14ymedio, Havana, 24 February 2019 — Starting at seven in the morning this Sunday, more than 25,000 polling stations opened for Cubans to vote in the referendum on the new Constitution. On a warm morning in which official nervousness can be felt in the wide police presence in the streets, more than 8 million Cubans are summoned to the polls.
The polling stations will remain open until 6:00 p.m., and special polling stations in hospitals, airports and bus stations have also been set up. Within the first minutes of the openings, there was still little attendance, as 14ymedio was able to verify in a tour of more than twenty polling places.
In Havana, the daily routine continued despite the fact that the process engages more than 1.6 million people in the city. Agricultural markets showed long lines to buy food in a city that has seen increases in the shortages of several products in recent weeks.
Throughout the country, 25,348 polling stations have been set up, according to data from the National Electoral Commission, 7.6% of them located in private homes. The process excludes people who are serving a sentence in prison and those who are on parole, such as the former prisoners of the Black Spring who still remain on the island.
Prior to this Sunday, the authorities opened 122 election stations in 130 countries, but only Cuban diplomats and professionals who are serving on official missions could participate. The large community of emigrants from the island was excluded from the process, an exclusion that generated a flood of criticism towards the Plaza of the Revolution.
The voters who are in the national territory have before them this Sunday a ballot with one box for Yes and another for No and the question “Do you ratify the new Constitution of the Republic?” The final draft of the new Constitution has 229 articles, 11 titles, two special provisions, 13 transitory and two final, and was approved last December by the National Assembly.
The new Constitution maintains the control of the Communist Party over the most important decisions in the country and describes it as “the leading force of society.” In its preamble it consecrates communism as the goal to look forward to and in its Article 4 it says that “the citizens have the right to fight by all the means, including an armed fight, (…) against anything that tries to demolish the political order.”
Among the steps of progress of the constitutional text in comparison with the Constitution of 1976, is that it recognizes private property, accepts foreign investment as necessary, establishes the figures of the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister, and sets a limit of two consecutive presidential terms.
However, in the process of developing the text, the article that opened the door to same-sex marriage was eliminated and the constitution states that fundamental means of communication cannot be privately owned.
The government has deployed an intense campaign for a Yes vote, using the national media, billboards, signs on buses and campaigns in schools. In contrast, a part of the citizenry has called for the rejection of the Constitution through the slogans #yovotono (I’m Voting No) or #yonovoto (I’m Not Voting) but without being able to access the channels of mass communications.
The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.