14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez and Herodes Díaz, Havana/Santiago de Cuba, 25 September 2022 — In the early hours of this Sunday morning there was a notably small turnout in the voting centers for the referendum on the Family Code, and the majority of the voters were elderly, according to 14ymedio reporters in Havana and Santiago de Cuba.
About eight and a half million Cubans have been called to participate in this referendum, the third that is being held under the current political system. The referendum will approve or reject a text that in recent months has generated intense controversy about equal marriage, adoption by homosexual couples and surrogacy.
According to the National Electoral Council (CEN), at 11:40 in the morning, almost five hours after the opening of the polls, 37.03% of registered voters had gone to vote.
Voters are divided among more than 24,000 polling stations, which will be open from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm on this day, a Sunday of uncertainty with the advance of Tropical Storm Ian that is expected to reach the status of hurricane in the coming hours and to hit western Cuba.
The proximity of the storm has launched Cubans into the streets in search of canned food, bread, cookies, candles and other products that will allow them to handle confinement in their homes when the winds and rains become stronger. However, shortages have worsened in recent hours, causing longer lines in front of bakeries and markets.
“It’s very early Sunday and on the eve of a hurricane, said the official in charge of reviewing the voters’ identity cards, trying to justify the low turnout. Voters were picking up their ballots at a school polling place in the neighborhood of Cayo Hueso in Havana. A few meters away, a line to buy bread summoned more people than the referendum for the Family Code.
“I came early so I could leave,” said Missy, a 28-year-old who cast her vote in a school in the Pueblo Nuevo neighborhood. “My daughter is in elementary school and for a few days she was called on to take care of the polls. She didn’t want to come, but the teacher told her that even if it was two hours, she had to fulfill that commitment.”
“It was early and she came back done in. She told me that very few people had gone to vote so far and that the snack they gave to the students who guard the ballot boxes is terrible: a cold roll with bad picadillo and a bag of hot Coral soda,” the mother complains.
At Missy’s same school, her mother and grandmother voted. “Even if they don’t believe me, they marked the yes and I marked the no,” the young woman explains. “Because they are immersed in Party militancy, but although I’m a lesbian and the issue of equal marriage suits me, I prefer to wait to have other rights first.”
Nearby, in Los Sitios, Dalmar and Julito have been placing the multicolored flag that identifies the LGBT+ community on their balcony for days. This Sunday they went to vote early and both marked yes. “We want to get married as soon as possible and appeal to solidarity motherhood to be able to have a child together,” they tell this newspaper. “We have struggled a lot to get here, and although it’s not an ideal situation, our rights cannot continue to be postponed.”
“Between the dead and those who have emigrated, we have 54 people on the registry who aren’t going to come to vote,” one of the organizers of a school in Cerro, near Ayestarán Avenue, explained loudly, through the telephone line. “When we’re done, we’ll know how many people are no longer in Cuba,” he said.
The exodus of recent months, the largest that the Island has suffered in its entire history, estimated to be close to 200,000 people, has taken away part of the electorally active population. So emigration also marks an election where the expectation of leaving the country soon has made many desist from approaching the polls.
“Why should I go, if I plan to leave this country?” explained a 19-year-old boy this Sunday morning on an improvised basketball court located in an open field in Nuevo Vedado. “Let those who stay decide. When I take the plane, I will no longer have to be governed by any of these laws; I will already have those of the country wherever I go.”
Along with him, other young people of similar ages repeat a similar speech. “I already have everything to leave for Nicaragua, so it’s like I’m not here,” adds another of the players, who from early morning preferred scoring a basket to dropping a ballot in a box.
“I haven’t seen young people,” emphasizes Manuel, a man from Havana who went to vote early and marked the no box. “When I entered school, it was around nine in the morning and there was only one old man. Then I took a tour of other schools in my neighborhood and only saw other elderly people.”
The presence in the early hours of voters over 60 years old may be due not only to the fact that among young people sleeping on Sunday morning is a more widespread habit, but also that the militants of the Communist Party and active members of organizations such as the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution are mostly people who exceed five or six decades of life.
One person who did arrive with the first light of Sunday and was surrounded by cameras and microphones at his polling place in the municipality of Playa was Miguel Díaz-Canel. The ruler took advantage of the moment to qualify the enthusiasm he had shown in previous days: “The expectation is not that it will be a unanimous vote, but I do believe that it will be a majority on the part of our people.”
According to the official press, Díaz-Canel assured that “against the Code there is a whole platform that starts from the demonization and discrediting of the Cuban Revolution,” and described the call for a referendum as courageous “in the conditions that the country is going through: shortages, blackouts, scarcity, with an important part of the economy paralyzed.”
Even Díaz-Canel didn’t rule out that there could be a “protest vote” and explained that, “in such complex issues where there is a diversity of opinion and in the midst of a difficult situation there can even be people who vote in order to protest.”
The official press also showed the former Cuban ruler Raúl Castro in the moment of voting, although his presence in the official campaign to promote the yes vote for the Family Code was very scarce.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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