98.97% Say Yes To Socialism
In June of 2002 the Cuban National Assembly, after a petition by the population and three days of live broadcast debate, amended the Cuban Constitution to make socialism "irrevocable." Cindy O'Hare from the Cubamigo website was in Cuba during this historic event and conducted the following interview with Julián Gonzalez concerning these events.
Cindy: As you know, I recently had the opportunity to be in Havana at a very significant time, the special session of the National Assembly where the constitution was amended to make socialism "irrevocable." When I first arrived on the island, the signature drive was occurring. There seemed to be a place on every block for people to sign the petition asking for the constitutional amendment. Could you tell me how the signature drive began?
Julián: To answer this question, we need to review a little history. As we all know, in the last elections an ultra-right government took power in the U.S., a government that never had, even from the outset, the support of the majority of the population. A government that took advantage of the irrational terrorist actions of September 11 to incite to its advantage the patriotism of the people, and through an endless illogical war, tries to hide the economic problems that have arisen in that country. In addition, this administration owes its election to the ultra-right in Miami, and also needs them for the re-election of the president's brother as governor. In this total context and as a culmination of everything that had happened came the speeches of President Bush on May 20 in Washington and Miami and a few days later at the West Point graduation. In these speeches, Bush demanded changes of Cuba that would affect its social system and threatened Cuba at a time when the world situation permitted that the largest power in the world could attack one of the poorest countries in the world in the name of a war against terrorism, to attack Bin Laden, his organization and the government that backed them. This battle in the infinite war against terrorism destroyed even more a country that was already in ruins, killed more civilians than the attacks of 9/11, changed one government for a more corrupt one, and still produced little information about the supposed organizers of the attacks. Now they are looking for other targets for this war without end, and nobody doubts the possibility that Cuba could be in the sights of these "saviors of humanity." For all these reasons, it was considered necessary that the people here in Cuba know what could happen and why they would have to fight.
Cindy: Who called for the constitutional amendment?
Julián: As established in the constitution itself, the mass organizations, that make up Cuban civil society, (even though some outside Cuba say that civil society does not exist in Cuba), were the ones that petitioned the National Assembly for this amendment. These organizations are: the Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) which is made up of farmers who own their own farms; the Organization of Pioneers José Marti (OPJM) which is made up of students up to the 9th grade; the Student of Middle Education (FEEM) which is made up of students from 10th to 12th grade; the Federation of University Students (FEU) which is made up of university students; the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) which is made up of women; the Committees in Defense of the Revolution (CDR) which are made up of all the population older than 14 years old; and finally, the Cuban Workers Headquarters (CTC) which is made up of all the workers of the various unions. No less than 95% of the members of each sector belong to these organizations, so we can say that these organizations represent all the population.
These organizations had a special assembly of their national directorates that was broadcast on the TV, where they set forth to everyone the reasons why they were petitioning for this constitutional amendment and asked for a demonstration of support for this request in two ways: a series of marches and other actions all over the country on the 12th of June – where more than 9 million Cubans participated, and the signing of the petition to amend the constitution by all the population that had the right to vote, which took place on June 15, 16, 17 and 18, and which was signed by 8,188,198 voters, which constituted 98.97% of the electorate.
Cindy: How was the signature drive organized?
Julián: The organizations I just mentioned organized commissions made up of a member of each organization (that is when there were members of every organization in the community – for example there are not always members of ANAP, or FEU, or others) presided over by the most capable member. In the whole country 129,523 commissions were established, and they set up places to sign the petition. Of every 13 of these places to sign, 11 were set up in people's homes, in other words 106,000 signature places were on porches and in living rooms of individual homes offered by the people who lived there. On the average, there was more than one signature place set up for every square kilometer. The whole archipelago was covered by these places to sign, so that everyone who wanted to support the petition would have the opportunity to do so.
Cindy: Did you participate in the signature drive?
Julián: Yes. I am the zone director of the CDR, and so I directed a commission that covered eight different places to sign the petition.
Text (c) 2002 J. Gutierrez & C. O'Hara