Cuba reveals new details on constitution plan

Cuba's new President Miguel Diaz-Canel is pictured after he was formally named president by the National Assembly. Picture: ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images
Cuba's new President Miguel Diaz-Canel is pictured after he was formally named president by the National Assembly. Picture: ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images
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Cuba has revealed new details about plans to reshape its government, courts and economy with a constitutional reform set to be approved by the national assembly this month.

The reform of the 1976 constitution would create the position of prime minister alongside the president, currently Miguel Diaz-Canel, splitting the roles of head of government and head of state.

Cuba’s constitution keeps the Communist Party as the sole political force in the country and says the communist state will remain the dominant economic force.

The constitution does, however, create new recognitions of the free market and private property in Cuban society, and creates a new presumption of innocence in the justice system.

Cuba’s current Soviet-era constitution only recognises state, cooperative, farmer, personal and joint venture property.

The proposed constitutional reform described in the main state paper on Saturday is also expected to be approved in a later national referendum.

Officials say the 1976 charter does not reflect changes made in Cuba in recent years.

“The experiences gained in these years of Revolution” and “the new paths mapped out” by the Communist Party are some of the reasons for reforming the constitution, the official Granma newspaper said on Saturday.

But former President Raul Castro’s market reforms, aimed at trying to boost the economy and make Cuban socialism more sustainable, have prompted hundreds of thousands of Cubans to join the ranks of the island’s self-employed since 2010, in new privately-owned businesses ranging from restaurants to beauty salons.

The new constitution will maintain rights such as religious freedom but will also make explicit the principle of non-discrimination due to gender identity.

The text released in Granma did not specify to what extent the state would recognise same-sex marriages.

Cuba expert Luis Carlos Battista at the Washington-based Centre for Democracy in the Americas cautioned that the acknowledgement of private property did not mean the government wanted to give private enterprise a greater role. Earlier this week, he noted, the government published a set of regulations tightening control on the self-employed and hiking possible fines to include property confiscation.

According to Granma, the government commission revamping the constitution will present its draft to the national assembly when it meets next week. It will then be put to a national referendum, expected later this year.