Constitutional Referendum: Vote NO!

Por Haroldo Dilla Alfonso

HAVANA TIMES – On February 24th, the Cuban people will be waiting for the voting results. I mean to say the results of the vote of every Dolby jury at the Academy Awards to select the year’s winners. Later, they will learn the result of the constitutional referendum that took place that day.

However, the latter will come without any surprises (unlike the duel between Glen Close and Yalitza Aparicio), as everyone already knows that the YES vote will win.

This constitution is quite simply like the rest of post-revolutionary Cuban politics: soggy, predictable and timid. A very apparatchik process. First, General Raul Castro explained that a constitutional “update” was needed, which already set out its limits: accepting what had been done without looking to the future too much.

After a dense process mediated by a series of neighborhood assemblies which ended up getting rid of its few innovative points, such as the omission of article 68 which would have paved the way for legalizing gay marriage, among others.

They always said that there wouldn’t be any changes against what they call socialist, and to tell you the truth, it isn’t anything but the consolidation of the post-revolutionary elite’s unchallenged power in the process of becoming our next bourgeoisie.

There was a real debate but it was extremely limited in terms of its social impact. There were probably some heated exchanges at certain assemblies, but these weren’t communicated as we don’t have an independent media that realizes what is really going on, instead of focusing on what is conveniently happening.

Intellectuals struck up an interesting debate on some websites, such as Cuba Posible, El Toque and La Joven Cuba. However, for a people who are often isolated from using the Internet, these positions and arguments didn’t have any wide-reaching resonance. Some opposition groups also spoke out, but they were harshly repressed.

In the end, ordinary people were given access to a printed tabloid with the new constitutional document and an official explanation for the introduced changes, and were bombarded with a call for a unilateral YES vote.

I believe it’s important to vote NO, having explained my reasons in previous articles. Firstly, because it’s a Constitution that does nothing to resolve the problem of democracy, participation and representation. Secondly, because it doesn’t do anything to resolve the national crisis as it still withholds all rights from the diaspora community.

I don’t doubt that there are some well-established optimists who find a “qualitative strengthening of many aspects” of the Republic, like the directors of Cuba Posible confess “the majority” of its partisans do (what a shame!).

However, none of this justifies upholding an authoritarian political system, which continues to divide our society, preventing us from practicing our most basic rights and putting the island in an international network that is quite frankly disgraceful.  

We have to vote NO, even though we know that the YES vote will win. The Cuban government will never allow itself to be defeated at the polls, but they don’t need any special rigging because they have already set up the great fraud.

Tired, misinformed and scared people will vote YES. However, if the government receives a message of great discontent (30% voting NO would be high given today’s circumstances) this would serve as a political message for an elite that is being recycled, whose so-called historic figures are appearing in Granma’s list of orbituaries quite regularly.

The February 24th referendum is an opportunity that needs to be taken advantage of by every Cuban who can vote. Sending a message to the residents at the Palacio de la Revolucion, making it clear that their time is running out. And that the Republic needs a plural and democratic system, a body of inalienable individual rights and a transnational policy, because its society transcends national borders. 

However, I’m not going to vote because I can’t, although I must admit that my professional obsession will mean that I will be paying more attention to the referendum’s results than Yalitza’s beautiful winning smile.