Why Can’t Cuba Have Recall Referendums Like Venezuela?

The Wait. Photo: Juan Suarez

By Ronal Quiñones

HAVANA TIMES – While it seems it won’t happen in the end, expectations were running high in Cuba with the possibility of a recall referendum being held against Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro.

On Monday, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) announced that it wouldn’t hold the vote after only 42,421 signatures out of the 4.2 million needed nationwide were collected.

The opposition claims that the Government didn’t give them enough time to collect signatures, as according to the Law, the date needs to be announced at least 15 days before, and now everything was cut down to just 12 hours to try and decide whether Maduro will end his second six-year presidential term in 2025 or not.

In Cuba, beyond whether the referendum would have a positive or negative result, the question being asked was: Why in Venezuela and not in Cuba? The answer was obvious: because our Constitution doesn’t contemplate this democratic appeal.

According to the Venezuelan Constitution, once half of a Head of State’s term has come to an end, a minimum of 20% of those registered on the electoral register can request a call for a recall referendum.

In Venezuela, just over four million signatures were needed, while approximately half of this number would be needed in Cuba.

We already know that this hasn’t been legally stipulated in our Constitution, but the question I ask is: would a recall referendum against President Diaz-Canel have a positive result?

For starters, with the climate of panic that exists on the island, it’d be very hard to get two million people to print their names in black and white and ask for our president’s demotion.

If we add to this the fact that the country is in the middle of a “cleansing” process, with many opposition leaders in prison and quite a significant semi-official exodus, matters just get worse.

The latter is a relatively old strategy employed by Cuban leaders to get rid of citizens that make them uneasy. This was done at the beginning of the Revolution, then with the Mariel boatlift in 1980, and with the rafters’ crisis in 1994, and now it’s happening again via Nicaragua.

Yep, because there’s no doubt that this sudden decision by “buddy” Daniel Ortega to scrap visa applications was made in Havana and seeks to let all of those who don’t support Diaz-Canel to leave the island.

While migration has never ceased, it has become a mass phenomenon today, and the political background is clear.

That’s why even if there was a chance for a recall referendum or a plebiscite, it would be difficult to win with a majority vote if those who should be deciding with their vote are no longer in Cuba to exercise this right.

I wouldn’t put it past leaders here to propose this possibility as a way to “clean their image” and show that there aren’t enough opposition members to beat them at the polls. Anyhow, it’s a risk they might not dare to take, but I honestly believe they could even win it.

If a recall referendum is held and they do win, it’s clear that nobody will be able to remove them from power this century, because with all the human rights violations they’ve committed and continue to commit, the rest of the world would watch indifferently, after they “democratically” prove alleged popular support, and life will carry on the same, like the song goes.

This is why calls are being made from many different places for these Cubans not to leave, but we have to understand those who suffer attacks every day, those who have been marked as outcasts, those who have lost their sources of income, and even those who are just fed up of working so hard just to get by.

When your wages slip through your fingers like water just to cover your most basic needs, when you must spend hours waiting in line just to get something as basic as bread, when you have to invest a lot of your time just to get somewhere, or when you can’t speak your mind freely, it’s almost impossible not to think about looking for a fresh start elsewhere.

Please take note that I’m not talking about stigmatized opposition members in this last paragraph, or those who have been locked up for protesting, I’m talking about the vast majority of the population, except for the leaders and those who enjoy perks.

But if the Cubans who should be guiding our people leave the country (for logical reasons too, of course), this fearful multitude won’t have the courage needed to stand up for real change.

It’s a very complex issue, because people have the right to decide to abandon ship, even when they know that this goes against collective wellbeing. At the end of the day, we need to understand that every individual needs to look out for their best interests, and that we only have one life on this Earth.

In fact, desperation has been one of this Government’s main weapons to stay in power. The helplessness of the masses to attempt to push for real change, conformity, and the fear of making things getting worse by expressing their discontent. This has even been seen recently with some relatives of those being taken to trial for the July 11th protests, who have appeared on national TV and justified their family members’ sentences.

We all know that this is just a minority, and that these relatives are surely the ones who created a ruckus, but it’s just as upsetting to see them being manipulated in this way to clean the image of trials that are mostly marked by injustice, and excessive sentences.

This is why Nicaragua’s borders continue to invite the opposition to leave for good, and this bleeding won’t stop until the Government feels that it has the majority in its hands again, which isn’t synonymous with support.

When that time comes, we’ll watch how this door closes just as suddenly as it was opened, and we might even find out that they’re calling a recall referendum here in Cuba.

Read more by Ronal Quiñones here.


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