Dissidents and activists inside and outside of Cuba are laying out a roadmap toward consensus on a constitutional reform that would usher in political change on the Communist-ruled island, promoters of the project said here Wednesday.

The initiative, presented at a press conference in Havana by the leader of the Arco Progresista group, Manuel Cuesta Morua, is backed by dozens of activists and more than 50 dissident organizations in Cuba and among exiles in countries like the United States, Spain, Panama and Chile.

"We believe it is urgent and necessary to define and come to an agreement, first, on what should be the ground rules for the present and the future of our coexistence, before deciding who can rule," participants said in a joint statement.

The roadmap seeks to embrace the diversity of interests in Cuban society and lays out two paths - a process of open debates to reach a consensus, and another of collecting citizens' signatures and suggestions, which has already begun.

Simultaneous debates are scheduled to begin in Cuba, the U.S. and Spain, with an agenda centered on people's different ideas about this constitutional change and the role of expats in a "future democratic state."

"Before anything else, we Cubans must decide how we want to be governed. And this 'before' always means before we start the old dispute about defining exactly which people will make that change," Cuesta Morua said.

The roadmap comes 12 years after the late Oswaldo Paya, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, promoted a similar reform with the Varela Project, which was presented to parliament in 2002 after collecting 11,020 signatures calling for a referendum to make changes to the constitution.

The response of the Cuban government was to hold a referendum of its own constitutional reform declaring Cuba's socialist system to be "irrevocable."

Cuesta Morua recalled Wednesday the Varela Project, but insisted that it had been presented "in another time."

"We believe that conditions are better now," he said. EFE