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Plebiscite in Cuba Could Ratify New Constitution

Cuba’s highly anticipated referendum took place on Sunday. The result of this plebiscite will determine whether the new Constitution will be ratified or rejected. The current Cuban government is in support of ratifying the new Constitution, with the opposition campaigning for “No” vote in the plebiscite.

Campaign billboards in favor of the “Yes” campaign.  Photo: Andrea Torres/  Local 10

Campaign billboards in favor of the “Yes” campaign.

Photo: Andrea Torres/ Local 10

Of the 8.7 million Cubans eligible to vote in this plebiscite, little over 7.5 million citizens had voted by 5 pm, resulting in a very high voter turnout.

The new Constitution, if ratified, will replace the 1976 Constitution, which was written during a time when Cuba relied heavily on its alliance with the Soviet Union.

The major differences that the new Constitution will implement include expanded recognition of private property, aperture to small-scale private enterprises, creation of the position of a prime minister, promotion of cooperatives, recognition of dual citizenship, presumption of innocence in court, and a two five-year limit to presidential terms.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel commented to spectators, as he voted, that, “We Cubans are voting for our new constitution, we’re voting for Latin America and the Caribbean.”

President Díaz-Canel casting his vote.  Photo: Ramon Espinosa, AP/ Miami Herald

President Díaz-Canel casting his vote.

Photo: Ramon Espinosa, AP/Miami Herald

The new Constitution still maintains that the Communist Party is in control of the country, with little to no room for any opposition.

Activist Jose Daniel Ferrer, a sympathizer to the “No” campaign, critiqued the referendum, stating that “it is obvious that this goes beyond a ‘No’ to a constitution; it’s a no to a regime that aims to perpetuate itself in power.”

“Two options, one that favors the regime and the other that represents the only opportunity the people have had in years to say no,” added Ferrer.

Several activists who campaigned against the government were detained, and it has been reported that the Cuban government has raided various homes of members of the “No” campaign, seizing their USB drives, computers, and other materials.

Many people have suggested that this referendum is a fraudulent election process, and is used as a political ploy for the current regime to gain more political power and legitimacy.

United States Senator Marco Rubio, who is of Cuban descent, tweeted, “The so-called ‘referendum’ in #Cuba is another maneuver by the Cuban dictatorship to hold its grip on power. Today’s plebiscite is nothing more than a farce and a fraud of the communist party. #IllegalConstitution.”

While the new Constitution was expected to include legalization of same-sex marriage, various alterations and changes to the Constitution in preparation for the referendum resulted in the omission of marriage equality.

However, various religious groups have voiced their concern over the idea that marriage was not specifically defined to be between a man and a woman, fearing that the legalization of same-sex marriage may be a reality in the near future in Cuba.

President Díaz-Canel also stated, “We’re also voting for Venezuela, we’re defending Venezuela because in Venezuela the continent’s dignity is in play.”

Earlier this week, President Díaz-Canel also spoke out against the presidents of Paraguay, Colombia, and Chile, who gave their support to Contested-President Guaidó’s plan to force humanitarian aid across Colombia into Venezuela, which Contested-President Maduro banned from entering Venezuela’s border. President Díaz-Canel stated, “A group of presidents on the Colombian border, they look like clowns.”

With Venezuela’s situation in the spotlight, US President Trump commented that the leftist ideology is “dying.” Analyst Carlos Alzugaray stated that “many people, seeing [Trump’s] quotes, will vote yes because they want to defend their independence against the US threat.”  

The results of the referendum are expected to be announced shortly.