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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les Cubains auront le dernier mot

by Cathy Dos Santos

The Cubans Will Have the Last Word

Translated Tuesday 25 December 2018, by Henry Crapo

Published in l’Humanité on Monday, December 24th, 2018

On 24 February, voters will vote, after a three-month consultation, on the draft of the future Constitution. The right to marriage for all has focused the debates.

The Cubans have the floor. On 24 February, they will have to vote on the new Constitution, after the adoption on Saturday of a final version by the 583 deputies (out of the 605 in the National Assembly) present at the time of the vote in the Havana Convention Centre. Far from being a mere formality, the future fundamental text, which should replace the one adopted by referendum on 24 February 1976, is supposed to be in line with the social, political and above all economic upheavals that have been taking place on the "Big Island" for more than a decade.

The Constitution submitted to the vote is the result of the popular consultation process carried out throughout the country from 13 August to 15 November. In his speech to the parliamentarians, the Secretary of the Council of State, Homero Acosta Alvarez, recalled that no fewer than 133,681 meetings had been held in companies and work places, in districts and universities, attended by more than 8.5 million Cubans (out of a total population of 11.5 million). A total of 783,174 proposals, amendments, additions, modifications and deletions - including 2,125 from abroad, which is a first - have been considered. Nearly 760 changes involving more than 10,000 converging views were included, modifying up the 224 articles initially submitted for debate.

A future change in the Family Code

In its latest version, the draft Constitution reaffirms major principles already in force, such as the socialist nature of the revolution. On the economic level, it recognizes private property alongside State and cooperative forms, thus substantially modifying outdated semantics aimed at qualifying a private employer as a "cuenta propista" (employee working on his own account). The limitation of the term of office of the President of the Republic - which has already applied to Raul Castro - as well as the age limit for exercising it, was also debated, with nearly 74,450 people voting against a two-term limit.

But it is, without doubt, on the societal level that the discussions were the most difficult, particularly concerning Article 68. The text under discussion stated that marriage was "a voluntarily union agreed to between two persons", thus allowing people of the same sex to marry. The article was discussed in nearly 66% of the meetings and received 192,408 opinions (24.57% of the total consultation). To be fair: it has deeply divided supporters and opponents. There was no shortage of homophobic and macho prejudices. Evangelical and Pentecostal churches have also spared no effort to influence the debate, with Cuba being no exception in Latin America. Thus, in the heart of the Vedado, the university Methodist church in this district of the capital unfurled a long banner on its façade stating: "The family as God created it. Marriage = one man + one woman. »

The disagreements were such that even supporters of marriage for all said they wanted to postpone this progress, lest it be perceived as a tour de force by the authorities, after President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Raul Castro and other communist leaders and elected officials had spoken out in favour of this new right.

"We have sought the necessary balance because the Constitution must generate consensus in society," said Homero Acosta, acknowledging that this had not been the case. The new article 82 will not provide a definition of the "subject" candidate for marriage. It employs the term "conjoint", considering that official union is certainly one of the forms of family organization but not the only one. On the other hand, this very timid compromise is subject to a future change in the Family Code within two years, which will also be the result of a popular consultation. "The new formula includes the essence of the previously proposed section. It erases the binary character of gender and heteronormity as defined in the 1976 Constitution. The substitution of "persons" by "conjoints" maintains the possibility that everyone can access the marital institution (...). There is no setback," said MP Mariela Castro, known for her commitment to LGBTI rights at the National Centre for Sexuality Education. It’s up to the Cubans to decide.

"Without bureaucracy, dogma or formalism"

President Diaz-Canel welcomed the process. The future Constitution reaffirms "the socialist course of the revolution" and guarantees "better inclusion, justice and social equality", he recalled. In his conclusions stated before the deputies, the Head of State called for more efforts in the economic sector, "the most awaited by the people", and for it not to be hindered "by the bureaucracy". "There is a need to be more consistent with the broad lines approved by our party. It is time to act without dogma or formalism, by combining mixed enterprises, state and non-state sectors," Diaz-Canel stressed.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator

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