Yahoo! Thu Jun 27, 6:51 Pm Et . By Anita Snow, Associated
HAVANA (AP) - Cuba's one-party socialist state was engraved in the
constitution as "irrevocable" after Fidel Castro's communist
parliament followed his lead and rejected domestic and foreign efforts to
introduce democratic reforms.
Castro was believed to have called the special session of the rubber-stamp
National Assembly which passed the constitutional amendment late
Wednesday after the convergence of a number of challenges.
Internally, a group mounted the
Varela Project, gathering
Cubans' signatures for a referendum asking voters if they favored individual
rights such as freedom of speech and the ability to own a business. The National
Assembly has not officially responded to the petition drive that delivered
11,000 signatures six weeks ago.
Former President Jimmy Carter endorsed the Varela Project in a nationally
broadcast speech during his visit to the island last month and called for
democratic reforms. Most Cuban citizens first heard of the Varela signature
drive from Carter.
Last month, President Bush promised the United States would not lift
restrictions on travel to and trade with Cuba until the island held multiparty
Parliament's adoption of the constitutional change will "annul the
people's sovereignty," said Oswaldo Paya, organizer of the Varela Project.
"This is very grave," Paya said. "Cuba has ceased to be a
While holding little hope the petition drive would ever be taken seriously
by the communist government, Paya still forecasts change in the near term.
"Someday, very soon, the people will make a new constitution," he
Castro led a revolution to power in Cuban in 1959 and two years later, on
the eve of the failed U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion, declared the country
In the four decades since, Castro has defied repeated calls for change, even
after the collapse of his main source of trade and aid the Soviet Union
sent the communist isle into an economic tailspin in the early 1990s.
Of Cuba's 578 deputies, 559 were present and all voted for the proposed
amendment declaring the socialist system "irrevocable, and capitalism will
never return again to Cuba." To that end, an article of the constitution
was changed making it illegal for lawmakers to attempt to change the Cuban
socialist system in the future.
Although deputies are elected, only one party the Communist Party
is legal here. Not a single deputy protested, objected or qualified their
"Now, the theoretical possibility no longer exists in the constitution
of the republic to exchange socialism for capitalism," Castro said shortly
before the late Wednesday vote.
He acknowledged that changes in the constitution before the amendment had
been nearly impossible, and this would make them absolutely forbidden.
The vote after came Cuba's mass organizations all tied to the
Communist Party gathered the signatures of more than 8 million people
calling for the constitutional change. Many people said they felt compelled to
sign because party loyalty can lead to a better life.
The new constitutional amendment answers Bush's May 20 Cuban policy speech
demanding steps toward capitalism and democracy by saying "economic,
diplomatic and political relations with any other state cannot be negotiated
under aggression, threat, or pressure of a foreign power."
Castro warned earlier Wednesday that already limited Cuba-U.S. relations
could be cut back further and the American mission here could be closed if U.S.
diplomats persist in "violations of our sovereignty" a
reference to recently stepped up pro-democracy efforts on the island.