Almost Two and a Half Million Cubans Didn’t Vote Yes
By Ivan Garcia
March 12, 2019
Within twelve months, salaries will continue to be a joke in poor taste in Cuba. The predatory inflation caused by the dual currency will be maintained. The shortage of food in state markets will increase. Public transport will get worse. The streets will need to be paved. The water leaks will continue. Thousands of multifamily buildings, destroyed and their facades unpainted, will be at risk of collapse.
If in Venezuela the dictator Nicolás Maduro falls, there will be programmed blackouts. Fuel supplies will fall. The price of food will skyrocket. The State will continue to look at private entrepreneurs who earn a lot of money as criminals. If a person needs a check-up, he will have to bribe the doctors with gifts. The shortage of medicines in pharmacies will be alarming. And state workers will have three vacation options: watch TV at home, go to the beach or play dominoes: Tourist hotels will not be within reach of their pockets.
With the shameful salaries the government pays, Cubans who voted Yes will not be able to buy quality furniture, modern appliances or a fifty-inch television. Nor an air conditioner to escape the tropical heat, nor lunch in a paladar (private restaurant) for a child’s birthday or a wedding anniversary.
Families will have to keep turning to relatives and friends abroad — los gusanos, the worms, as the regime called them when they left — so that they can continue to send them medicines, clothes, shoes or a smartphone that allows them to access the network faster. And they ask the same relatives to please recharge their monthly cell phone or internet accounts.
In 2020, at the level of microeconomics, things in Cuba will continue the same or worse.
The new Constitution does not allow Cubans to invest in their country nor can residents abroad aspire to a public office. The olive-green autocracy will continue to charge a luxury tax on the passports its compatriots who wish to visit their own on the island. And it will maintain its policy of apartheid, by making professionals who stay in other countries wait eight years to enter their homeland.
The productions of sugar, rice and potatoes, among others, will continue to fall. Beef, fish and seafood will continue to be exotic dishes, forbidden to the majority of the population. What will we have then? More of the same. Unbuilt homes, unpaved streets, empty warehouses and markets… Broken dreams, unfulfilled longings. The future will remain a bad word. But if anything will abound it will be official promises and slogans.
The future constitution does not guarantee prosperity, economic freedom or democracy. It is a legal text that strengthens for life the inefficient system established by Fidel Castro. A punishment. Although neo-Castroism may try to wash its face by authorizing homosexual marriage or writing a family code consistent with the new times.
That face washing would not prevent poverty from becoming widespread and two hot meals a day remaining a luxury in a high percentage of Cuban families. Public services would remain chaotic. While corruption, theft, lack of control and bureaucracy continue to take root from one end of the island to the other.
The ’overwhelming victory’ of the Yes vote can be read in more than one way. The citizen response to the insane national economy has been slowly showing itself. In 2003, 6.13% of the voters left the ballot blank or nullified it. In 2017, the figure rose to 21.12% and in the constitutional referendum of February 24, 2019, it was 26.69%.
But totalitarian governments leave little room for error. The supporters of NO and abstaining could not campaign in the state media and never had a public space to present and defend their positions. Quite the opposite. In those conditions, despite the traps and alleged frauds, the fact that almost two and a half million Cubans living on the Island, did not openly support or had doubts about the new Constitution can be considered a political victory.
In the article “An Unsurprising Triumph,” (Cubanet, February 27, 2019), independent journalist Luis Cino wrote: “There is something positive from this referendum: it indicates that more and more Cubans are daring to show their disagreement with the regime. Those people who managed to overcome the fear of reprisals and dared to contradict the official designs, improved their self-esteem, stopped feeling like rags. Now they no longer feel like tame farm animals, but worthy, at peace with their conscience. And lighter, because there is no doubt that lying and faking weigh too much on the soul. ”
The Communist Party of Cuba “has about 720 thousand members and the Union of Young Communists with about 450 thousand, but Cuba has 11.2 million inhabitants. Nine out of ten Cubans are not communists in a communist nation,” said Roberto Álvarez Quiñones in “The Elitist Dictatorship of the PCC” (Diario de Cuba, February 19, 2016). If we take into account these data, the almost two and a half million people who voted NO, left their ballots blank, annulled them or did not go to vote, represent a greater number than the total membership of the only two political organizations authorized in the country.
There is no need for consensus among the ‘disaffected’, for example, to collect 50,000 signatures and submit citizen initiatives that allow amendments to the legal tome. The regime would have to respond to the demand or it would be evident, as it has been up to now, that it has infringed its own Constitution.
When the Constitution comes into force, endorsed with an 86.85% affirmative vote, various citizen initiatives could be presented, such as founding private digital media, political groups and non-governmental organizations.
Today we are two and a half million people who demand authentic changes. The best ally we have is the erratic performance of the government. Each year that passes, thousands of followers will join the ranks of the disgruntled. Because it is proven that the revolution started by the Castros six decades ago has not worked and will not work.
“This Constitution reflects the ideological spirit of post-Castroism. There is a genuine interest among a caste of military officials and heirs of the regime to disguise the growing state capitalism under the rhetorical garb of socialist manuals. There is a greater investment of foreign companies in sectors such as hospitality and tourism, but civil liberties and individual autonomy are still hijacked by political authoritarianism,” said journalist and writer Carlos Manuel Álvarez in “The Map of a Possible Cuba” (The New York Times in Spanish, February 27, 2019).
We can not and should not be discouraged. Citizen indifference and emigration are not the solution to Cuba’s problems. We need to fight. Here and now. The skeptics will continue to put sticks on the wheel.
The propaganda of the regime will call us mercenaries. But there is no other way. Democracy was never an easy road.