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Cuba's Government

The national referendum to ratify Cuba's new constitution took place on February 24, 2019. The Magna Carta currently in force was passed in 1976 but had important amendments added in 1992 and 2002.

Cubans overwhelmingly ratified a new constitution that enshrines the one-party socialist system as irrevocable while instituting modest economic and social changes, according to the national electoral commission. Preliminary results showed 84.4 percent of the 7.8 million potential voters participated in the referendum. Of the potential electorate and not actul votes cast, 73.31 percent ratified the charter, 7.6 percent opposed ratification and 4.5 percent spoiled or left ballots blank. By comparison, in 1976 when the current constitution was ratified, 99.02 percent of voters in a 98 percent turnout reportedly ratified and just 54,000 were opposed.

There are important changes in the new constitution that reflect the gradual opening of the Caribbean island nation since the fall of its former benefactor, the Soviet Union. There are references to markets and recognition of private property, foreign investment, small businesses, gender identity, the internet, the right to legal representation upon arrest and habeas corpus. The new constitution also restructured government, adding a prime minister and setting two five year term limits for the president previously unlimited for the sake of Fidel Castro - among other changes.

Raul Castro is the leader of the Cuban Communist Party. Cuba is a totalitarian communist state headed by General Raul Castro and a cadre of party loyalists. Raul Castro replaced his brother Fidel Castro as chief of state, president of Cuba, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces on February 24, 2008. Fidel Castro had served as President of the Council of State and Council of Ministers and his brother Raul had served as First Vice President of both bodies as well as Minister of Defense.

Cuban lawmakers approved a commission that tasked with updating the country's Soviet-era constitution. President Miguel Diaz-Canel convened a special session of Cuba's parliament on 02 June 2018 that saw legislators approve the commission to be led by former President Raul Castro and some 30 others, including Diaz-Canel. The current constitution was written in 1976 at the height of the Cold War. "This gives rise to a process of particular importance for the country and we must all be aware of the duty and the civic responsibility that this demands," Diaz-Canel said to nearly 600 delegates at the National Assembly.

One of the expected changes would limit presidents to two five-year terms and impose an age limit a huge change considering the near 60-year leadership of Castro and his late brother Fidel, who both ruled into their 80s. Another potential change would incorporate the market reforms of recent years into the constitution and could regulate private property in a limited way.

The first period of ordinary sessions of the National Assembly of Peoples Powers 9th Legislature concluded 22 July 2018, after addressing a full agenda of important issues, outstanding among which was a proposed new Constitution. The 600 legislators approved plans to submit the draft, as modified during this session, to popular consultation, August 13 through November 15. On a special day for the island's inhabitants, commemorating the 92nd anniversary of the birth of the historical leader of the Revolution, Fidel Castro (1926-2016), work centers and neighborhoods are scheduled around the country to hold meetings in which people can express their opinions and make proposals to improve the letter of the constitution.

The new text is composed of one preamble and 224 articles (87 more than the current Constitution), divided into 11 titles, 24 chapters and 16 sections. The draft includes the Communist Party as the main leading force in society and the State, although it doesnt mention the progress towards a Communist society as a goal in this version, which was included in controversial Article 5 of the Constitution that was approved in 1976. The draft affirms the socialist nature of the island and the leading role of the Communist Party in its society, proposes changes in the structure of the State, broadens human rights and presents to the constitutional rank principles such as the condemnation of terrorism and the promotion of multilateralism.

Term and age limits on senior officials would not alter the political and media monopoly of the Cuban Communist Party. The separation of presidential functions and a prime minister role suggest checks on any future reforming leader. Noteworthy changes to the proposed draft are the legalization of same-sex marriages and greater autonomy for municipal governments. The proposal set to be debated would also eliminate the Peoples Power provincial-level assemblies to be replaced with a council and governor. In the legal field, the text extends the rights of individuals, with issues such as the guarantees of due process, Habeas Corpus, the presumption of innocence and the social reintegration of those deprived of liberty.

