“El periódico ha de estar siempre como los correos antiguos, con el caballo enjaezado, la fusta en la mano y la espuela en el tacón.  Debe desobedecer los apetitos del bien personal y atender imparcialmente al bien público”.
José Martí

Cuba’s Congress, Time and Laws

Capitolio de La Habana, Cuba. Foto: Raquel Pérez Díaz

Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

With all it’s taking to restore the Capitolio building in Havana, it’s expected that the beneficiaries of this process – the 600 legislators who meet there – get on top of the backlog in national legislation. There are laws which have been waiting in desk drawers for more than a decade without anyone willing to take them out for discussion.

This is the case with the law proposed which would recognize the LGBTI community’s rights, a piece of legislation which faces the silent opposition of some institutions and many of those in power. They couldn’t get rid of the draft bill but they are able to put off the debate for an eternity.

On May 17th, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia had its celebration in Cuba. It has been years since it was marked for the first time with a parade to the beat of congas along Havana’s main avenue. However, legislators don’t hear music; they don’t feel the celebration and they don’t see rainbow-colored flags.

Hace una década descansa en las gavetas del parlamento el proyecto de Ley que recoge los derechos de la comunidad LGBTI, dentro de un Código de Familia importante para la infancia y la Tercera Edad. Foto: Raquel Pérez Díaz

The draft bill which collects the LGBTI community’s rights, forming part of an important Family Code for children and the Elderly, has been resting in parliamentary archives for a decade now. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

Ordinary citizens might even come to think that if this draft bill – which includes a new Family Code and is being promoted by the Cuban President’s own daughter – doesn’t come to light, then what is in store for the rest of archived law proposals?

It’s true that there are politically heated issues such as proposed laws for the film industry and the media. Others open up ideological debates such as that of legalizing small and medium-sized companies. However, there are some issues which we all agree upon and these aren’t even being approved either.

What Cuban, be he or she a communist or anti-Castro, religious or atheist, white or black, laborer or university student, would be against enacting a law that regulates water use and another about protecting animals from the barbaric acts of some psychopaths?

Drought has been hitting the country harder and harder every time, the country would need two consecutive years of good rainfall to recover and reach acceptable levels again. And in spite of this, legislators are taking their time, while they continue to build an economy without any kind of strategy for the responsible use of water.

Just a few days ago, a savage tortured and burned a puppy alive; it was filmed and then uploaded onto the internet. These images traveled the world over, moving many people and presenting the Cuban people as human beings without any feelings, who find animal abuse entertaining.

La ciudadanía recoge firmas para enviar una carta al Presidente de la República solicitando una ley de protección animal, que el parlamento no promulga. Foto: Raquel Pérez Díaz

Citizens collect signatures to send a letter to the Cuban President asking for an Animal Protection Law, which the Cuban Parliament refused to enact. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

How much longer do we have to wait until Parliament decides to enact an Animal Protection law, which punishes acts such as these and regulates the treatment we give them? People are already campaigning but the National Assembly of the People’s Power seems to be deaf to their pleas.

The root problem of all of this might be time as it really is extremely difficult to “legislate” when legislators only meet for three days, twice a year. Afterwards, they go back to their provinces and debates are continued long-distance, in a tiresome process which is, above all else, painstakingly slow.

The idea of a Parliament made up of non-professional politicians, without any financial remuneration while keeping their day jobs, seems excellent when written on paper. However, after decades of putting this into practice here in Cuba, it proves that a system like this is very inefficient.

It isn’t a question of creating an institution of “professional politicians” who earn many thousands of dollars. Of those who show up to parliamentary sessions late or never, or those who nod off through them, like what happens in some democracies.

Cuba needs a parliament which is capable of creating a legal framework to institutionalize the country and to carry out changes to the constitution over time which the reforms process urgently needs, following this process up by creating hundreds of complementary laws.

In order to do anything like this, it seems that it’s first necessary to professionalize and specialize legislators, making them work full-time, exchanging ideas face to face, debating in sessions, drawing up laws in permanent committees and tackling ideas even in the cafe on their break.

If the multi-million-dollar investment that has been made to restore the Capitolio is just so that Parliament meets twice a year, it would be more worthwhile to keep the building as a museum or a hurricane shelter and continue to hold sessions at the Havana Convention Center, which is at least used for other events the rest of the 359 days in the year.

La nación necesita un parlamento capaz de dar amparo legal a todos los cambios que se están produciendo dentro de la sociedad. Foto: Raquel Pérez Díaz

The country needs a parliament which is capable of giving legal protection to all the changes that are currently taking place within Cuban society. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

Translation: Havana Times

About Fernando Ravsberg

Nacido en Uruguay, corresponsal de Público en Cuba y profesor del post grado de “Información internacional y países del Sur” de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Fue periodista de BBC Mundo, Telemundo de EEUU, Radio Nacional de Suecia y TV Azteca de México. Autor de 3 libros, El Rompecabezas Cubano, Reportajes de Guerra y Retratos.


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