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Cuba's Constitutional Referendum: What You Should Know | Cuba News

On Sunday, Cubans decide whether to accept or reject a draft new constitution that recognizes the free market while confirming Communism as the official political ideology of the island. The National Assembly approved the updated version of the Cold War 1976 Constitution in December following a popular consultation process. In addition to recognizing private property, the new Charter also restricts the President from serving on two consecutive five-year terms, creating the Prime Minister's position to monitor daily state issues, introducing a presumption of innocence in the judiciary, and extending a ban on discrimination on the grounds of sexuality and gender identity. An earlier draft meant a marriage marriage, but the version that would be put to the vote removed the clause and delayed defining marriage in response to the Church's repetition. "The Cuban reality has changed in recent decades and especially in recent years," said Lu's Carlos Battista, a Stephen M Rivers Memorial Fellow at the Center for Democracy in America. For example, the private sector has already expanded on the island for years. "The constitution needed updating," he told Al Jazeera. A Modern Cuba Supporters say it is a constitution for today's Cuba, reflecting the development of the island since the end of the Cold War and, more recently, thawing more than half a century of frozen relations with the United States. Critics say the changes fail to restructure political power by keeping intact the one-party system and not imposing a direct vote to elect the president. State media…

On Sunday, Cubans decide whether to accept or reject a draft new constitution that recognizes the free market while confirming Communism as the official political ideology of the island.

The National Assembly approved the updated version of the Cold War 1976 Constitution in December following a popular consultation process.

In addition to recognizing private property, the new Charter also restricts the President from serving on two consecutive five-year terms, creating the Prime Minister’s position to monitor daily state issues, introducing a presumption of innocence in the judiciary, and extending a ban on discrimination on the grounds of sexuality and gender identity.

An earlier draft meant a marriage marriage, but the version that would be put to the vote removed the clause and delayed defining marriage in response to the Church’s repetition.

“The Cuban reality has changed in recent decades and especially in recent years,” said Lu’s Carlos Battista, a Stephen M Rivers Memorial Fellow at the Center for Democracy in America.

For example, the private sector has already expanded on the island for years. “The constitution needed updating,” he told Al Jazeera.

A Modern Cuba

Supporters say it is a constitution for today’s Cuba, reflecting the development of the island since the end of the Cold War and, more recently, thawing more than half a century of frozen relations with the United States.

Critics say the changes fail to restructure political power by keeping intact the one-party system and not imposing a direct vote to elect the president.

State media has sensibly promoted a “yes” vote, while the opposition has pushed for a no.

Andres Pertierra, a Cuban-American historian based in Washington, DC, told Al Jazeera that the vote serves as a referendum not only on the new constitution but also on President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who took place last year, succeeded Raul Castro.

Pertierra said that a large “no” voice could be a “great symbolic victory” for Cuba’s resistance. The 1

976 Constitution was adopted with the approval of 97.7 percent of voters.

“There are different visions also among state supporters of where the government should go,” added Pertierra. “But as long as US foreign policy is aggressive as it is, these things will be taken up behind the need for unity.”

Opening up the economy

Long hamstring of the 60-year-old US embargo and recently influenced this year Cuba has recently attempted to make its economy more sustainable in the long run.

In 2010, former President Raul Castro began to lift market restrictions to curb the economy by encouraging private business development and foreign investment.

More than 580,000 cubes are now independently employed by state statistics.

This week, the government announced reforms to clear additional activities for entrepreneurial companies, including artistic production.

The new constitution formalizes these latest changes by recognizing private property. Previously, possible forms of property were state, cooperative, personal or joint ventures.

Despite the opening of the economy, President Donald Trump has questioned the historic normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba between former President Barack Obama and Raul Castro, forcing doubts on the potential deepening of economic ties between the two nations.

Obama called the embargo “obsolete”, while the Trump administration has twisted austerity on economic barriers.

“I don’t think we’re having a referendum with likely high approval will change US hostile politics,” said Francisca Lopez Civeira, a professor of history at the University of Havana, to Al Jazeera.

“There is a very aggressive policy in relation to Latin America as a whole and Cuba continues to be a target for regime change,” she continued. “All governments have had this goal from Eisenhower to Trump.”

Relations between the United States and Cuba

Last month, Trump administration hinted that it might be considered activating a US law that was dormant because it was created in 1996, lawsuits against companies exploiting property seized by the Cuban government in the wake of 1959 revolution.

Potential disputes through the action, known as the Helms-Burton Act Title III, would make companies and investors from other countries increasingly cautious sinking money into Cuba.

“Enacting Title III is a mistake for US national interests,” Battista argued. The move would likely trigger US allies, including Canada, Mexico and the European Union, raising a flood of trials in US courts, adversely affecting US business efforts in Cuba, and the acidic potential for future normalization of bilateral ties with Cuba.

Cubans read the draft proposal for amendments to the Constitution at the beginning of a public political debate to revive a constitution in Havana, Cuba [Tomas Bravo/Reuters]

It is unlikely that the new constitution will change Trump’s mind in Cuba. The US president ran to Cuba this week in a speech in Miami where he called the Venezuelan military to break with President Nicolas Maduro.

“The days of socialism and communism are numbered not only in Venezuela but in Nicaragua and Cuba,” said Trump, and also explained that “socialism dies.”

Cuba Diaz-Canel responded to Twitter and called Trump’s speech “arrogant, cynical, immoral, threatening, offensive, interventionist, decent, hot-tongue and dirty”.

“Our response: mobilization for peace and against imperial intervention in Latin America and a successful triumph in voting yes,” continued Diaz-Canel, using the hashtag for the “Yes” referendum referendum.

An earlier draft of the Constitution omitted communism and instead describes Cuba’s ambitions as a socialist. But after the popular consultation, the phrase with Cuba’s goal was set to “progress towards a communist society” to the version that would be settled.

Lopez Civeira noted this was a result of the popular demand to maintain the “aspiration” of building a “more just, more inclusive society” through communism.

The referendum is scheduled for the anniversary of Cuba’s independence war against Spain in 1895. Eight million Cubans are eligible to vote.

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