February 24, the Cry of the Ballot Boxes

The defeat of Yes could be the fruit of the sum of gestures, of those who vote No, those who abstain, and those who annul or leave their ballot blank. (Susana González/DPA/México)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, February 21, 2019 — February 24, 1895 is remembered in Cuban history as the Cry of Baire and marks the moment in which the second War of Independence against Spain began. The insurrection broke out in at least 30 other places on the island, but in the village of Baire, in the east of the country, it set itself in the collective imagination and ending up marking the identity of the event.

History — or legend — says that on that day 124 years ago, an order for an uprising signed by José Martí traveled in a cigar sent to Juan Gualberto Gómez. Underneath the successive plant layers went the message that detonated the last military conflict of that century on the island.

This February 24 no order has arrived from anywhere to produce a cry. Like in Fuenteovejuna, the work of Lope de Vega, the initiative to reject the text of the new Constitution has arisen from the heart of the people. Nobody has the right to claim authorship of the peaceful uprising that might occur at the polling places.

For the first time in 60 years we Cubans will have, for around half a day this Sunday, the opportunity to shake the foundations of the dictatorship.

It’s fewer than 12 hours during which we must agree. It’s not necessary to join a party or to put oneself underneath a suspicious umbrella. It’s not even necessary to endorse with a signature. It is an ephemeral, voluntary act, which can be public if one opts for abstention, or anonymous if one chooses to vote No, but can also be a defiant and decisive act of which we can feel proud.

Before seven in the morning and after six in the evening each person can go on about their preferred slogans, whether it be demanding the freedom of political prisoners, that the government ratify the treaties on human rights, that the wholesale market be opened, that marriage equality be legalized or prohibited; that taxes be lowered and salaries raised. But, in the time that the referendum will last, the struggle to achieve each one of these different aims goes through whatever is achieved at the ballot boxes.

During those magical twelve hours anyone who wishes “to do something” should support the initiatives of staying home or of writing the two crossed strokes of an X, to demonstrate their will as a voter to not accept either the irrevocability of the system or the primacy of the only party.

If the National Electoral Commission fulfills what is established in Article 137 of the current Constitution, the new Constitution will only be considered ratified if more than half of the registry of voters votes Yes in the referendum. So the defeat of Yes could be the fruit of the sum of gestures, of those who vote No, those who abstain, and those who annul or leave their ballots blank.

What is going to happen this February 24 will not have a geographic location, it will be the Cry of the Ballot Boxes: a magnificent libertarian chorus, the acceptance of a civic challenge, bloodless, peaceful, and civilized.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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