The new Constitution includes changes in the structure of the State, such as the creation of the offices of President and Vice President of the Republic, and of the Prime Minister. The President of the Republic is head of state, and Prime Minister is in charge of the Republics government. Both are required to be deputies to the National Assembly of Peoples Power. The Council of State maintains its character as the permanent body of the National Assembly of Peoples Power, with greater interaction with the Assembly stipulated, among other aspects, since the President, Vice President, and Secretary of the two bodies will be the same individuals.

The Draft Constitution of the Republic ratifies the importance of foreign investment for Cuba's economic development. The document also recognizes the different forms of property that coexist in the country, but it makes it clear that the economic system is based on the socialist property of the entire people. The recognition of the role of the market and of new forms of property, including private, is in tune with the Conceptualization of the Cuban Economic and Social Model of Socialist Development and the Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Communist Party and the Revolution. Likewise, it envisages planning as a key element in the economic system, as well as the workers' role and participation in this process.

On May 20, 2002 U.S. President George W. Bush, during a meeting in Miami, demanded that Cuba renounce the socialist character of the Revolution in a new Constitution. Cubas response was historic: a plebiscite held over a seven-day period, June 10-17, 2002. Support for the socialist system was made clear in several massive marches and more than nine million people expressed their position signing a petition to the National Assembly of Peoples Power to modify the Constitution in this regard. Thus the Law of Constitutional Reform was approved June 26, 2002, which made expressly clear the irrevocable nature of socialism and the political, social, economic system established within it, as well as the prohibition on negotiating with a foreign power under force, threat, or coercion.

On 24 February 2013, the so-called "historical generation" began the transition of leadership to a new generation. Jose Ramon Machado Ventura made available to his post as first Vice President, and he himself proposed Miguel Daz-Canel to occupy it. Raul Castro said this was a step in "defining in shaping the future direction of the country through the gradual and orderly transfer to the new generation..."

Since 1965 Cuba has been governed by a highly centralized system headed by the Communist Party of Cuba (Partido Comunista de CubaPCC), which is the only authorized political party and rules as the highest leading force of society and the State, according to the constitution. The party monopolizes all government positions, including judicial offices. Though not a formal requirement, party membership is a de facto prerequisite for high-level official positions and professional advancement in most areas, although non-party members are sometimes allowed to serve in the National Assembly. The Communist Party or one of its subsidiaries vets candidates for any elected office.

President Castro exercised control over all aspects of life through the Communist Party and its affiliated mass organizations, the government bureaucracy headed by the Council of State, and the state security apparatus. President Castro personally chose the membership of the Politburo, the select group that heads the party. The Communist Party controls all government positions, including judicial offices. The judiciary is completely subordinate to the Government and to the Communist Party.

The 24-member Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (Partido Comunista de CubaPCC) is the partys leading decision-making institution and Cubas most important decision-making entity. The PCC monopolizes all government positions, including judicial offices, and approves candidates for any elected office. The PCCs highest authority is the Party Congress, which elects a Central Committee (150 members in 2005) to supervise the partys work. To direct its policy, the Central Committee elects a Politburo (24 members in 2005, reduced from 24 to only 15 in 2011).

The Council of State of the National Assembly of Popular Power is the states highest decision-making body, and the Council of Ministers is the highest executive and administrative authority. Beginning on December 2, 1976, Fidel Castro assumed the functions of president of the Council of State and Council of Ministers. A Peoples Supreme Court, accountable to the National Assembly, oversees a system of regional courts. Municipal, regional, and provincial assemblies also have been established.

As amended in July 1992, the 1976 constitution vests all formal legislative powers (including the powers to amend the constitution) in the National Assembly of Popular Power (Asamblea Nacional de Poder PopularANPP). The National Assembly is the supreme organ of state and the sole legislative authority. The National Assembly has the formal power, among others, to approve the budget and the national economic plan; elect the members of the Supreme Court; and generally oversee the rule-making activities and electoral processes of the provincial assemblies and municipal assemblies. The National Assembly deputies are elected by direct popular vote for five-year terms. There are no contested elections for the roughly 600 members of the National Assembly of People's Power (ANPP), which meets twice a year for a few days to rubber stamp decisions and policies previously decided by the governing Council of State.

