By Carlos Alberto Montaner
The Cuban government announced a new Constitution. It was discussed on July 21, 22 and 23. Nobody expected the docile Parliament, composed of 605 amazingly tuned assembly members, to generate the least dissonance.
The position of Prime Minister is being restored. The President will represent the State. There will be a vice president. The Prime Minister will manage the government and control the Council of Ministers. None of those positions will be elected by direct vote. Within the parliament, another much smaller and more manageable body, the Council of State, will propose the suitable “compañeros”. The purpose is to diminish the President’s authority.
The Communist Party retains its condition as the country’s hegemonic force and a unique source of initiatives. With an infinite stubbornness they continue to invoke the Marxist-Leninist inspiration of the State and the government. They have not learned anything.
But the most important detail, which they try to smuggle in without a lot of noise, is the creation of a disturbing National Defense Council (CDN), which is said to be “a superior body of the State that leads the country during exceptional situations and disasters.”
Nobody talks about it, but it is known that this institution is ruled by Colonel Alejandro Castro Espín, Raúl Castro’s only son, and it brings together all the country's intelligence and counterintelligence sources. Whoever moves will not appear in the photo, but perhaps in Granma newspaper’s crime pages, as happened to General Arnaldo Ochoa and Colonel Tony de la Guardia. They were executed in 1989.
The vague definition of the CDN and its probable intervention in exceptional situations works like a true sword of Damocles that hangs over the heads of all the apparatchiks, beginning with that of Miguel Díaz-Canel, the man most watched by the Cuban counterintelligence.
The position of Prime Minister already existed between 1959 and 1976. In that long period Fidel Castro was PM and did what he wanted. Without consulting anyone, he changed Cuba's political and economic model, introduced Soviet missiles, which almost lead to a world war, started the African wars and created all kinds of disturbances in half the planet supporting any anti-Western revolutionary group that visited Havana.
In 1976, during the period of Sovietization of the island, inaccurately described as institutionalization, inspired by the Bulgarian Constitution – because Bulgaria was a small agricultural country with a population similar to the Cuban one – they approached the Soviet formula, but Fidel continued to do whatever he desired.
The new Constitution announced by the Cuban government is, first, an adjustment to reality; second, an attempt to implement small changes to keep things as they are; and third, a limit to the President’s authority to prevent him to play the caudillo role, as Fidel and Raúl did.
The disappearance of the USSR and the European socialist block in the early nineties left Cuba without subsidies and adrift. The way to weather this immense storm was to reform the economy to save collectivism. It was then when the contradictory “Castroist model of reforms” began to emerge from Fidel’s brain.
Reluctantly, he accepted the least amount of private enterprise, investments and small entrepreneurs (cuentapropistas) that would allow his regime to survive. At that time, he admitted dollarization, but when the storm passed and Hugo Chávez ascended to power in Venezuela, he stuck to the Venezuelan breasts with the voracity of an orphan until he could revoke the measure.
The question was whether Raúl Castro, with the reform he was preparing, would try to follow the Chinese model, the Vietnamese model, or whether it would remain within the coordinates of the Castroist model. There is no longer room for the hope of economic change. (There was never any hope of political change.) The reforms aim at maintaining the fundamental productive apparatus in the hands of the State.
In short: the activities of entrepreneurs and access to private property are more restricted. The purpose is to prevent at any cost that Cubans get rich. Raúl Castro does not accept the key phrase of Deng Xiaoping: “getting rich is glorious.” He keeps thinking that getting rich it’s disgusting. Except for him and his family, of course.Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.