Towards the Constitution it will be, from the citizenship we are

por MCs. Mario Rivero Errico

MCs. Mario Rivero Errico en el debate del proyecto de la nueva Constitución de la República, en el aula magana del Centro Cultural Padre Félix Varela
MCs. Mario Rivero Errico in the debate of the draft of the new Constitution of the Republic, in the magna classroom of the Padre Félix Varela Cultural Center

Cuba talks about a new Constitution, I resist saying debate, because the depth of the verb seems not to be in agreement with the functioning of a nation whose strength has not been the culture of dialogue, let alone on policy issues. Soon there will be a referendum and no one moderately rational with some knowledge about the political process initiated in January 1959 would dare to say that the new Magna Carta will not be approved. If it is possible to assert, on the other hand, that the acceptance rate will be much lower than that of the current Constitution of 1976, estimated at 97.7%, according to official data. Numbers more or less, even if there are those who question so high a high level claiming that, just four years later, the exodus of Mariel whose participants were obviously contrary to the socialist system occurred and, therefore, to the supreme norm that institutionalized it, it is laughable to deny that at that time there was a very high identification between people and revolutionary process, especially when we consider that the bourgeoisie was almost absolutely in exile and its few remnants were politically irrelevant.

While the romantic stage of the revolutionary process had been left behind, its epic beating still vigorously in the sien of Cubans, so much so that it was not enough even to relegate the dark of the newly completed five-year-era. The generation of my parents, which co-had most of the electorate, was very minded with the evils of the batistate, those that there are still those who are still trying to ignore. Enough to refute the lack of memory, walk this city where the numerous tarjas that tell about fallen compatriots in the flower of youth say more than any history book. Very bad things would have to go so that so much mucus would be played, and the collective survivor, when with our poet wondered who owed the survival, found the revolution as the only possible answer.

The people enjoyed – and thanked – the benefits received from the ruling generosity and did not aspire to more, happy with the rations of the time that so recalls in food matters the good of Porphylo, when on Monday nights they visit our houses. These were toy times once a year – as the troubadour recalls – option coupons identified by incomprehensible combinations of numbers and letters for textile issues, and household effects granted on labor merits in combative workers’ assemblies, among other things; and it was ours, so a very balanced society, where material inequalities were not significant. But the most important thing in my view was the widespread optimism that engsed the Cuban, assuming deprivations and sacrifices teaching, labor and even war with the security that his children and grandchildren, that is, my generation and that of my son, would enjoy a prosperity never dreamed of, on which we had advances through those Soviet documentaries where we saw the material wonders of developed socialism , condition that with a little more effort and dedication we would reach without discussion, because the future we already knew to whom it belonged and entirely! This enthusiasm also drank from the vibrant connection between the masses of the people and their top guide, Fidel Castro, whose notoriously charismatic leadership, according to the Weberian classification, was solidly legitimized1 by military victory over the Batist regime and led not a few people, without quite understanding the differences between newly incorporated political categories, to choose to define the the same as fidelists : to say Fidel was to say it all.2 It was therefore sufficient that this Constitution be the commander’s choice for our parents to raise their hands with absolute certainty. The times to come would bring the objections.