According to the Soviet-style Cuban constitution of 1976, the National Assembly of People's Power, and its Council of State when the body is not in session, has supreme authority in the Cuban system. Since the National Assembly meets only twice a year for a few days each time, the 31-member Council of State wields power. Prior to 1976, the Council of Ministers had exercised both executive and legislative functions. The Council of Ministers, through its nine-member executive committee, handles the administration of the economy, which is entirely state-controlled.

The president of the Council of State is also president of the Council of Ministers, in which executive and administrative authority is vested, and thus serves as both chief of state and head of government. In mid-2006, the Council of Ministers had 28 ministry posts (two of which were vacant), including the minister without portfolio. By early-2013, the Council of Ministers had 22 ministry posts (none of which were vacant), but no ministers without portfolio. The constitution empowers the Council of Ministers, as the highest executive and administrative organ, to issue regulations to administer laws and decrees and to authorize exceptions to state ownership of the means of production. The ministers are responsible principally to the Councils nine-member Executive Committee, which includes its president, first vice president, and five other vice presidents. The Executive Committee is the decision-making body of the Council of Ministers, and one of its main functions is to oversee the administration of the economy. The Council of Ministers answers to the National Assembly and to the Council of State. The president and vice presidents of the Council of State and the National Assembly elect ministers for a term of five years.

Although the constitution theoretically provides for independent courts, it explicitly subordinates them to the National Assembly and to the Council of State. Due process is routinely denied to Cuban citizens, particularly in cases involving political offenses. The constitution states that all legally recognized civil liberties can be denied to anyone who opposes the "decision of the Cuban people to build socialism." Citizens can be and are jailed for terms of 3 years or more for simply criticizing the communist system or Fidel Castro.

The Cuban court system consists of a Peoples Supreme Court, provincial courts, municipal courts, and military courts. The Peoples Supreme Court, the highest judicial body, is organized into five chambers: criminal, civil and administrative, labor, state security, and military. Its members are nominated by the minister of justice and confirmed by the National Assembly with two exceptions: First, its president and vice president are nominated by the president of the Council of State; second, the members of the military chamber are nominated jointly by the minister of justice and the minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.

The minister of justice exercises administrative control over all the courts, including the Peoples Supreme Court, which has no authority to declare a law unconstitutional. Judges are appointed for a term, not for life, and they can be removed from office if proper cause is shown. As a result, the courts show considerable deference to executive authority and are marked by political timidity. The Office of the State Prosecutor is subordinate to the National Assembly, which formally elects the prosecutor. This office has wide latitude to review the past conduct and prospective actions of all organs of state power. The prosecutor has specific oversight over all law enforcement and a rank equal to a Supreme Court justice. The prosecutor is directly responsible for cases of treason or corruption.

In 1976 the Council of Ministers divided Cuba into 14 provinces and 169 municipalities. Listed from west to east, Cubas provinces are Pinar del Ro, La Habana, Ciudad de La Habana, Matanzas, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Sancti Spritus, Ciego de vila, Camagey, Las Tunas, Granma, Holgun, Santiago de Cuba, and Guantnamo. The Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth), the Cuban archipelagos second-largest island, is a special municipality.

Provincial and Local Government: The central government directly oversees the provincial and local governments through a hierarchical network of assemblies and committees. Each of Cubas 14 provinces is formally governed by a provincial assembly, which elects a provincial committee. The president of the provincial committee functions as the provincial governor. A provincial assembly must have at least 75 members, and they serve for five years. Each of the countrys 169 municipalities is governed by a municipal assembly, which elects a municipal committee, whose president functions as mayor. Municipal assembly delegates serve for two and one-half years. Nominations for municipal assembly elections come from regional assemblies at the precinct level.

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Page last modified: 27-02-2019 19:08:11 ZULU