Cuba: municipal autonomy versus totalitarianism

Cuba: municipal autonomy versus totalitarianism
Cuba: municipal autonomy versus totalitarianism

The common theme in visits by Cuban officials to the country’s municipalitiesin the meetings of the Council of Ministers and the Council of State, and in the official press, it is get local authorities to actively participate in the distortion correction and the revival of the economy. However, the poor result obtained has among its main causes the setback suffered by municipal autonomy.

Brief historical account

The Law of Municipalities of June 1878 divided Cuba into six provinces and municipalities, subject to the control of the governor general of the Island. This law defined the municipality as a legal association of all the people who resided in a territorial area, represented by a Town Hall.

The Constitution of 1901 established for each municipality a mayor elected by first-degree suffrage. At the same time, the Organic Law of the Municipalities of 1908 considered them an essential part of the political organization of the State, and attributed them legal personality with municipal autonomy to manage the interests of the locality.

The 1940 Constitution established guarantees so that local rulers and municipal agreements could not be suspended by the President of the Republic, the governor of the province, or by any other government authority, and that “no Law could collect for the State, the provinces or other organizations or institutions, the amounts collected by the municipalities for of contributions, taxes and other means of obtaining municipal income”.

The 1976 Constitution—dictated after everything was centralized and monopolized by the State—defined the municipality as a local company, with its own legal personality for all legal purposes, but without the guarantees that the Magna Carta of 1940 had given it. The 2019 Constitution returned to the concept of autonomy, but limited it to the election or designation of its authorities, to the power to decide on the use of the resources of the corresponding territory and to the exercise of the powers that concern it, as well as to dictate agreements and provisions necessary for the exercise of its powers; which represented a brake for local initiative.

Law 139, of 2020 (Organization and Functioning of the Municipal Administration Council), established that “the provisions of higher state bodies are mandatory for lower ones.” […]. The Municipal Administration Council complies with the guidelines of the Governor and the Provincial Council issued to harmonize the interests of the province and the municipalities.” That is, the municipalities were subordinated to the central power. Therefore, talking about autonomy, ignoring the setback suffered, from a practical point of view is a null exercise.

The blatant contradiction between municipal autonomy (in word) and totalitarianism (in fact) explains the weakness and inability of municipal administrations, manifested in the tours that municipal officials have been taking since 2019. Party-State-Government.

The tours

The current visit schedule is the same as previous years. They meet with selected officials, administrators, and workers, who explain what they do to increase production and answer the official’s questions.

In Sancti Spíritus, the President of the Republic presented a brilliant discovery, when he said: “developing the municipalities we develop the provincesand by developing the provinces we develop the country.” The Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero, expressed: “We must look for formulas based on one’s own territorial potential“. In Bauta, the Dairy Products Company presents instability in the supply of contracted milk to private farmers. In Baracoa, the chocolate factory cannot take off due to lack of cocoa, and the fishing company is affected in the capture of fingerlings of eel due to the obsolescence of the vessels. In Jesús Menéndez, the board making plant has lacked fuel to process the bagasse. In Antilla, the port is not in operation due to the technical state of the naval resources and the docks. and the railway. In Camagüey, sugar production owes the family basket 235 tons and they have failed to deliver milk by ten million liters.

The newspaper Granma of April 16, 2024 raised “the urgency that the economic actors in each locality assume higher levels of social commitment that help overcome the multiple vulnerabilities and material problems of the nation.

In the Council of Ministers on April 27, the Minister of Economy and Planning, Joaquín Alonso Vázquez, stated that, at the end of the month of March, export income decreased, imports decreased, economic activities such as the production of sugar and electricity generation were not met, and losses were recorded in more than 300 companies in strategic sectors. That same day, the autonomy issue was discussed in the meeting with the governors, where the prime minister, Manuel Marrero, acknowledged that “there is dispersion in the way the measures are being implemented”, that “important things are being left out” and that “a strong hand is lacking in many places”.

Finally, the president of the National Assembly of People’s Power, the honorary doctorate in Social Sciences, Esteban Lazo, met in Cacocum with directors of the Cristino Naranjo plant, which in addition to the low agricultural and industrial performance only has planted 13 of the 20 hectares of cane, made a profound observation. He said, according to the newspaper report Granma of May 11: “If all the areas are not planted, there is no yield.”

Those and others useless and desperate actions to increase production in the municipalitiesthey collide and will collide with the absence of true autonomy.

The cause of the setback suffered by Cuban municipalities It lies in the absence of free owners and producers, and in the conversion of municipalities into an appendix of central control. For these reasons, the declarations and the hundreds and hundreds of measures issued have fallen on deaf ears. And it will continue to be like this, until the violated rights and freedoms are returned to the Cubans, and to the municipalities the autonomy they had until 1958with which cities like Marianao achieved considerable economic development.

 
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