It is ten Cuban pesos. That’s its value in 23rdStreet in Vedado, in the Cuban capital, very close to Coppelia where an old man also hawks newspapers and magazines.
Till recently it was hard to buy the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, but the Mayor General Ignacio Agramonte y Loynaz Publishing House, from the Ministry of Justice (MINJUS by its acronym in Spanish), has released a new edition that is not only commercialized in bookstores but also in street stands and small stands by street sellers.
-Is it in good demand?,I asked.
-Yes, enough, they plainly answered.
Earlier it was only possible to consult the Magna Carta in schools, work centers, libraries, or by inheritance from an old family member.
Now, it is easy to find it, especially after February 24, 2013, when Raul Castro after retaking the presidency of the Council of State and the Cuban Government, announced a constitutional reform.
Before the National Assembly the President said: “in accordance with the agreements of the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, it is necessary to bring the Constitution of the Republic in line with the changes related to the gradual implementation of the Guidelines of the Cuban Social and Economic Policies of the Party and the Revolution”.
“Among the changes to be made to the Constitution there is the limitation to a maximum of two consecutive terms of five years in the main positions of the State and the Government and to establish maximum ages to undertake such responsibilities”, he noted and announced that this would be his last term in office, regardless of the time this process might take.
The Cuban leader commented “it is not healthy” to continuously reformulate the Carta Magna, in reference to a previous modification effected in June, 2002, when “the irrevocable character of socialism and the revolutionary political and social system” was expressly stated.
After those statements broadcasted nationwide, and even though last September MINJUS released a pocket edition of the Constitution, no further references have been made officially on this subject.
People are talking
The current Cuban Constitution dates back to 1976, when it was approved as a result of a public discussion process with the participation of more than six million citizens where 60 of the articles proposed in the draft were changed. Since then, it had been only reformulated in June, 1978, in order to rename “Isla de Pinos” as “Isla de la Juventud” (Isle of Youth) in July, 1992, with the approval of the Constitutional Reform, and in June, 2002.
However, there is a problem: in Cuba many people are not familiar with the content of the Constitution. An article published by the Temas magazine in September, 2008, revealed that two third parts of the people surveyed during 1987 in 12 Cuban provinces didn’t know much about the Constitution.
Recently, Vivian Hernández Torres, Secretary from the Cuban Constitutional and Administrative Law Society, explained Soy Cuba that: “We cannot say that the youth are entirely ignorant in legal terms, but their knowledge is rather disproportionate to their general education levels and the same applies to the rest of the population. This is not only an individual responsibility; strategies must be set out in order to make easier the access to that knowledge. It would be fruitful, for instance, that everyone would have their own copy of the Constitution”.
Young blogger Harold Cárdenas made the following comment in La Joven Cuba: “The new Constitution should comprise collective or third generation rights: the right to enjoy a sound and ecologically balanced environment, the right to peace, the right of ethnic minorities, etc. (…)”.
There are also proposals from debate spaces related to gender equality and the struggle against homophobia. The inclusion of gay marriage in the Family Code is one of the most important proposals. “Gay marriage would lead to a modification of the Constitution, which acknowledges marriage between men and women”, noted during an online interview for Juventud Rebelde, Dr. Alberto Roque Guerra, specialist in Internal Medicine and Intensive Care, and collaborator of the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX by its acronym in Spanish).
Lawyer Zulendrys Kindelán Areas, who used to be a legal assessor for CENESEX and worked in the updating and review of the family Code, explained Cuba Contemporánea that they had proposed the inclusion of “consensual union” and not of “egalitarian marriage” in order to avoid incoherencies in the new Code regarding the current Constitution.
For Martha Prieto Valdés, Constitutional Law professor at the University of Havana, “constitutions are the result of a process and these new generations, which were not the ones that discussed and approved the Constitution, have the right to be more directly reflected in it. As long as my generation is not left aside, because we are here and we still give our contribution. It must be a conjunction of majoritarian interests”.
“It would be good to have a national debate in order to bring all those interests in line with each other because the Cuban society in 1976 was very homogeneous, but it no longer is, for the better”, she added.