July 14, 2018 / 10:14 PM / 3 months ago

Communist-run Cuba to recognize private property in new constitution

HAVANA (Reuters) - Communist-run Cuba will officially recognize private property, something it has long rejected as a vestige of capitalism, under a new constitution that also creates the position of prime minister alongside the president, state media reported on Saturday.

FILE PHOTO: Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel (3rd L) reacts during a ceremony to inaugurate the Cuban Sports Hall in Havana, Cuba, July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini/File Photo

Cuba’s current Soviet-era constitution only recognizes state, cooperative, farmer, personal and joint venture property.

But former President Raul Castro’s market reforms, aimed at trying to boost the economy and make Cuban socialism more sustainable, have prompted hundreds of thousands of Cubans to join the ranks of the island’s self-employed since 2010, in new privately-owned businesses ranging from restaurants to beauty salons.

Ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma published a summary of the new constitution on Saturday, saying a draft it had seen included 224 articles, up from 137 previously.

Details were not immediately available, and Reuters did not see the draft. But Granma said it enshrined recognition of both the free market and private property in Cuba’s new Magna Carta.

That could mean enhanced legal protections for Cuba’s fledgling entrepreneurs, and foreign investors too, even though Granma said the constitution reaffirmed that central planning and state enterprise are the pillars of the economy overall.

FILE PHOTO: Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel speaks during a ceremony to inaugurate the Cuban Sports Hall in Havana, Cuba, July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini/File Photo

It also noted the Communist Party would remain as Cuba’s dominant political force.

Cuba expert Luis Carlos Battista at the Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americas cautioned that the acknowledgement of private property did not mean the government wanted to give private enterprise a greater role.

Earlier this week, he noted, the government published a set of regulations tightening control on the self-employed and hiking possible fines to include property confiscation.

According to Granma, the government commission revamping the constitution will present its draft to the national assembly when it meets next week. It will then be put to a national referendum, expected later this year.

The commission is headed by Castro, 87, who remains head of the Communist Party.

New President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who sits on the commission, is also expected to announce his council of ministers at the assembly meeting.

Apart from introducing the position of prime minister, dividing the roles of head of state and head of government, the new constitution makes the president head of the assembly and imposes a term limit on the presidency of two consecutive five-year periods.

Castro, who together with his older, late brother Fidel Castro ruled the country for nearly 60 years, had proposed the limit in 2011, as part of a bid to modernize the political system.

Reporting by Nelson Acosta and Sarah Marsh; Editing by Tom Brown

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