A Constitution with all

Aug 4, 2018 by

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A Constitution with all

Deputies in the National Assembly of People’s Power discuss first draft of proposed constitutional reform

An updated Constitution that lays the foundation for the prosperous, sustainable future Cubans deserve motivated deputies to unanimously approve the constitutional reform proposal. Photo: Estudio Revolución

An updated Constitution that lays the foundation for the prosperous, sustainable future Cubans deserve – and will construct – and that upholds the values and principles that have brought us thus far, motivated deputies to unanimously approve a constitutional reform proposal, after an intense debate, during the first period of ordinary sessions of the Ninth Legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power, July 21-22, following earlier discussion and study in smaller groups.

Esteban Lazo Hernández, president of the National Assembly, submitted the document to a vote, with modifications approved and agreements reached during the deputies’ analysis, and proposed that the popular consultation process take place August 13 through November 15 this year.

This debate has been of great value, he said, as well as the preparatory work done, which will help in incorporating the people into the discussion over the coming months.

GENDER EQUALITY, MARRIAGE & FAMILY IN THE NEW CONSTITUTION

There were several central issues that generated proposals and suggestions, but if there was one which raised the temperature of the debate it was that of gender equality, marriage and the family, as part of Article 68.

Mariela Castro Espín, deputy from the Havana municipality of Plaza de la Revolución, commented that, in terms of fully protecting individuals regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity, with this Article Cuba would be in the vanguard of countries recognizing and guaranteeing human rights.

“This protective proposal is the result of the maturity reached by the revolutionary process that legitimizes and safeguards social relations that exist in different types of families, from which derives the state’s duty to protect them and prohibit discrimination,” she stated.

Deputy Castro Espín expressed her agreement with the content of Article 68, which defines marriage as a union voluntarily agreed upon by two persons with the legal ability to do so, in accordance with the rights and responsibilities of spouses.

Castro Espín suggested to the plenary that the continuation of the Article’s text be left to legislation, in which specifics can be addressed and references made to the obligations of couples who choose to become parents, in accordance with the rights and responsibilities of spouses and conditions which fully favor the accomplishment of these ends.

“It would be an axiological and normative contradiction in the text of the proposed constitution to include sexual orientation and gender identity among causes of discrimination in Articles 39 and 40, and discriminate against homoparental families in Article 68,” she added.

Likewise, Castro Espín emphasized that Article 41 stipulates that the state will work to create the conditions needed to facilitate equality among citizens, and that action speaks louder than words, to conclude her remarks.

For her part, Teresa Amarelle Boué, secretary general of the Federation of Cuban Women, commented that it was a step forward to remove the stipulation that marriage was a consensual union between a man and a woman.

Nonetheless, she said, this article does not address adoption, and this is an issue that can be left for clarification in the Family Code, which establishes details of what marriage is and other questions.

“No one can face discrimination because of sexual orientation, all the rights are for all persons, and it is up to couples who wish to be parents to make this decision,” stated Amarelle.

Esteban Lazo Hernández, president of the National Assembly of People’s Power, proposed that the popular consultation process take place August 13 through November 15. Photo: Ariel Ley Royero

On this issue, Homero Acosta commented that changing the concept of marriage has repercussions in the article’s continuation, which reflects a vision of single parent families, and questions linked to children are formulated differently in its stipulations.

Questions related to children are addressed in Articles 69, 70, and 72, where a conception of the family is formulated, he noted, which “in no way limits the obligations of parents regardless of the type of marriage constituted,” he emphasized.

Yolanda Ferrer, deputy from Pinar del Río, commented that marriage must be based on absolute equality of rights and responsibilities of spouses, and the law must determine the way in which it is constituted.

“We are taking a first step that is revolutionary and very important. There is no justification to deny anyone the happiness of constituting a family. We must confront prejudices and ensure that the justice we defend is inclusive,” she said.

Retaking the floor, deputy Mariela Castro Espín stated, “When we consider the reproductive issue, we must be consistent in giving these rights to all families.”

Likewise, Miguel Barnet commented that we are launching a new era, saying, “This is a dialectical, modern Constitution, if breaking with tradition is required, let it be done, because breaking with tradition is also a revolutionary act, and there is no place for any kind of discrimination against human beings within socialism. Love does not have a sex,” he emphasized.

At the conclusion of the plenary discussion of this issue, deputies agreed to leave Article 68 just as proposed, and extend the term “families” throughout the Constitution.

RIGHTS OF CUBANS DEBATED IN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

Referring to Article 40, deputy Arelis Santana Bello addressed the need to include the rejection of discrimination based on gender as well as sexual orientation, just as it appears in the updating of Cuba’s economic and social model.

Given the suggestion to maintain the concept, Mariela Castro commented that the concept of sex does not include gender, since the latter allows the different dimensions of being a man or a woman to be analyzed and developed, and refers to discrimination against both women and men, therefore, “a concept of this kind is needed.”

Deputy José Luis Toledo, for his part, added that when a reference is made to “any other type of discrimination,” issues of gender are included. Nevertheless, the importance of the proposal by Arelis Santana was recognized.

Among the remarks by deputies, was one by Idaliena Casamayor regarding Article 41, requesting that rather than saying that the state works to create the conditions needed to “facilitate” equality, this term should be changed to “guarantee.”

On this issue, Magela Fernández stated, “The goal is to achieve equality, and the means involve working to facilitate equality of all citizens.”

Homero Acosta noted that the state must educate, work toward changing conditions, saying, “The greatest equity possible must be sought in Article 41, which complements number 40.”

“There is a step of education and this is a permanent task of the state. We must eliminate prejudices in our minds, work to compensate and favor the inclusion of all,” he added.

