockwise from top left: Former president of Colombia Andrés Pastrana, leader of the Ladies in White Berta Soler, writer Mario Vargas Llosa and activist Guillermo Fariñas.

The Madrid-based Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) has released a letter, signed by over twenty intellectuals, politicians and activists, which denounces the country’s constitutional reform process for not addressing “either democratic principles or the political and social plurality of Cuban society,” noting that it has been drafted “solely by Cuban Communist Party and in response only to its interests.”

Among the letter’s twenty-six signatories, who also claim the new constitution does not respect basic human rights such as “the existence of political parties, freedom of the press and freedom of association,” are prominent political figures such as Albert Rivas, head of the Spanish political party Ciudadanos (Citizens), writers such as the nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa and human rights activists such as Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White.

Since the draft constitution was published, criticism has focused on two articles that establish the core principles of the new constitution. Article 3 declares that “socialism and the revolutionary political and social system, established by the constitution, are irrevocable”, while article 5 describes the Communist Party as “the principle guiding force of society and of the state.”

In the letter released by the OCDH, the signatories — they include the Andrei Sakharov Prize winner Guillermo Fariñas and former Colombian president Andrés Pastrana — express hope that there will be “a real transition towards democracy” in Cuba and urge the “government of (President) Miguel Díaz-Canel to not pass up this historic opportunity.”

According to official sources, more than 7.3 million people have participated in public debates, which will end on November 15, on the constitutional reforms. Among the most frequently discussed changes are the legalization of same-sex marriage and presidential term limits. Official organization such as the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists, however, have not allowed the proposed constitutional changes to be debated within the organization.

Though the proposed document, which was approved by the National Assembly in the summer, does not include significant changes to the country’s political system, it does legally recognize private property and establishes the office of prime minister. Once proposals arising out of popular debate are included, a new draft will be sent to the parliament, to be approved and voted on in popular referendum in 2019.