Cuba's newly proposed constitution will protect Castro-led institutions, expert says

After general vote, national assembly to review new constitution, expert says

HAVANA – The newly proposed Cuban constitution, which will be up for a referendum this year, takes on many new issues. 

The proposed constitution also recognizes private property and legalizes same-sex marriage, and although it omits a clause in the 1976 constitution on the aim of building a "communist society," experts say this doesn't mean the Communist Party is renouncing its ideas. 

Carlos Alzugaray is a former Cuban ambassador to the European Union, adjunct professor at the University of Havana and an independent political analyst.   

"Part of the new constitution is adapting the constitution to reality," Alzugaray said. 

Some of the changes are related to government structure. In addition to the presidency, the constitution added a prime minister who will manage the daily governing of the country and oversee the council of ministers. 

"The prime minister is going to be someone directly subordinate to the president, named by him and approved by the council of state," Alzugaray said. 

That means the president, who would still be chosen by the national assembly, will have more power.  If this proposal passes, the president would only serve two five year terms and face an age limit of 60. 

Miguel Diaz-Canel replaced Raul Castro in April, but Castro heads the constitutional reform commission and remains the head of the Communist Party until 2021.

The old constitution allows officials to be members of various high ranking government bodies such as the council of states and ministries. The new constitution does not.

"If you separate all these functions then it would be more difficult for those guys to want to stop things from happening, because they won't have the leverage," Alzugaray said. 

Some Cuban analysts and academics believe former president Raul Castro is behind this change in structure in an attempt to spread out power and establish institutions. Alzugaray doesn't think that's necessarily a bad thing. 

"Raul has always wanted to protect the institutions that the Revolution has created," 
Alzugaray said. 

The new constitution includes a restructuring of how provinces are governed by a governor who will be appointed by the president. 

"All these transformations will open the way to a debate about elections," Alzugaray said. 

Alzugaray believes the electoral process in Cuba has to be transformed by reducing the size of the national assembly.

If the popular vote allows the proposed constitution to go forward, the national assembly will have to decide whether or not to ratify it.

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