On another issue, Bárbara Idalia Burquet Medina proposed that, in reference to consolidating and defending the conquests of the Revolution, the state’s commitment to continue improving the availability of childcare and different types of centers for older adults, previously stipulated in Article 44, should be added in Article 45.

Addressing this question, Federation of Cuban Women leader Teresa Amarelle Boué said that the state guarantees equal conditions for men and women, and while these issues are included in this part of the current Constitution, the commitment is included in other Articles, such as number 67, where childcare centers, and maternal-infant programs, and others, are addressed.

Lazo noted the high level of the National Assembly debate, as well as the preparatory work done, which should facilitate drawing the people into the discussion. Photo: Jose M. Correa

The Council of State secretary added that the Constitution is the general framework within which equality is guaranteed via a variety of means.

“Nothing limits the fundamental right to equality between men and women. This is the principal difference between this Constitution we are debating here and the previous one.”

Regarding Article 48 and the right of defendants to legal aid, Julia Cabrera, deputy from the Havana municipality of Cerro, proposed adding, “from the moment of the citizen’s arrest.”

Ariel Mantecón argued that the Penal Procedures Law is where specifics of this process are stipulated, with the Constitution article laying the foundation for future work on legislation.

Addressing Article 60 which recognizes the right of citizens to free speech and a free press, Daicar Saladrigas proposed separating the two concepts, since they are “different things,” and the two following paragraphs only mention the mass communications media.

“If we combine them and later continue with two paragraphs in which the only reference is to the media, we could think that the media is the only way citizens can express themselves,” she stated, referring to the recently approved Communications Policy, which establishes that the media is but one of the multiple spaces in which society can express itself.

She also proposed replacing the term “freedom of speech” with “freedom of expression,” which is more in line with current international conventions. This freedom of expression, she suggested, should be added to Article 59, where freedom of thought is established. She likewise defended consideration of such a manipulated term in the Constitution.

Deputies Yailin Orta and Eduardo Torres Cuevas supported the proposal, given the coherence of the argument, and there was no objection to including the modification.

Jorge Crespo proposed adding to Article 64 the right of persons to not only present complaints to authorities, but accusations and suggestions as well.

On this issue, Ariel Mantecón insisted that the Constitution’s conceptual formulations must be specific, and that “accusations” is a term used in penal processes; while José Luis Toledo added that the word “complaint” according to the Larousse Dictionary, includes the expression of pain or affliction, resentment or distaste, legal charges, or accusation.

THE NEW CONSTITUTION AND ISSUES CRITICAL TO DEFINING CUBA

Other issues addressed in the proposed constitutional reform were those related to childhood, adolescence and youth; education, culture and science; as well as local development.

Regarding the protection of children, deputy Yinet Infante, from the Havana municipality of Boyeros, proposed strengthening Article 72, which states that the state, society, and families must care for children, by emphasizing the obligatory nature of this protection, just as is established in international conventions which Cuba has signed.

The proposed modification was approved after Yanet Hernández, from La Lisa, stressed its importance.

Danhiz Díaz Pereira referred to Article 74, expressing the opinion that beyond the state’s responsibility to people with disabilities, that of society and families should be added, along with a definition of the limits of each party’s duty.

Daicar Saladrigas proposed the addition of food security to Article 88, which refers to citizens’ rights, along with the stipulation that the state will work to guarantee this right. Both modifications were accepted.

In reference to Article 95, deputy Yinet Infante focused on appendix c), which addresses educational and cultural policy, in which protection of the environment and natural resources is mentioned. She proposed adding the promotion of environmental culture to this article.

Elier Ramírez, member of the National Assembly commission charged with preparing the first draft, responded, saying that specifying this was not necessary, while Homero Acosta stated his opinion that the formulation used was inclusive of such ideas.

Aramís Padilla Martínez, deputy from the municipality of Güines, proposed that artistic expression be reaffirmed as free and that its content respect the values of Cuba’s socialist society. Referring to appendix j) of the same article, she commented that speaking of “artistic richness” is not clear, and proposed using the words “protect and safeguard the array of beliefs and values of a patrimonial and historic nature,” a concept that would better convey equality and diversity within our culture.

For his part, José Luis Toledo said that the word “richness” refers to immaterial values such as artistic, patrimonial, historic, and that educational policy addresses defending the identity of all these values.

Referring to this article, Homero Acosta emphasized that the defense of Cuban identity and culture is a broad concept, and that it was therefore unnecessary to incorporate “beliefs” which is less precise.

Nevertheless, Lilian Mendoza Estrada, deputy from Calimete, stressed the importance of including the word “safeguard” instead of protect, as UNESCO has declared for these types of values, a word that goes beyond conservation alone.

Dr. Eduardo Torres Cuevas suggested that the commission study the usage of terms proposed, to identify the best solution and avoid a hasty decision.

Other deputies raised the issue of local monuments, given the concern that these are not mentioned, although they are protected by law.

Referring to this same article, deputy Luis Morlote added that the issue could be resolved by establishing categories of local and national monument, with all of these being monuments of the nation.

After several comments on the terms superintendent and governor, used in changes proposed at the provincial government level, it was decided that these will be considered during the popular consultation.

Addressing the importance of municipal autonomy and local development, the role of constituency delegates and People’s Councils was emphasized. These grassroots bodies, several deputies noted, do not have the responsibility of controlling national entities that may be located within their limits, but they do have the authority to appeal to the Municipal Assembly President, and convoke all parties that may be needed to solve problems affecting the community.

Deputy Ramón Estévez Solís, from Ciego de Ávila, suggested that after the Constitution is approved, the presentation of accountability reports take place annually, to allow an adequate amount of time to find solutions to problems.

It is now up to the people to enrich the analysis, strengthen the discussion, and as Cuba’s President said, conduct a process that reflects the Revolution’s genuine democracy.

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