More than forty years have passed. since that morning when, between proud (first) and boring (after), I velé next to an urn where my elders cast their vows in favor of the first Socialist Constitution of the Western Hemisphere, which would end with what has been called a period of revolutionary provisionality – although in practice I could not close the improvisation that we still suffer. Those suffragettes could now say, with the older poet, “we, the then ones, are no longer the same”, but not only because of grays and exterior wrinkles, there are deeper ones. Their unwavering faith at the time may not exist anymore, or it is undermined without being able to blame them for discouragement: the verse of the universal Chilean is also valid for all the orders of Cuban society, and in them I include, of course, those who direct it. Nearly thirty years of economic crisis have been too many, the lack of responses to basic problems of our daily life drags away the credibility of a political project capable, in its origins, of passionate half a world, necessary and heroic, is true, but stuck between dissatincy and evils of others in order to solve the impostergable needs of its people. It is not a question of denying what is good attaining the revolutionary process, but if we are to be objective in the analysis it is necessary to anchor our gaze in the present and glimpse from its watchtower what might be the future. Robert Dahl, an American political scientist, noted as a hallmark of democratic government3 “her continued ability to respond to citizens’ preferences, without making political differences between them.”4 In line with the above, Argentine scholar Maria Alejandra Perícola defined the state – in obvious reference to that of a democratic nature – as “a system-set of interconnected parties in a reciprocal, mutual and permanent way in relation to each other , mutual and permanent with the national social environment, whose function is to receive extra and intrasistthemic demands and transform them into effective responses – including the coerf imposition of behaviours – with a view to obtaining the balance between the system and the environment and within the system”.5 Both are right and other texts of thinkers located in different points of the political spectrum with similar connotation could be cited. The lack of answers, whatever the causes, comes at a high political cost and in Cuba manifests itself through the constant and seemingly unsustainable migration of its young people. The country ages, as our authorities recognize it, and an aging organism becomes vulnerable. It happens that many of those who will vote for the new Constitution were born after 1985 and are more interested in starting in the search for their own answers than in shoulder-shouldering to solve collective problems, unlike their parents, whose sad old age they do not want to replicate. To explain this evasive attitude, it is not enough to blame the economy, as the famous phrase that bill Clinton used in a totally different context does not suffice.6 It is and is not, because those who claim that today’s exodus is exclusively economic in nature: while that factor becomes decisive and the current migration differs greatly from that which took place in the sixties of the last century , economy and politics cannot be surgically separated. That was taught to us by Marxism.

Perhaps in the attitude that many of our young people take to the vote could influence what is, in theory, known as a democratic deficit, which should not be understood as a lack of democracy, but as the limited interest expressed by citizens towards the public thing,7 skepticism capable of leading them not to exercise their rights of participation or to do so by mere inertia, without becoming true actors of the political fact. Still, it seems unreasonable to expect young people to opt massively for a Constitution designed, among other purposes, to perpetuate an interpretation of single-party socialism whose economic conception does not provide the required answers – assumed the economic problem as the main cause of their immigration determination. In this regard, it is also worth noting that the envisaged Constitution, with the subtle amendment of the current Article 5, sees any possibility of emergence to a different political option, even communist or socialist, able to propose a different and possibly more effective way of managing the economy.8 Given that this precept places the Communist Party in a subordinate position with the constituted powers, it is not absurd to think that those who are dissatisfied with the economic management of recent decades – in which such political formation has been the protagonist – may not be enthusiastic supporters of the new Constitution.

I believe, however, that the project will be approved at the ballot box, but if the favourable outcome were overwhelming, as is often the case in our votes, it will drag against the prejudice/prejudice of doubt – reversing the logic of criminal prosecution. The main reason why, despite the arguments put forward, the necessary majority is reached in favour of the new Constitution is, in my view, that our society lacks basic structures capable of transmitting horizontally, that is, between entities located on the same plane, hierarchically speaking, whether individual or collective, a contrasting message with which from the political leadership of the country comes to us through the mass media with the abundance and persistence that endeavor demands.9 It is not a secret that the act of voting implies the concreteness of a political opinion, therefore the result of the vote is the reflection of public opinion, which arises not by spontaneous generation but as a result of the interaction between the individual and the different flows of information circulating in the system. Being unique the flow available in content and orientation, the likelihood that it will achieve a decisive influence on the shaping of opinion by its recipients increases exponentially.10

Now, setting aside theseruntos of our own, let us focus attention on the process of forming the new Constitution. Approved, as the project has been, by the National Assembly of People’s Power in full, began the course of its analysis in the basic structures of society. Schools, factories and other places of work, scientific centres, various associations, among others, will be spaces where citizens will express their opinions. Thus it seems a deeply democratic process, valid for re-being the formation of a constituent assembly composed of various political sectors. I fear that not all exchanges will be of equal worth, the depth in the analyses will depend on how involved the participants feel and this must vary in attention to the differences in capacity, training, social positioning, etc., which as anywhere exist between us. I only hope that these meetings will not resemble what I saw in the sessions of the National Assembly, where well-prepared professional politicians would present their arguments to a provincial council whose members, from various social sectors, are not experts in politics and do not have advice able to illustrate them on those issues that might catch their attention, thus being devoid of arguments that after objecting something their approaches were refuted by the exhibitors , or in any case by other civilly linked Members, even by means of legal-constitutional technical reasons to which unarmed popular representation ceded.

