Cuba: Ballot Boxes in Captivity

Official promotional poster for Cuba’s new Family Code. (Invasor)

A possible victory of the No in the referendum on the Family Code would also be a punishing vote for the Government

By Yunior García Aguilera (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – No one will be surprised if on September 25th the regime’s referendum on the Family Code is rejected. In addition to machismo, which persists in Cuban society, the growth of evangelical religions or even reasonable doubts about the implementation of certain areas of the project, the “No” vote will also be a vote of punishment.

The outcome of this referendum cannot be analyzed using the same standards that are applied in countries where these topics have been the subject of debate. In the first place, because Cuba is not a democracy. The Parliament is not group where different views in the country seek counterweight, consensus and balance, but rather, a group of pets belonging to power and accustomed to following orders, wagging their tails, and clapping like seals. Submitting the rights of minorities to a vote has been a strategy of the Communist Party with a less-than-noble purpose.

Anyone who knows a bit about recent Cuban history knows that those in power have never been allies of the LGBT community nor defenders of the family, but the contrary. I am not speaking only of the [prison camps known as] UMAP (Military Units to Aid Production) and the parametrados* those who were ‘parameterized‘*, but rather recent events during which activists have not only been discriminated against, but have also suffered repression with distinctly homophobic characteristics.

I’m not only talking about the nefarious declarations of Fidel Castro where he called homosexuals “sick little boys,” but rather the permanence of profoundly machista discourse. One only needs to hear the terrible poem one delegate read at the Assembly exalting the virility of the commandante, at the time the Family Code was being debated.

Today our Island is more broken than ever. The dictatorship has had very dark moments throughout its more than six decades but this is the worst. The scarcity, the inflation, the blackouts, the endless lines, on top of the brutal and sustained persecution of any dissent. There have never been as many protests as there are now, nor the constant threat of another large-scale, social uprising. ##Cuba is suffering the largest exodus in our history, which is emptying the country at an intimidating pace. Never before had the regime received such a massive and explicit rejection. The current nomenklatura is, without a doubt, the most inefficient and unpopular since 1959. And there is no remedy for that, because the political gameboard is designed so that only the mediocre ascend, dismissing anyone who shows a bit of their own light.

Worst of all is that if the No vote wins, the authorities will not care. They will say they did what they could, that it was not up to them. They will accuse the opposition of being backward, right-wing extremist, fascist, ultraconservative. And rights will once again be postponed. If the Yes vote wins, the regime will tout the response as meaning total support for the Revolution and the Party. But in the end, they will do very little, in practice, to benefit the people who really need it, because neither the social base nor an efficient structure exist to enforce those rights.

It is true that there is a lot of superficial propaganda on social media, but I completely understand the fears of some about the very delicate issue of child custody. It is also true that in democratic countries there are similar regulations, but let’s not forget that in Cuba there is one Party that is above the Constitution and the laws. They interpret everything, always in their favor, and they have never needed the law to crush whomever they want. With the Code or without it, any Cuban who becomes the target of destruction will be completely defenseless when facing the henchmen in power.

I have always declared my support and solidarity with the LGBT community. I defend their right to have rights to the end, but I respect the decision each person will take on September 25th. Whatever happens, the struggle to conquer as much dignity as possible and to eradicate all kinds of discrimination should continue with greater force.

The debate surrounding the Code had generated so much controversy that very few have noticed that the dictatorship will return to the ballot box in November. Last year they had announced that, due to the pandemic, the delegates’ terms would be extended. The date is very symbolic, November 27th. But that will be the topic for another article.

*Translator’s note: *Parametrados / parametracion: From the word “parameters.” Parametracion (parameterization) is a process of establishing parameters and declaring anyone who falls outside them (the parametrados) to be what is commonly translated as “misfits” or “marginalized.” This is a process much harsher than implied by these terms in English. The process is akin to the McCarthy witch hunts and black lists and is used, for example, to purge the ranks of teachers, and even to imprison people.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez for Translating Cuba

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