Cuba to amend constitution to extend economic reforms

Havana (AFP) –


Cuba will seek to amend its constitution to further open up the economy but without modifying the "irrevocable character of socialism," authorities there said Monday.

Former president Raul Castro, who stepped down last month, introduced reforms in 2011 to open the top-heavy, centralized economy to small private businesses and foreign investment.

The changes resulted in a burst of activity in the first years, as Cubans opened restaurants and other small service-oriented businesses.

But the changes did not unleash the hoped-for economic takeoff.

A special commission will be formed during an extraordinary session of parliament on Saturday to present the constitutional changes, which deputies will discuss before putting them to a referendum.

The details of the proposed changes were not revealed, but they are expected to continue the reforms launched by Raul Castro, who transformed the Cuba he inherited from brother Fidel in 2006.

The changes will also provide a legal underpinning for those already made.

When Raul Castro handed over the presidency on April 19 to Miguel Diaz-Canel, a 58-year-old civilian, he underlined that his reforms "are not intended to modify the irrevocable character of socialism" in Cuba.

Castro is slated to remain as secretary general of the island's Communist Party until 2021.

Cuba's constitution has been updated three times since it was promulgated in 1976.