Cubans asked to affirm socialism

Saturday, June 15, 2002

HAVANA -- Millions of Cubans are being asked to publicly affirm Fidel Castro's four-decade-old socialist system as "untouchable" in a government campaign defying calls for democratic reforms.

Over four days beginning Saturday, all Cubans 16 years of age and older will be asked to sign a petition saying they support a constitutional amendment declaring the nation's economic, political and social systems "untouchable" -- meaning they cannot be changed.

Opposition activists say the effort is Castro's answer to their own civil liberties campaign, known as the Varela Project. Most Cubans first heard of Varela last month in a speech by former President Jimmy Carter, who was visiting the island.

Government officials expect most Cubans to sign, but a number of island dissidents complained that no political or economic system should be engraved in stone for future generations.

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