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Cuba prepares to legalize private property, setting stage for socialist market

A man works at a bean stall at a market beside a mural depicting revolutionary hero Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Havana, Cuba. Under proposed constitutional amendments, even more individuals will be allowed to start businesses. Desmond Boylan / AP

Cuban media summarized planned constitutional reforms at the weekend as directed at “consolidating and giving continuity to a socialist, democratic, prosperous, and sustainable system.”

According to Granma, newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, the new constitution will recognize “new forms of ownership” including private property—the current one only recognizes “state, co-operative, farmer, personal, and joint-venture” property.

But it sets the role of the market “in correspondence with the Cuban economic and social socialist development model,” defining state companies as the “main subjects of the national economy” and placing limits on the rights to transfer property ownership, with the state holding preferential rights to acquire property when needed. It maintains “the socialist property of all the people as the fundamental means of production and planning.”

Commitments to sustainable development, protecting the environment, and fighting climate change will now form part of the constitution, as will the “repudiation of all forms of terrorism, particularly state terrorism” and the “democratization of cyberspace,” while rejecting “its use for subverting and destabilizing sovereign nations.”

Other innovations include an obligation on “the state, society, and families” to protect and assist the elderly and provide all care necessary for the “rehabilitation and improvement of the quality of life” of the disabled. Discrimination on the basis of disability, ethnic origin, or gender identity are now explicitly unconstitutional.

A new post of prime minister will serve to distinguish between the head of state and head of government roles, while the presidency is to be subject to a time limit of two consecutive five-year terms—a move in the opposite direction from China, another socialist country, which abolished presidential term limits in March.

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