Why I voted NO in the Family Act Referendum

For Cuban Families your vote counts! Message from the National Electoral Council

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

HAVANA TIMES – The referendum to approve the Family Act, or not, took place on Sunday September 25th. The controversial legal issues in it divided Cuban society a great deal more than any other issue because it involves a lot of things and “plays” with lots of sensitive issues for the Cuban people.

There were three campaigns: 1) the YES campaign: defended by the Government with all of its propaganda, political machinery and acolyte pseudo-civil society, as well as by the LGBTIQ+ community with or without connections to the Cuban Government.

2) the NO campaign: defended on the street only, without the opportunity to organize meetings, acts or banners, and on social media, mainly by members of the religious community, citizens connected to or committed to the Government, or the politically indifferent, as well as the opposition, but they were all concerned or opposed to some more controversial articles; and the opposition who wanted to reject a politicized Act.

3) the abstention campaign: mainly defended by the opposition who believe that it isn’t worth voting in a dictatorship, and that it’s better not to go because there aren’t any safeguards and they hope that the abstention vote is so great that it proves the Cuban people’s dislike of the political system. This was supported by a significant group of young people who see Cuba as a temporary stepping stone in their lives as they wait to be able to emigrate and they don’t want to make their families here, so they couldn’t care less about the Family Act.

I personally voted NO and supported the NO campaign. Why?

YES wasn’t an option for me, but I voted NO because I’m a dissident of the system pushing the referendum, because I’ve never acted against anyone’s rights for that sole reason. I really have nothing against same-sex marriage and if it had been a referendum just about this, I would have voted YES.

But there were other articles in the Family Act that related to things I believe have been manipulated and are counterproductive. This is the case of housing, parental responsibility and the right and obligation to receive and give alimony. These were the points that stopped me from voting YES.

ABSTENTION could be a very extreme solution you choose at some point, but it’s not for me and I don’t see the point of it pretty much ever. Abstaining for me is to not have an opinion or to give up your opinion, or let others decide for me or stick me in a varied and confusing group where my position isn’t made clear. I always want my position to be crystal clear.

There are lots of interesting arguments for abstention and to promote abstention under a system like the Cuban Government, but none of these are stronger and more convincing than my determination to have my opinion heard loud and clear. I believe abstention helps the system. In this particular case, I believe it helped a great deal.

While it’s true they dominate the electoral process, that they do whatever they want, if they want to commit fraud they can: but then they’ll do it anyway, they’ll steal our vote, but I don’t think we should ever make it easier for them by not voting. Let them get their hands dirty.

NO was my choice, and I am publicly announcing this so I can explain the reasoning behind my decision. I’m not a prisoner of social control, at least in this regard. Freeing yourself completely in Cuba and holding onto your freedom (not being locked away behind bars) is impossible.

Maybe if it had been the LGBTIQ+ community pushing for this referendum, I would have voted YES because their objectives they’ve been fighting all their lives for would be there and they would have left other issues out for now, until we have a democracy. But I didn’t have this imperative, so I voted NO. Even so, I am happy for them.

Just like I empathize with those who opposed the new Family Act for religious purposes, holding onto their faith sincerely, and are suffering today because it was approved. I know that their opposition is founded upon their preconceptions. They even opposed it thinking, from their viewpoint, that they were doing this in the best interests of the LGBTIQ+ community and society as a whole. It’s another perspective and it’s a very controversial issue with lots of angles.

Anyhow, the Family Act was approved because it had the support of the system, it sprung from the system and like Mariela Castro said, it became a “Party duty” for it to come to light. That’s because anything the PCC promotes in Cuba clearly becomes reality. This Family Act has proven this like no other because it didn’t receive enough support and it was still approved.

It’s worth mentioning the fact that the YES campaign was completely unbalanced in the media, which belongs to the Government, and they demonized and made the NO campaign invisible; with different social control mechanisms activated for the YES campaign. At the end of the day, there wasn’t an independent monitoring of the electoral process or international observers; and abstention drew away NO votes and let the YES vote prevail.

Read more from the diary of Osmel Ramirez here.

Osmel Ramirez

I'm from Mayari, a little village in Holguín. I was born on the same day that the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. A good omen, since I identify myself as a pacifist. I am a biologist but I am passionate about politics, history and political philosophy. Writing about these topics, I got to journalism, precisely here on Havana Times. I consider myself a democratic socialist and my main motivation is to try to be useful to the positive change that Cuba needs.