How cuban are you

New constitution for Cuba : The "free debate" begins with an arrest

No longer afraid of prosperity, but obviously of the opposition. The “free and public debate” on the upcoming constitutional reform began in Cuba on Monday. Every citizen, the single-ruling Communist Party assured, is free to express his opinion publicly.

Indeed, that would be a big step forward in terms of liberality. The constitutional reform should change the country, at least that is what those responsible promise. 135,000 rounds of talks are planned until November. On February 24th, the Cubans will be called upon to vote on the new constitution in a referendum.

The driving force behind the draft of an expert commission, which was unanimously adopted by parliament - as is customary in Cuba - was the former head of state and government, Raul Castro. The brother of the revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, who died at the end of 2016, still determines what is happening on the Caribbean island after his partial change into political retirement. Raul Castro recently cleared the way for a change at the top of the state, but remains party leader.

There are some interesting changes in the draft constitution. This practically paves the way for same-sex marriage. In the first decades, the Castro regime put homosexuals in re-education camps to cure them of their "illness". The word “communist” has also been deleted, and instead the country is now striving to become “sovereign, wealthy and socialist”.

In addition, the term of office of the head of state is to be limited to two mandates. And: In the future, political power will be divided between the president and a new post of head of government. The last time there was a prime minister was in 1976.

For the first time, the constitution will also use the concept of private property and recognize foreign investment as an important factor in economic growth. The current constitution dates from 1972 and was revised in 1992 and 2002.

A few days before the start of the "open and free" expression of opinion, however, the regime critic Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, the head of the officially unapproved opposition party "Patriotic Union of Cuba" (UNPACU), was arrested. The reason is an accident.

According to UNPACU, a member of the Cuban secret service was allegedly involved in the accident, which Ferrer Garcia subsequently accused of planning an assassination attempt. Meanwhile, the judiciary is accusing Ferrer of trying to run over the agent. According to UNPACU representatives, he is now facing 20 years imprisonment. The family complains that they have been denied access to Ferrer.

Ferrer Garcia is one of the most prominent representatives of the Cuban opposition, which is calling for free elections under the “Cuba Decide” project. The circumstances of the clash are reminiscent of another mysterious case. The prominent civil rights activist Oswaldo Paya died in a traffic accident six years ago.

While the authorities said the car was traveling at excessive speed, family members of the founding member of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) claim to this day that a second car driven by intelligence officials pushed Paya's car off the road and deliberately killed the regime critic.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page