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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Cuba forms commission to update Soviet-era constitution

People walk past the Capitol Building undergoing renovation March 10, 2016 in Havana, Cuba. Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel convened a special session of parliament Saturday, June 2, 2018, to propose a list of people to undertake a rewrite of the constitution. (Desmond Boylan / Associated Press)
Associated Press

HAVANA – Cuban legislators took the first step Saturday toward drafting a new constitution.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel convened a special session of Cuba’s parliament to propose a list of people to undertake a rewrite of the Soviet-era charter.

Delegates gave their approval for a commission presided over by former President Raul Castro and comprised of some 30 others, including Diaz-Canel.

“This gives rise to a process of particular importance for the country and we must all be aware of the duty and the civic responsibility that this demands,” Diaz-Canel said to nearly 600 delegates at the National Assembly.

There is no pending draft, but officials have made clear that the constitution will maintain a Communist Party-led system in which freedom of speech, the press and other rights are limited by “the purposes of socialist society.”

One change expected to be adapted would limit presidents to two five-year terms and impose an age limit – a dramatic shift following a nearly 60-year run of leadership by Castro and his late brother Fidel, who both ruled into their 80s. Another possible change could regulate private property in a limited way.

The rewrite comes as the country’s communist leaders seek to adapt to an era in which hundreds of thousands of Cubans work for themselves, remittances help keep the economy afloat and the daughter of Communist Party chief Castro is campaigning for gay rights.

Castro, who sat with delegates during the session, asked members of the commission to start the revision process immediately.