Legislators approved three new laws and addressed a variety of issues of special importance to the population and key to the nation’s development, during this challenging period.
The Third Period of Ordinary Sessions of the Ninth Legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power, that concluded July 13, began the extensive legislative process required to concretize the new Constitution’s stipulations.
Participating were Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Party Central Committee; Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Councils of State and Ministers; Second Party Secretary José Ramón Machado Ventura; and Esteban Lazo Hernández, Political Bureau member and president of the Assembly. Deputies approved three new laws of special importance: an Electoral Law, a National Symbols Law, and a Fisheries Law, the first on this subject to be approved at the national level.
The Assembly also elected the National Electoral Council, to be headed by Alina Balseiro, and reviewed issues of central relevance to the country’s development, including the performance of the 2019 Economic Plan during the first half of the year and the close-out report for the 2018 state budget, reaffirming the national priorities identified by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz: defense of the homeland and the economic battle.
Initiating the session, Esteban Lazo recalled the “memorable” session held last April 10, when the country’s new Constitution was proclaimed, demanding “more dynamism, sensibility, patriotism, and intelligence, in order to confront the challenges and keep the homeland free, independent, and sovereign.”
NATIONAL ELECTORAL COUNCIL
In accordance with the Constitution’s mandates, on July 13, the National Electoral Council (CEN), to be chaired by Alina Balseiro Gutiérrez, was elected by the National Assembly of People’s Power.
According to article 211 of the new Magna Carta, the CEN, composed of 21 members, is the “state body whose main mission is to organize, direct, and supervise elections, popular consultations, plebiscites, and referendums that are convened.”
Similarly, as established by the recently approved Electoral Law, “the President, Vice President, and Secretary are elected by the National Assembly at the proposal of the President of the Republic; other members are elected by the same body or its Council of State, at the proposal of the President of the National Electoral Council, once elected. Both elections are carried out via free, equal, direct, and secret ballot vote.”
However, given the Constitution’s first Transitional Stipulation, on only this occasion, all members were nominated by the President of the Councils of State and Ministers, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, who presented the candidature, which included cadres, experts, and officials linked to state bodies and other institutions with the recognized prestige, training, and experience to perform the duties established in the Constitution.
Díaz-Canel reported that the average age of members is 53. Thirteen have experience in electoral processes and have demonstrated consistent respect for ethical principles, commitment, and dedication to the tasks with which they are charged. Fifteen are cadres, representing 71%; while 14 are jurists, 66% of the total.
He noted that 15 are women (71%) and 11 (52.4%) are Black or mixed race, and10 Caucasian (47.6%). All, he stated, once elected, “will have the responsibility to conduct, along with our people, electoral and democratic participation processes that are convoked, with the transparency, impartiality, and ethics that distinguish us.”
After the vote, Assembly President Esteban Lazo Hernández reported that of the 568 deputies present, 100% exercised their vote, and all candidates received more than 50% of the valid votes cast and were elected by a wide margin.
NATIONAL SYMBOLS: THE MOST PURE EXPRESSION OF CUBAN IDENTITY
To ensure that all citizens venerate and respect our national symbols given what they represent, reflecting the history of the nation, a free, independent, and sovereign homeland, is the supreme objective of this law, said José Luis Toledo Santander, president of the National Assembly’s Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee, when presenting the proposed National Symbols Law.
After his comments, in which he outlined the historical presence of our national symbols in all emancipation struggles waged by our people, deputies emphasized the value of discussions held on the issue, that undoubtedly enriched the bill.
Deputy Eusebio Leal Spengler, Havana City Historian, noted that concerns emerged during the debates not only regarding the text itself, but in terms of violations which, perhaps due to ignorance of the law, involve vulgarization and disrespect, thus making clear the need for enforcement to ensure recognition of these symbols as the purest expressions of Cuban identity, he said.
SOVEREIGNTY AND FOOD SECURITY
Deputy Reina de la Caridad Torres Pérez agreed with President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, describing the new Fisheries Law, approved during the plenary session, as an essential piece of legislation.
“This initiative reflects current conditions and international standards, but is also based on our reality and the updating of our economic model. It is the expression of the Cuban state’s will to take into account, not ignore, the people’s ideas. This is evidenced by the consultations conducted in fishing communities, during which elements not only emerged to strengthen the law, but its implementation, as well,” she said.
BOOSTING THE ECONOMY WITH SOLUTIONS, NOT JUSTIFICATIONS
Alejandro Gil Fernández, minister of Economy and Planning, outlined the direction in which the country’s economic strategy must move, during his report to deputies on the performance of the 2019 Economic Plan during the first half of the year and guidelines for the 2020 plan.
“The plan has reserves that can be exploited to address priorities for the Cuban economy, including: defending national production; diversifying and increasing exports; replacing imports; and promoting productive chains; as well as advancing in food sovereignty, local development, implementing approved housing policy, and applying science in the solution of problems,” he said.
The minister stressed that the Cuban economy has faced financial constraints in the first half of 2019, including the tightening of the economic and commercial blockade; shortages, especially in the first months of the year; lower export revenue, mainly in tourism and nickel sales; and limitations on energy sources. Despite this, he said, a set of measures have been taken to boost the economy.
In addressing the Economic Plan for 2020, he cited the adoption of measures that impact socialist state enterprises, providing more autonomy and greater potential for development, and emphasized that the main task is “to find solutions, not give justifications, and implement measures, always with our ears to the ground, to boost the economy despite the conjuncture.”
CUBAN STATE BUDGET SUPPORTS SOCIAL CONQUESTS OF THE REVOLUTION
Once again the humanistic vocation of the state budget was made evident, when the 2018 budget close-out report was presented to deputies by Meisi Bolaños Weiss, minister of Finance and Prices.
She reported that 65.498 billion pesos were spent, 96% of what was planned, and services in education, public health, and social assistance were guaranteed, at a cost of 19 billion pesos, which represented 50% of expenses.
In public health, she said, the operation of more than 1,289 facilities was assured, including national and local hospitals, neighborhood polyclinics, dental clinics, maternity centers, nursing homes, and community centers for older adults.
Regarding funds spent on recovery efforts following extreme weather events, she noted that 264 million pesos were allocated, allowing for the repair or reconstruction of 4,785 homes.