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      A Lesson in Democracy

      By Ben Lefebvre*

      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 proposed changes.

      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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