A Poisoned Referendum on Cuba’s New Family Code

“The only propaganda on public billboards, television spots and the front pages of newspapers is directed at a Yes vote of approval.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 15 September 2022 — There are about ten days left before the third referendum promoted by those who have been governing in Cuba for more than 62 years. The first occurred in 1976, to approve the first Constitution of the Republic drafted by the Communist Party; the second, in 2019, when the Constitution that governs today was submitted to the consideration of the electorate; and the third, which will be held on September 25 of this year, for the Family Code.

I exclude from this list the collection of signatures to approve the amendment of the Constitution in the summer of 2002, where the concept of the irrevocability of the socialist system was introduced. That, a maneuver by Fidel Castro to counteract the Varela Project, was not a referendum because there was no option of marking NO on a secretly-filled ballot that was deposited in an urn.

None of the aforementioned consultations has been preceded by a debate where dissimilar opinions emerge. Voters have only relied on the arguments of those who have prepared these texts. Everything different that citizens have been able to hear or read has been restricted to some religious temples and access to social networks and independent media which are the victims of permanent censorship. The only propaganda on the public billboards, the television spots and the front pages of the newspapers is directed at a Yes vote of approval.

This constitutes an act of ideological violence comparable to that suffered by those enrolled in a sect, on whom the opinion of a leader is imposed. It doesn’t matter if the imposed postulates are noble or evil. What’s perverse is the abolition of options.

Rights, no matter how long they have been violated, shouldn’t be submitted to a referendum. Neither the abolition of slavery, women’s right to vote, or the use of public services without racial discrimination, to give just three examples, had to wait to be approved at the polls. The inclination that human beings have to relate intimately and live as a couple with another human being should have as a restriction only that the will of the other is not violated and that both are in a position to exercise it. It’s a right.

The inclusion in the Code of what has been called an “affective de facto union instrumented in notarial proceedings” and which is interpreted as the legal acceptance of “equal marriage” not only finds followers among the LGBT community, but in all those who recognize themselves as free thinkers. The other points that have been most disputed are the replacement of the concept of “parental authority” by “parental co-responsibility,” the legalization of surrogate pregnancy and the granting to minors of a progressive autonomy that has been seen as a threat to parental authority.

The Family Code partially satisfies some sectors of the population and at the same time alarms others. There are even those who are content with some aspects and frightened by others. People with disabilities, grandparents or women who want to defend the right to have an abortion will be motivated to approve the Code to receive its benefits, but they will have to pay the price of accepting the other articles even if they contradict their religious beliefs, customs or prejudices.

In order not to lose the custom, in case the Yes obtains the majority, it will be exposed as “a victory of socialism, a confirmation of the people’s support for the Revolution and Fidel’s legacy.” That is also ideological violence.

It’s a pleasure that many dissatisfied Cubans, even those who agree with most of the articles of the Code, won’t want to concede to the regime. The curious thing is that those who are on the other side, where the unconditional militate and the macho, authoritarian and homophobic abound, will have to be disciplined, swallow the liberal concessions and mark a cross on the yes grid.

I dare to predict that this exercise at the polls will leave a record of abstentions and that, if imposed, will be processed in the official media as proof of “our democracy,” never as a defeat of the dictatorship.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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