Cuba: Are You Voting on the Family Code?

The Cuban Government is facing the closest vote in its history. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 September 2022 — The Cuban government has called on the population to vote yes in the referendum on the Family Code held this Sunday. Far from the monolithic opinion that has been imposed in the official discourse — and maybe in private — voting is like a Russian doll for those who are outside the institutional fold. Pluralism, rich in nuances and diverse, is immersed in the middle of debate. Going to vote or not? And, in that case, yes or no?

The Spanish politician and professor of Constitutional Law, Diego López Garrido, warned years ago of the risks involved in some referendums: “People, many times, don’t respond to the issue in question, but to who makes it or how they do it,” he commented on the relevance of this type of voting. The expert agreed with the opinion of many political scientists who point out the dangers of minorities being unprotected by a referendum. “The issues that concern individual rights or rights that affect a minority are legislated, but they are never decided with a popular consultation,” he said.

Some Cubans agree with this, such as the journalist Reinaldo Escobar, from this newspaper. “Rights, no matter how long they have been violated, should not be submitted to a referendum. Neither the abolition of slavery nor the vote for women nor the use of public services without racial discrimination, to give just three examples, have had to wait for to be approved at the polls.”

“This Code recognizes rights that we Cubans have and cannot enjoy until today. That, for me, is more than enough.” / “If they’re putting the Family Code to the vote, why not take multiparty free elections to the vote?”

In a similar sense, although more clearly in favor of abstention, the Cuban artist and co-author of the popular song Patria y Vida, Yotuel Romero expressed himself on Tuesday. “If you can’t elect your president, how can you expose your children to a Family Code chosen by someone you didn’t vote for? If they’re putting the Family Code to the vote, why not take multiparty free elections to the vote?” he said on his social networks.

The DemoAmlat organization, which has promoted the vote of the diaspora — deprived of this right despite having Cuban citizenship in perpetuity — through an electronic voting platform, doesn’t hesitate to describe the operation of a referendum on the Family Code as “pinkwashing, after decades of repression and forced labor as a state policy against the LGBTIQ+ community.”

“If the project means an extension of rights, and there is no provision that obliges a totalitarian regime like Cuba to consult with citizens, why submit it to a referendum?” asks this institution.

The playwright Yunior García Aguilera has also unequivocally expressed his opinion against submitting an issue like this to consultation while everything else is imposed from the leadership of the Communist Party. “The embarrassing thing here is having to submit common sense to a referendum, after we were impaled by the worst Penal Code on the continent, without consulting anyone.” However, he also points out that rejecting the dictatorship doesn’t mean “putting anyone’s rights on hold.”

Among those who consider that voting and doing it in a positive way is the least of all evils in this context is the independent journalist Mario Luis Reyes. “This Code recognizes rights that we Cubans have and cannot enjoy until today. That, for me, is more than enough,” he admits with sadness, adding: “I understand that the rejection of the dictatorship causes many people, out of pure reaction, to want to vote no so that the regime suffers a symbolic ’defeat,’ but if the ’no’ wins, the most defeated ones will be ourselves.”

Also from activism, Manuel de la Cruz, a member of the San Isidro Movement and a former political prisoner, promotes the positive vote and asks those who think differently that abstaining or rejecting the Family Code will not bring any democratic improvement. “To the people who will vote no so that their children aren’t taken away, come up with a strategy that includes more than that, because under the old code, they will also be able to take children away,” he says.

Few surprises exist in the religious sphere, where the opening of marriage, gender self-determination or surrogate wombs are enough to raise hives. The clergy has demonstrated in all countries of the world in which similar rules have been approved and have raised their voices with all the means at their disposal, managing to mobilize many from the temples. Although their room for maneuver in Cuba is more limited, they have not had any problems circulating their clear commitment to voting, but in a negative direction. “We see with disappointment that these and other proposals that were notoriously questioned by society are still intact in the Code that is now presented for a referendum,” the Cuban bishops said in an institutional statement.

Far from the voices of the Government or the communicators and intellectuals with greater capacity to raise their message, popular opinion is more divided than ever. People aren’t afraid to express the meaning of their vote, even if it’s not the one promoted by the ruling party, and the Government could see its strategy of closing ranks endangered.

The content of the Family Code is prolific and extensive. It addresses some of the topics that have generated the most controversy, from the issues of equal marriage and adoption by people of the same sex, “solidarity management” or parental authority, to other less commented ones that entail guaranteed and important improvements: the end of child marriage, care of the elderly, care of children, the right to an economic regime for both parties in marriage and the fight against domestic violence.

In these last issues, very diverse organizations from the Church to YoSíTeCreo in Cuba agree that it’s already late for the assumption of rights that are more than consolidated in many parts of the planet, and that they can be derailed because they’re included in the same legal corpus as other issues that generate a notable dissent, in addition to punishing the regime by a predictably high abstention as a method of protest.

Four days from the referendum, the Government is facing the first election that it may lose but, as some analysts point out, even that has been guaranteed “life insurance.” Suffice it to say that  reactionary, conservative and counterrevolutionary ideas will win. Even if that means admitting that the Government’s power has decreased.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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