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Cuba to Draft New Constitution to Push Economic Reforms

Reforms introduced by Raul Castro did not unleash  a hoped-for economic takeoff.Reforms introduced by Raul Castro did not unleash  a hoped-for economic takeoff.

When Cuba adopted its current constitution, the sugar-based economy was being bolstered by aid from the Soviet Union and citizens were forbidden to run private businesses or sell homes.

Now a rewrite is on the way as the country’s communist leaders try to adapt to the post-Soviet world in which hundreds of thousands of Cubans work for themselves and American remittances and tourism keep the economy afloat, AP reported.

The country’s parliament is scheduled on Saturday to name the commission to draft a new constitution, consulting with the citizenry and eventually bringing it to a referendum.

Former president Raul Castro, who stepped down last month, introduced reforms in 2011 to open the top-heavy, centralized economy to small private businesses and foreign investment.

The changes resulted in a burst of activity in the first years, as Cubans opened restaurants and other small service-oriented businesses. But the changes did not unleash the hoped-for economic takeoff, CNA reported.

Officials have made clear that the constitution will maintain a Communist Party-led system in which freedom of speech, the press and other rights are limited by “the purposes of socialist society”. But Castro and other leaders apparently hope to end the contradictions between the new, more open economy and a legal system that calls for tight state control over all aspects of the economy and society.

The current ban on dual citizenship collides with the government’s effort to reach out to exiles. Many small businesses employ workers even though the constitution now forbids “obtaining income that comes from exploiting the work of others”.

The current constitution allows worker cooperatives, but only in the farm sector, and officials have allowed other types of cooperatives but placed sharp limits on their growth and operations, keeping them as a marginal economic player.

“Cuba needs to change its constitution because our society has been radically transformed in recent years,” said political scientist Lenier Gonzalez, one of the directors of Cuba Possible, a think-tank aimed at promoting reform with the limits laid out by Cuban law and its single-party system. He noted the society has become more international, forms of property ownership have diversified and new social movements have emerged that now exist on the margins of the law.

 

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