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September 2016
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Can Cuba’s 1940 Constitution be Salvaged? (Part 1)

Can Cuba’s 1940 Constitution be Salvaged? (Part 1) / Somos+

Somos+, Kaned Garrido, 24 August 2016 — Among vibrant speeches, spirited
debates, coalitions of power, changing sides, unthinkable alliances and
the dream of rebuilding the Republic, was born one of the most
progressive legal texts. The ambitious statements of the
1940 Constitution are as interesting as the story behind it.

The fall of Machado’s dictatorship had left the country with a shaky
legitimacy of power. Parties and movements sought profound changes. The
revolutionaries wanted to slow the growth of monopolies, the size of the
large estates, inequality between classes, poverty in the countryside
and cities, and, above all: eventually form an independent nation.

Within the Constituent Assembly political leaders were battling it out
in intense discussions. In the upheaval of World War II Cuban politics
took sides in the movements of the great powers. Eduardo Chibas
criticized the support of Cuban communists for Moscow’s
actions. Meanwhile, laws were proposed to reduce American dominance over
the island. Nationalism was the recurring and necessary theme.

The constitution has a strong liberal base, a deep respect for the
separation of powers and equality before the law. In addition it
proposed an ambitious social program.

Article 61 guaranteed that all Cuban workers would have a minimum wage
consistent with their material, moral and cultural needs. Commissions
would set salaries that should take into account economic activity, the
conditions of the region, and consider the worker the “head of household.”

If we created a commission right now, would would be the estimated
minimum salary for a Cuban worker?

Article 67 gave every worker one month’s rest for every eleven months
worked. If due to circumstances he did not complete the 11 months, the
rest was proportional to the time worked. But those were only benefits,
the true right resided in Article 71:

“The right of workers to the strike and the right of employers to the
lockout is recognized, in conformity with the regulations that the law
may establish for the exercise of both rights.”

This was the law that would prevent the employers from ignoring the
workers. The mere threat of a strike is a reason to negotiate.

It is difficult to define the grammatical terms to talk about these
laws, to say how much they were held to. The years of that constitution
were plagued by corruption and ended with Batista’s coup d’etat on 10
March 1952.

Today, a review by officialdom recognizes certain social conquests in
the text, but considers it a “bourgeois constitution” and “inferior” to

So we must create our own perception of what is salvageable and what is
not. Why is such an ancient text so important? Can we copy and paste it
into the twenty-first century?

Many constitutional scholars agree that only some amendments need to be
updated, because by its nature it is liberal and fair making it
applicable to our time.

Possibly this constitution written among the storms of the
nineteen-forties will be the basis of a new Cuban democracy. So we will
continue talking about it…

Source: Can Cuba’s 1940 Constitution be Salvaged? (Part 1) / Somos+ –
Translating Cuba –

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