Or is it just a justified act of civic protest?
By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – I have made it clear that I will vote NO in the February 24th referendum on more than one occasion. I am even very active on Facebook in debates about the viability of voting NO instead of NOT voting. The exchange with the radical opposition has been tough, just as it has been with sincere Communists.
But, are we just warriors without a cause? Do we vote NO maliciously, to go against the current or because we just like to disagree? These are important questions and I will try to answer them briefly with the following points.
– I recognize the need for a new constitution in our country, but it needs to be a document that will solve our national problems. And, the constitution that is being proposed doesn’t have the slightest chance of doing that, it’s just focused on continuity. And, we don’t want to carry on with the same problems we always have.The constitutional draft doesn’t recognize the political rights of those of us who aren’t Communists, as it stipulates that there can only be one political party, the Communist Party, and it puts it above the government and the State. Are all Cubans Communists? Obviously, they aren’t. I think they might even be an elite political minority, just like the whites were in apartheid South Africa. “Non-Communists” are suffering a political apartheid here in Cuba.
– Our basic rights are mentioned in the draft constitution to be voted on, but they can’t be effective if there isn’t a real Rule of Law with separate powers. And the fact is they are voided by Article. 5 of this same document, with the superior empowerment of the Communist Party and the anti-democratic and indirect election system that is rigged.
– The Ministry of the Interior (MININT) has prerogatives over citizen’s basic rights which aren’t mentioned in the Constitution and need to be “legalized” by more relaxed provisions to a later Law. And, in these cases, the law isn’t subordinated to the Constitution, but rather becomes an open extension of it. And the Law is dictated by decree here in Cuba, which is very easy for our government and they are always unanimously passed. Whether that’s arbitrary arrest for up to 7 days; without a lawyer from the very first moment; subjected to psychological torture in isolation and staying in inhumane conditions.
Not to mention that things don’t change after 7 days, in fact, they just get worse. And, the disproportionate application of “contempt for authorities” and “attack against authorities”, as a fast-track way to punish people, with sentences that are too harsh for the alleged crime in the Penal Code. Arbitrary regulation of freedom of movement, especially abroad, without a legal process. And, not being able to press charges against MININT officials, as they answer to military justice. The only thing you can do is file a complaint with MININT itself.
– Real citizenship, which should be understood as something positive in a state of Rule of Law, is a powerful weapon to keep Cubans from the diaspora community politically neutral, by allowing them to visit their own country and their families. While in Cuba, their foreign citizenship doesn’t protect them and they have the same rights or lack of rights as Cubans living on the island.
– The economy will carry on stagnant. No progress can be made if the same obstacles that have made us live in poverty continue to exist. Even though there is mention of other kinds of assets, it has been made clear that socialist state companies will continue to be supreme and hold monopoly power, which has been the reason for our economic failure over 60 years. And, the free market is being recognized but the planned centralized economy continues to dictate it, which has been a straitjacket for Cuba’s forces of production. It is clearly focused on continuity, of fighting wealth instead of poverty.
– Lastly, the political system isn’t democratic or representative on the whole. Parliament will continue to be a formal gathering that will come together 6 days out of the year to unanimously approve laws and decisions that a group of superior leaders dictate. Cubans abroad won’t be able to vote or be elected, they can only give their opinion like they did now in the constitutional referendum for the first time.
If this constitution were to solve at least one of Cuba’s problems, I might vote YES. Especially if that were salvaging basic rights, such as freedom of expression or political association. But, it isn’t the answer to a single one of our problems and people have reacted to the constitutional debate by emigrating more because they are certain that things will remain the way they are.
This is why I am voting NO. I want a better Cuba, not the same Cuba that denies Cubans a vital space because it continues to cling onto dysfunctional and out-of-date dogmas that have nothing to do with our reality. I want our people to not have to emigrate to live a dignified life. Standing in opposition isn’t a whimsical action or a simple act of rebellion against the system, it’s a legitimate and necessary action. It’s our civic duty.