Referendum in Cuba as a Punishment Vote

For Cuban families your vote counts! Billboard from the National Electoral Council

By Francisco Acevedo

HAVANA TIMES – A referendum to approve the new Family Act will take place on Sunday September 25th, and it will be the first popular vote after the uprisings that shook the country last year.

The Act has been called progressive because it includes inclusive provisions and new concepts of the family unit and relationships, but unfortunately, it comes at a time when the last thing most Cubans care about is the content of its articles.

This Family Act doesn’t mean much in a Cuba where families – considered the pillar of society – are the weakest link because their members still don’t have basic rights.

A bla bla bla law

With a Constitution where individual freedoms stand out for their absence, a Family Act like this one is pretty much just bla bla bla.

It’s strange to talk about families when this is the institution that has been hit the hardest by the mass exodus of so many family members over the past 60 years.

At a time when it’s practically impossible to find a single family in Cuba that has all of its members living on the island, it’s impossible to think that this Act has come at the right time.

Its articles don’t mention anything about those who found themselves forced to abandon the country and leave their children behind, as if they didn’t lose everything. Nor does it talk about the people who must wait eight years to be reunited with their families, just because they took the step [to stay] while they were serving a government contracted mission.

Not to mention the Cubans who have protested, regardless of their age. Families have nothing to do with this, and a minor can be sentenced to many years in prison for publicly speaking out against the Government and demanding freedom.

Nor is the family important to people who where a uniform, because if their mother, brother or child takes to the streets to protest then they also deserve to be beaten.

Nor can you speak out if one of your family members doesn’t receive the medical assistance they deserve because medicines are in shortage, or if their children are unable to sleep because of blackouts or are unable to take a mid-morning snack to school the next day.

A lot has been said about the progressiveness of this law in terms of gender, but we know that a Communist homosexual isn’t the same as a dissident homosexual. The latter will continue to be ostracised, like they have been for decades.

We have to talk about everyone’s rights

In order to talk about rights, we have to include every right, not just stick to the surface and defend the LGBTQI+ rights, but every Cuban citizen’s rights.

The new Family Act has many positive aspects, nobody can deny that, but we’re talking about something else here, and if the population can’t go to the ballot box to decide their political future, this is the time to show their disapproval with their daily reality here in Cuba.

I’m really sorry for the Family Act, but now is the time to send a clear signal to the world that Cubans are fed up with their harsh reality, and there is no reason not to express it publicly.

If taking to the streets is a risk because of the fierce repression unleashed by the dictatorship since the famous July 11th protests, putting a blank ballot in the box or marking the “NO” box is everyone’s duty who identified with the protests that Sunday, whether they took to the streets or not.

Voting is a completely anonymous act, but the result will be public and well-known, despite the fact many potential “NOs” have jumped ship via Nicaragua or another route.

With these approximately half a million Cubans, most of whom are of voting age, if this referendum is carried out how it should be (even if it has another intention), the Cuban people would have really spoken out.

It would be helpful if an international celebrity, including US government representatives, warned Cubans that a “YES” vote could be understood as support for the dictatorship, and the ruling elite buying more time in power.

Of course, we know that voting here is political, and the government tries to project it is a display of unity and showing off the majority although people are asking for pears and they are being given apples.

Those who support the Revolution from abroad, from their comfortable capitalist lives who believe it’s savage and inhumane but stick to it, will have another thing to follow with their blind faith, not the Cuban people who suffer, but the leaders who rule the country.

Do you want to carry on living like you have up until now?

Whether you like ir or not, it’s just one more thing to boost their image, and that’s why it’s important not to confuse things, because your vote can be manipulated, and it will definitely be manipulated if it’s a YES, for something that you probably didn’t really want. A small gesture, a complicit sign, is all it takes for another decade in disgrace.

From it’s very conception, the referendum has been streaked with death, as Cubans living abroad don’t have the right to vote, except those who are on diplomatic missions or are working in government contracted efforts.

A referendum doesn’t make any sense if it doesn’t take the whole of the population into account, and I’m just as Cuban as my cousin is living in France. What’s more, if a NO vote wins and this brings about an important change, I might be able to hug her every day and not once every year like I have been for the past five years.

That’s why this vote is so important, and any vote in the near future we need to look at the long-term, as if the question always is: Do you want to carry on living like you have up until now?

The Family Act will need to be shelved for now and wait for better times. We’ve got far more important things waiting for us.

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