By Jesus Jank Curbelo (El Toque)
HAVANA TIMES – So much unanimity at the National Assembly and this slow routine, this paralysis in the way people work, has made Cuba a dense thing that nobody knows where it is heading and yet, is so predictable that the president publicly predicts that the YES vote will land a victory in the constitutional referendum on Sunday, February 24th.
I was walking in the Bahia neighborhood in Habana del Este, one afternoon, and I spoke to the people I crossed paths with.
— Have you read the Constitution?
— No time.
— And are you going to vote YES or NO?
— YES, YES.
— Because I am,” says 70-year-old Roberto.
Miguel and Silvino are standing in the same line, at the same pharmacy. They’ve known each other ever since they were kids. They were both in the Navy. When I ask them the question, Silvino takes the document out of his bag and says that he carries it with him everywhere. He says YES, “like every Cuban”.
— There are Cubans who are saying NO,” I tell him.
— They aren’t Cubans.
— The goal is that every Cuban votes,” 78-year-old Miguel says. Now, you decide what you put.
— I’m not 69 years old anymore,” replies Silvino. I was born pooping into a latrine. I lived the Revolution and I have visited loads of countries thanks to the Revolution, and I have seen what poverty and begging is. I wouldn’t change this country for any other.
“But, the thing is this Constitution is really poorly written when it comes down to it. There is a part where it says that socialism is irreversible. It’s untouchable. Now, people are voting but the truth is that if you analyze the situation, what do you see? You don’t elect the president, you don’t elect the mayor, you don’t elect anyone. They assign everyone. But, one thing is real: you should elect who is going to rule over you. And, you should remove them or reaffirm them according to the work they do. Why is someone going to be in power for 50 years if they are doing a poor job? If you have a restaurant and you have an employee who doesn’t work properly, you get rid of them after a week, right?” -Rey, 69 years old. Sitting in his living room, having a coffee.
He adds: “the National Assembly has over 600 members and the vote was unanimous. Unanimity is hypocrisy. My wife and I aren’t unanimous: she has her opinion and I have my own. And, we are just two brains. How are 600 brains going to think the same thing? The thing is though, that I’m a product of this system, I have to play my part in this farce they’ve created, and move forward. That’s why I’m voting YES…
“You don’t get to choose your children, you get the ones you get. Some people get a bad child and they love them madly. You know your children’s flaws, but you love them anyway. I know what the shortcomings of my system are, but it’s my system. I’m Cuban and I live in Cuba. I can speak badly of Cuba, but I don’t like anyone else talking badly about it.
“So, you aren’t going to fix anything by saying NO to the Constitution. The problem is fixing mistakes. Sometimes, you don’t agree with something, but you don’t stop recognizing others. That balance leads you to vote YES. And there are a million people like me who know its mistakes and will vote YES.”
Amanda is 29 years old and she is unsettled by the fact that ETECSA has blocked SMS messages saying I Vote NO. She says that this violates democracy and that she is voting NO because “in this context, NO represents freedom of speech.” It makes sense. Voting NO because it prompts a YES. The opposite effect of advertising. Amanda ponders: “Voting NO gives the Constitution some legitimacy because, at the end of the day, whether this alleged freedom of choice is a fraud or not, the fact remains that somebody voting NO gives them the opportunity to brag that they have won in spite of the opposition, once the Constitution comes into effect.”
In front of 12-story apartment buildings, in the park of fried-food sellers and small stores, I ask a 40-something year old man his opinion.
— Well, YES.
— Do we have to vote NO?
— You can vote whatever you want to.
-Ah, that’s what I’m telling you. Because in all my years, I’ve never been put in this predicament.
“I am going to vote YES because this Constitution is going to be a safeguard for the future. I’ve read it, I took part in the popular debate and I agree with it,” 64-year-old David says.
“I still don’t know whether I will vote YES or NO. I’ve read some parts [of the document], but I haven’t read it all,” 36-year-old Cristian says.
Jose Angel, a 59-year-old repairman, is sure he’ll vote YES: “The only thing I didn’t like was that part about men being with men and women with women. But anyway, they took part that out already.”
“I’ve never voted because I don’t believe in the democracy,” 27-year-old Claudia says. “I also think it’s a joke that you have to vote in pencil. I was thinking about voting with a big fat NO, but a few days ago I heard this phrase in the news: “when the new Constitution is approved” and I knew that the farce and mockery was more obvious than I thought it was.” She says that at Havana’s Book Fair, Woman X was invited to present the book of Woman Y, and she took off her shirt in the middle of the stage and was wearing a I Vote NO sweater underneath. People were apparently muttering. They say that Woman Y got annoyed.