Cuba's new Family Code is now law and, as such, duly published in the Official Gazette, after its approval by the National Assembly of Popular Power (ANPP) (unanimously, as usual), as provided for in Article 165 of the Electoral Law. So, why does the regime need to submit it to a popular referendum?
A referendum is binding, unlike a popular consultation, as Article 265.1 of the Cuban Electoral Law establishes that "in a Popular Consultation, voters express their opinion on a specific matter of national or local interest, without it having a binding effect."
Therefore, despite the 79,192 meetings held, according to the National Electoral Council (CEN), in which there were 336,595 interventions, views opposed to marriage between same-sex couples, adoption and parental responsibility, among others, were not taken into account to make any substantial changes to the law. Rather, the changes made were mainly of a grammatical nature.
If a popular consultation is not binding, the repressive acts decried by Cuban clergy who sought to express their opinions at in those meetings were unnecessary.
The Cuban regime, however, does not want the people to have their say. Rather, it wants the people to parrot what those in power are saying, and this is what Cubans are expected to do through their vote in the referendum on the Family Code, which will only require 51% of the votes to be validated and take effect, replacing the one in force since 1975.
There are no rules for this process, as neither the Constitution nor any Cuban law establish rules for the holding of a referendum.
Speaking before the ANPP last July, when the deputies approved the Code, Homero Acosta pointed out that, until now, Cuba had only seen consultation and referendum processes in the constitutional sphere; this is how the constitutions of 1976 and 2019 were approved. The Electoral Law grants the ANPP the power to set down the rules for this type of referendum.
Is the regime really prepared for a law that, according to Minister of Justice Oscar Silvera Martinez, reaffirms the humanist nature of the Revolution, and that was already approved by the ANPP, not to go into effect because Cubans reject it? Would the regime actually recognize that a law of the Revolution has not received Cubans' support?
The government has deployed a very ambitious propaganda campaign in favor of this norm, with state media giving it extensive coverage. Former spy Gerardo Hernandez, the current national coordinator of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), has called on members of the organization to vote "Yes," the Union of Young Communists League (UJC) organized a caravan to support the Family Code, and Miguel Díaz-Canel went so far as to say that voting in favor of the Family Code is voting for democracy.
The referendum, however, is not really about the Family Code, but rather about support for the Government and the system, because this is what the regime has turned it into. When Díaz-Canel warned last April, at the 4th Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), that the enemy could boycott the referendum, his concern was not with the rights of the elderly and vulnerable people, or the issue of same-sex marriage and the adoption of children, but rather that Cubans? support for his government would be called into question.
If their concern had been the rights of the aforementioned groups, which the regime claims to protect through the new law, the Family Code would have been approved without any need for a referendum at all, as has happened with other laws not receiving a fraction of the hype that this law has received in the Cuban state media.
The Family Code would have entered into force like the Penal Code will in a couple of months after its publication in the Official Gazette. The Code, which has been criticized for criminalizing dissent even more, sustaining the death penalty, maintaining the age of criminal responsibility at 16, and not classifying femicide as a specific crime, will enter into force in a couple of months anyway, as did the Law for the Protection of Constitutional Rights, which does not protect all Cubans or their rights.
The regime wanted to show off how democratic it is through this exercise, to showcase a participatory act of cooperation between the people and their representatives, with a leading role supposedly played by the former. But, in reality, what is at stake is the support of the people not only for the Family Code, but for the regime itself.
If the majority of Cubans, or a significant number of them, votes "No," or abstain, it will mean that the cederistas, the UJC, and the revolutionaries did not respond to the call of their leaders; or, that the revolutionaries do not constitute the majority, and that the ANPP representatives, who already endorsed the Code, unanimously, do not represent most Cubans.
In fact, not all those who will say "Yes" are revolutionaries, because some people from the LGBT community will vote in favor of a law that gives them some rights (though not the right to express themselves, to associate freely, or to march for their demands without waiting for invitations from the National Sexual Education Center), and not because of their support for the regime.
Many people not opposed to the rights of that community will vote "No," or not vote at all, because they see the referendum as a manipulative exercise by the Government and a false democratic practice that they do not wish to legitimize.
Therefore, it is not unreasonable to predict that, in a referendum for which there are no rules, and in the absence of independent electoral observation, the Family Code will be ratified, and perhaps even by a large number of Cubans, according to the official results.
The only thing the regime needs to uphold the result —which cannot be verified by electoral bodies not controlled by the Government— as a triumph and a show of support for the Revolution, is for citizens to go to the polls.