I didn’t witness all the televised sessions, I hope with arddor that I have only been unlucky and those that I missed were different, but as a button is sufficient, I cannot fail to recall that, since it was the subject of due process11 and its corresponding guarantees – something that the 1976 Constitution did not even outline – raised the need to stipulate that the right to defence should begin from the very moment of the detention of the citizen , because today the Cuban can remain for seven days at the mercy of police instruction without the right to contact an advocate, as an obvious lag behind inquisitive prosecution, which is particularly incompatible with the proclamation of freedom as a fundamental right. To my surprise and those who have exercised or practiced as criminal lawyers, it was another Highly Qualified Member who exercises responsibility at the national level in legal matters, who opposed what I consider to be an elementary and just claim, capable of bringing a high level of credibility to our democracy. The Member, as you would expect, was left without arguments; we must therefore wait for any reform of the Criminal Procedure Act to guarantee our detainees the treatment deserved by any human being. However, having incorporated what she intended for into the Ferenda Constitution would force an immediate procedural reform that now remains on suspense.

Another issue to be considered is that as far as I know this broad popular call does not envisage a way back, that is, once the comments have been made by the electorate, the project management committee will resume its work with total freedom to accept them or not. This was the case earlier with the Guidelines of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, whose implementation by the partisan structure following the mass consultation determined which signs deserved to be addressed, without there being a legitimate means of disagreeing with the final decisions translated into public policy. Of course, on that occasion, he was a political partic – although unique – who asked Cubans, whether affiliated or not, to make their future lines of action, and while these would ultimately be assumed as guidelines by the constituted powers, there is no doubt that the current endeavor is much more comprehensive and therefore entails greater doses of responsibility and commitment. With regard to the Constitution, we will have a second moment, it is true, but it will be that of its referendum vote where the options will be all or nothing, as is often the case in this type of call, without the possibility of arguing or discussing the proposed text as definitive, something that constitutes the main defect pointed out by the scholars of the subject to such an important participatory mechanism.12 Therefore. , in order for an electorate scattered through the national geography to make its final assessment, it would at least be advisable to let it know what the considerations made by its peers were, both favourable and contrary.

While it is commendable that the project should be subjected to the knowledge of the people in order to meet their criteria, this is not a debate in the sense that the noun must adopt, if it is politics. I understand this, because that method lacks the very immediation of an assembly (constituent) where each provision is subject to discussion until it is approved by a majority. To put it more clearly: the objections that the population objects to in their meetings will not be binding, those arising from an assembly can have that character. The meetings in which we will participate will be merely enunciative, an ad hoc assembly would exercise a real decision-making power. Endowing ourselves with a Constitution arising from an enclave whose members are all unconditional supporters of the current political line,13 with their flaws and virtues, is not the best way to make a homeland, because it is precisely the mavericks who are best able to identify defects that, overlooked today, can have negative consequences tomorrow – as has already happened – and constitutions are thought ad futurum , not to have to go to legislative patches. To include those who think differently in the entity intended to develop the new constitutional text, far from harming would be taxed to a stronger democracy. Doesn’t the constitutional project affirm in its first article that Cuba is a democratic state, organized with all and for the good of all? It’s all a word that doesn’t allow exclusions, or am I wrong?



[1] José Martí, in a memorable letter to General Máximo Gómez Báez, on October 20, 1884, warns with his characteristic genius of the political consequences that, for the leader-people relationship, may arise from military victory over despotism

2 Only that full identification makes it possible to understand that the same people who applauded him in a delusional way, when he affirmed that neither he nor the revolution which he led were communists, also hailed him when he was decidedly Marxist-Leninist shortly afterwards, and was played in full for that new ideological conception. Perhaps it is a unique case in the history of leader-people blending.

