On August 13th, 2018, Cuba began a three-month process to
revise the nation’s Constitution whereby its citizens debated
proposals put forth by the National Assembly of People Power
(ANPP). In Canadian terms the ANPP would be the equivalent
of our federal parliament..
The draft constitution was unveiled to more than 8.9 million
people who attended one of the 133,681 meetings held across
the country. More than 1.7 million citizens commented on the
In the end, more than 780,000 concrete proposals came forth to
modify, add or eliminate particular sections of the draft. All of the
proposals were vetted by a large number of employees who had
the unenviable task of collating them thematically and rewording
the document before it was forwarded to the National Assembly
for further discussion.
The public consultation process ended on November 15th. The
final draft of the new constitution was debated and finally
approved by the National Assembly on December 22nd..
The document will be printed and distributed widely before
a national referendum is held on
February 24th, 2019 in order to ratify
the new Cuban Magna Carta.
Not only was this an exercise in
democracy, it was an indication of the
faith the Cuban government has in its
citizens. It is a remarkable reflection
of the engagement of any country’s
population when more than 80% of the
nation takes an interest in the drafting
of a document that will help guide the
country over the foreseeable future.
After more than 400 years of Spanish colonial rule, followed by
60 years of political and economic control by American interests,
Cuba set out on its own path. After two years of guerilla warfare
the country was liberated on January 1st, 1959 by the rebel army
and its charismatic leader, Fidel Castro.
Cuba is at a crossroads as a nation. Despite the fact that only
one political party has existed on the island for nearly 60 years
the country’s revolutionary leadership has always maintained that
democracy can thrive through the collective will of the population.
Not all Cubans agree with the political system that has existed
since the revolution was won and it has not been an easy
transformation from a capitalist to a socialist system of governance.
However, the results are truly impressive when comparisons are
made with other Latin American and Caribbean nation states,
not to mention several other so-called “first world” countries.
The economic, financial and commercial blockade imposed
unilaterally by then U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s “democratic”
administration following their failed attempt to overthrow
the new government at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 has caused
immeasurable hardship for the Cuban people.
And yet, the U.S. continues to claim the God-given right to impose its will on other countries as is presently the case in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Venezuela, Nicaragua, etc., ad infinitum.
Canada’s foreign policy has mirrored that of the U.S for far too long and we are now living with the consequences of our economic dependence and loss of national sovereignty to our southern neighbor..
We in Canada, can do much more as a country and we have to claim the high ground. We might even take a lesson in democracy from Cuba some day!.
Ben Lefebvre is a community volunteer, organizer, activist and social democrat. He has been sharing his time between rural Canada and Cuba where has has been writing extensively about Latin American and Carribean culture and politics.
* Original article with some minor edits
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