Opinion: The referendum on marriage for all – a bitter defeat for Cuba’s communists | Comments | DW

Yoani Sanchez

María Julia, 67, from Camagüey, never read the full text of the family law that was voted on in Cuba last Sunday. But she voted “yes” because her Communist Party called for “support for the revolution and a turn out in the polling stations.” In Havana, Yania, 42, ticked the “no” box despite having dreamed of marrying her partner Yesenia for years, and this new law now makes same-sex marriages possible. Yania made this decision because she believes that “there are no valid choices in a dictatorship”.

The advocates and opponents of this family code, which experts call progressive and lawyers call necessary, are not homogeneous blocs. Nor are they divided along clear lines.

Just the third referendum held in Cuba in more than 60 years was far more than a vote on same-sex marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples, legal surrogacy and parenting rights for non-biological parents. In fact, for many, it was the only way to show their opposition to Miguel Díaz-Canel’s regime at the ballot box.

A gesture of defiance and resistance

The victory of the supporters with more than 66 percent of the valid votes is therefore not the triumph that the governing party had dreamed of. After all, she had put up a lot of propaganda for the adoption of the new Family Code. Not a single voice in the national media questioned or opposed the law. With more than 26 percent of those entitled to vote not going to the polls, the Cuban regime recorded the lowest turnout in its history. In a democracy, such a value may be perfectly self-evident. But in a dictatorship where failure to vote can be punished with severe reprisals, it is a clear gesture of defiance and resistance.

Yoani Sanchez

Yoani Sanchez is a blogger from Cuba

Those who went to the polls also rejected the official script, which had envisaged unanimous approval of the new family law: more than 27 percent of voters voted “no”, invalidated the ballot paper or gave it a blank. Overall, less than 47 percent of those entitled to vote voted for the reform. The population has used abstention and rejection to a large extent to send a clear message to the regime.

Failed mobilization and a bitter victory

Had a referendum been held on the draconian penal code (which was introduced without popular consultation and is deeply repressive) instead of a vote on family law, the rejection would have been far stronger and more massive. However, Cuban totalitarianism has chosen to only vote on civil rights that could have been decided without a referendum.

Perhaps the government believed that this would have been a resounding success and that it could have redeemed itself in the eyes of the international community. Instead: A bitter victory.

On the Friday before the referendum, Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel also called for yes votes “for our socialism.” Sunday then showed that his ability to activate voters has diminished significantly. The mobilization of the masses no longer works as it did a few years ago. And so, more than half of Cuban voters have punished the ruling system in one way or another.

This text has been adapted from Spanish.


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