3 According to article 1 of the 1976 Constitution and its similar to the current project, Cuba is a democratic state, hence we find the reference to the functioning of democracy through different authors relevant to us. Moreover, the guarantee of the enjoyment of social justice and the individual and collective well-being postulated by that article as the purpose of the socialist State is in perfect harmony with the definitions of both traffickers. The same is true of the many social and economic rights endorsed throughout both texts. Article 1 of the project, for its part, abounds more than its predecessor in this area and adds individual and collective prosperity to well-being.

4 R. Dhal: Polyarchy. Participation and opposition, Madrid, Editorial Tecnos, p. 13.

5 M. A. Perícola: “The Object of Study of State Theory”, Academy. Journal on The Teaching of Law, Mexico, UNAM, No. 22, 2013, pp. 249-271.

6 “It’s the economy, stupid,” a phrase that became an unofficial slogan for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign toward the 1992 election. Faced with the high popularity of Bush Sr., thanks to the favorable end of the Cold War and the easy victory in the Gulf War, Clinton campaign adviser James Carville proposed focusing the Democratic message on domestic issues, especially the day-to-day needs of citizens. The original phrase was The economy, stupid – the verbal form was added later – and using current language we would say that it went viral, even becoming part of American political and popular culture.

7 While this is often manifested, especially in nations lacking political culture, the Cuban case is not such, for our population has an average preparation which is not in any insanfi much. I therefore disagree with the document entitled Democracy Index 2017, prepared by The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited, which in terms of political culture equates us with states such as Haiti, Rwanda and Equatorial Guinea – coefficient 4.38 out of 10 – and places us below virtually the entire African continent, even though the precariousness of education there has nothing to do with the reality of our country and it would be illusory to deny the relationship between general preparation and political culture.

8 In its current version, Article 5 refers to the Communist Party of Cuba, martyred and Marxist-Leninist, as the organized avant-garde of the Cuban nation, which is the superior ruling force of society and of the State. We see that the predominant role given to that organization does not exclude the existence of others, even if the practice has not operated in this way. The new wording, on the other hand, intersperses the adjective UNICO between Cuba and Martiano.

9 According to Deutsch’s proposed “cascade” system, in any society the main flows of information descend vertically from political elites through the media, but there is also a form of horizontal transmission between citizens – currently enhanced by social media and new technologies – capable of generating even a feedback or upstream through which the foundations can influence elites and lead them to make decisions in line with the general interest , an example of this was the anti-war movements of Viet Nam and for the recognition of civil rights in the United States.

[1]0 Different factors such as discernment, political culture and level of commitment influence the shaping of individual opinion, the summary of which will be called public opinion. Subjects with greater limitations in these respects will more easily assimilate messages aimed at setting their criteria in one direction or another. Perhaps this is what led Walter Lippman to skeptically define the public interest as “… what men would choose if they saw clearly, thought rationally, and acted selflessly.” Theoretically, at least, as a result of any majority vote, the most convenient option should be adopted in the public interest, although reality has shown that this is not necessarily a regularity.

[1]1 The 1976 Constitution does not recognize the right to due process, Articles 58, 59, 61, 122 and 124 are hardly sketches of that institution, but cannot be outlined in its substantiveity.

[1]2 The referendum tends to atomize participation as each citizen operates as an independent political unit, especially if it is a single party model where the flow of information the voter receives will be favorable, if not commendable, to the project, as it coincides with partisan objectives. This participatory – but binding – act eliminates any possibility of communication or exchange between decision-tors (voters) that may be taxed on the generation of ideas aimed at improving the proposal or identifying its defects. A plural assembly, on the other hand, must host the debate based on the diversity of political positions represented by its members and the contradiction, we know, is a source of development. The repetition quite the opposite.

13 The unanimous acceptance of the draft by the National Assembly of the People’s Power, which obviously implies full identification with Article 5 there, leads us to dismiss it as that politically pluralistic and inclusive forum to which we aspire.

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