I hadn’t planned another post on Cuba after marking the revolution’s 60th anniversary on Friday. Then today I came upon a column in the New York Times that begged for comment.
Jon Lee Anderson writes in “Cuba’s Next Transformation” about a nationwide referendum to be held next month in Cuba to adopt a new national Constitution. The underlying assumption throughout Anderson’s article is that Cuba is a dictatorship. That’s the standard refrain here from the U.S. government and mainstream media. Cuba has never been forgiven for overthrowing the “good” dictator and U.S. friend, Fulgencio Batista.
But there’s something fundamentally wrong with Anderson’s whole premise — and indeed everything our government, media and schools tell us about Cuba. What kind of dictatorship presents a referendum to its people to determine their future?
We’re not talking about a document being shoved down the throats of the masses, either. The new Constitution was approved in draft form by the Cuban Parliament in July 2018 and then submitted for public debate between August 13 and November 15.
As Anderson writes in his New York Times column, many changes have been made to the draft based on public input. These include:
- Lessening control on accumulation of private wealth,
- Lessening censorship of art considered to be “immoral or vulgar,”
- Adding language making clear Cuba’s intent to extend the socialist revolution and advance towards Communism, and
- Eliminating a clause that would have explicitly allowed same-sex marriage.
This latter change is a disappointment to me personally, for obvious reasons if you know me, but the important point here is that it comes at the will of the Cuban people. Clearly there is more work to do in advancing consciousness around LGBT issues there. Kinda sounds like everywhere, huh? (Since we’re on the subject, despite this setback there has still been great progress regarding LGBT Rights in Cuba.)
What kind of dictatorship presents a referendum to its people to determine their future?
This kind of public consultation is nothing new. Meetings in workplaces and neighborhoods are commonly held to engage citizens and workers actively in the life and policies of the country. I recall in the mid-90s that a tax proposal was scrapped after failing to win support in these meetings. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported this at the time, buried deep in an article criticizing Cuba for being undemocratic.
In the end, I guess the U.S. defines “democracy” as being capitalist, allowing exploitation of workers and natural resources for private profit, and otherwise doing whatever the United States wants.
These are a few video reports that are posted online regarding Cuba’s referendum.
This last video is Spanish without English subtitles. For AP’s article accompanying this video, go to AP’s page on YouTube.
Title image by Alberto Korda. Public Domain
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