Observers Criticize Delay in Announcement of Referendum Results

The OCDH had 170 observers, deployed in 12 of the 16 provinces of the country. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 25, 2019 — After election day Cuba returned to its routine this Monday and the majority of the population shows no signs of interest in the “preliminary” results of the referendum on the Constitution that will be announced starting at 3:00pm by the National Electoral Commission (CEN).

The improvements in transportation that characterized the days leading up to the referendum ended as quickly as they had arrived. The signs for Yes to the new Constitution remain, omnipresent, in stores, state offices, buses, and billboards.

“I only hope that now the propaganda on television lessens a little, because we’ve had a few days in which it’s been impossible to sit and watch a program without something coming out about the referendum,” sighs Rebeca, a Havana resident of 36 who says she didn’t vote in the process. “I preferred to go to the beach because the day was really nice.”

In Santiago de Cuba, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), José Daniel Ferrer, denounced the police cordon around the opposition organization’s headquarters and the arrest of several of its members. The ex-political prisoner reported on social media about the violent detention of opposition figures, some of whom were left by police on the highway*, far from voting centers.

The Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH), headquartered in Madrid, has denounced the delay of the CEN in publishing the preliminary results of the process. “More than 16 hours after the closing of the polling places, the official data of participation and the results are still not known,” the organization laments in a press release.

The OCDH believes that it is “the same line of lack of transparency that has predominated in the performance of the Cuban government throughout the entire process.” The independent organization lists irregularities during the voting such as “the manipulation of the electoral register, the use of pencils” in place of pens to mark the ballots, and the absence of international observers, among others.

“It makes us even more suspicious of what the Government will have done in the darkness of the early morning,” adds the press release. “According to the data received so far, the sum of the rejections (votes for No, blank ballots, null votes, and abstentions) would surpass 30% of the electoral register, with an upward trend,” it assures.

the information is based “on acts of vote counting facilitated by electoral observers, OCDH collaborators, and reliable citizens, who in the midst of a climate of vigilance and repression were able to exercise protection of the vote,” specifies the text.

On Sunday’s events, the OCDH pointed out low voter turnout, especially in Holguín, Camagüey, Sancti Spíritus, Villa Clara, Havana, and Pinar del Río, contrary to the assertions of the CEN, which announced that 74.09% had cast their votes as of 2:00 pm.

The raid on activist centers, arrests, and lack of privacy to cast a vote also weighed down the process. “In Artemisa, it’s reported that members of polling stations visit old people in their homes and pressure them to vote for Yes,” pointed out the organization in one of its reports published the day of the vote.

The OCDH had 170 observers, deployed in 12 of the 16 provinces of the country. The observers have carried out a systematic monitoring of the different phases of the election day and their work “seeks to corroborate that the process fulfills national electoral norms (Law Number 37) and with the minimum international standards.”

Several 14ymedio reporters also participated in the ballot counting. Among the voting centers visited was that on Lombillo street, between Factor and Estancia, a 12-story building in the Plaza of the Revolution municipality. In this building of district 72 live mainly workers from the Ministry of Transport and of the Provincial Court.

The electoral register of this polling place varied throughout the day until arriving at 498, because 112 new voters were added, the majority national guests of the nearby hotel Tulipán. Of the total voters 429 (86.14%) voted, abstentions reached 13.86%. No was marked on 25 ballots (5.83%) and there were 4 blank ballots (0.93%). Yes was marked 400 times and obtained 93.24% of the valid votes but only 80.32% of the electoral register of this polling place.

“This is a community highly integrated into the Revolution and we have many Communist Party activists,” explained María de los Ángeles, a retiree who lives in the building. “Since they built this building we have been like a family and now we have come to give complete support to that Constitution because it guarantees the existence of the homeland.”

A few blocks from this place, in the Nuevo Vedado area near 26th Street, where the residents enjoy a greater purchasing power, Yes got a less inflated majority, with barely 70.14% of the electoral register.

The big houses where some of the relatives of the accused in 1989’s Cause Number 1 live. Cause Number 1 was a case in which several generals and high-ranking military officers were executed or condemned to long sentences for their supposed link with narcotrafficking, had their doors and windows closed this Sunday, as this newspaper verified.

“Here people are really unhappy with the economic situation,” commented a resident under condition of anonymity. “In this neighborhood, five years ago we had at least ten private restaurants, and now there are only three left because they have suffocated them with the taxes,” he laments.

In the two polling places for District 82 in La Timba, a low-income neighborhood near the Plaza of the Revolution, Yes obtained 71.6% of the electoral register, a similar support to the district of Nuevo Vedado, but abstentions were even greater with 19.1%.

*Translator’s note: It is a common police practice, in Cuba, to pick up dissidents and instead of taking them to a police station and formally detaining them, to simply drive them far from their homes and leave them on a deserted country road.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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