CARACAS.— While I was watching our Ambassador, Rogelio Polanco Fuentes, conduct the presentation and swearing-in ceremony of the Special Electoral Commission in Venezuela for the sovereign exercise of the referendum vote on the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, to be held here on February 16, I recalled the productive discussions on the subject that I had held with several collaborators.
Juan Ricardo Poll Gean was presented as the chairperson for this electoral district, and Zoe Hernández Portales as secretary, alongside nine other members of the Commission.
Venezuela is always special for Cuba: as our Ambassador noted, it is only here that state-wide electoral commissions will also operate, to ensure that not one of the 23,300 collaborators working in these 24 territories – with a total of 698 polling stations – will be left out of the vote.
During the ceremony, held in the largest residential community of Cubans in the country, Julio César García Rodríguez, head of the Social Missions Office (OAM) here, referred to the significance of voting as part of an internationalist mission in a country immersed in struggle, and commented on the special days on which the referendum will be held in Cuba, where, in his own words, the second Caravan of Freedom had just passed: “that of the continuity of the Revolution led by our President Díaz-Canel and which maintains the ideas of Martí, Fidel, and Raúl.”
After a long career as a youth and Party leader in Camagüey, Juan Ricardo Poll Gean was appointed, on his first internationalist mission, as one of the deputy heads of the OAM. To this challenge was added that of serving as head of the OAM leadership post for the discussion process on the draft Constitution, in which 21,238 Cuban internationalist workers participated. Included in this figure was as another “Venezuelan” peculiarity: 942 reincorporated employees; that is, those Cubans who for some reason took up residence in the country, but returned to the Medical Mission under the conditions in which it operates. Now, Poll is also chairperson of this electoral district of dignity.
“Participating from here demonstrates the resolve of Cubans to defend what we have and contribute to preserving the progress of our Revolution in Venezuela. By voting Yes for the Constitution, we assure that Cuba will remain forever free, and we will show the Venezuelan people that, in the face of adversity, there exists the possibility to find ways to move forward,” he stated.
Poll knows that this new Constitution will mark a milestone in his lifetime: “It is a privilege, a unique event; I hope we live long enough to see another similar process, but this is historic. I will always remember the contribution I made here, together with my brothers and sisters, and I will be committed to defending the Magna Carta, to contributing to its genuine implementation, to placing in it our benefits, with duties and rights. That is my commitment, that of my family, that of Cubans... to keep the legacy of Fidel alive, to defend the homeland under any circumstance.”
Questioned as to what country we are building through this Constitution, Poll responded: “The ideal for Cubans, that which we defend. That which Fidel wanted and we must maintain forever. The Constitution has these ideas and merits our commitment.”
CUBA IN VENEZUELA
On his sixth internationalist mission – he was previously in Venezuela, but also in Angola, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Bolivia – Electromedicine specialist, Didier Rodríguez Paz, is preparing himself for an unprecedented chapter in his long career: voting for Cuba from abroad.
The son of a combatant of the Escambray, this good-natured man from the countryside of Ciego de Ávila was brought up with a commitment to the homeland, but he admits that his internationalist missions have strengthened his love for Cuba, as he has witnessed the cruelty of capitalism. “I saw, from another angle, what the Revolution means for all,” he explained.
Didier noted his motivation to vote Yes to the Constitution: “It was necessary to reform it because there have been many international and national changes. When you analyze it, from start to finish, you see that it is directed toward defending Cubans, the Revolution, and its conquests. In fact, it is an improvement of the socialism that we already have; it simply includes changes to make it more beneficial under the current conditions. It is a Magna Carta made for the people, and with its modification it meets their demands.”
A Constitution can resemble an architectural plan. What country can we build with it?
“Look, we have the foundations, we have built them over 60 years; it is necessary to start structuring to make our Revolution bigger, more extensive, much better...
You are due to complete a seventh mission. How would you approach another country, with our new Constitution in hand?
Che was not given missions, he created them; I can’t do so directly, but wherever my efforts are needed, I’ll be there. I am available to my Revolution and to other peoples. In that scenario, the new Constitution would make me feel even more proud of my country.
A CARING COMMITMENT
At just 30 years of age, Yaneirys Matos Quintero is about to finish a five-year mission. This doctor from Guantánamo, a Comprehensive General Medicine specialist and representative in Venezuela of the Cuban Medical Services Enterprise, is also a member of the National Working Group that attends to young collaborators, a significant responsibility.
She has said it a thousand times: “The greatest advantage of the mission for young people is their training. We arrive with the academic preparation that allows us to develop professionally, but another way of seeing the world makes us better people, it leads us, as in my case, to become leaders for the first time, it allows us to return with greater capacity to support the growth of the Revolution.”
Why will you, as young people, vote here?
Young people have always taken a step forward for the Revolution. Today, it requires changes in constitutional matters, without affecting our socialist and independent character, and we, from here, support them. Although outside the homeland, we have not been left out, nor have our opinions been silenced. We were there at the time of the debate, and we will be there during the vote, to adjust Cuba to the times in which we live.
What country will the new Constitution provide young people like you with?
One with the possibility to further help to transform our environment in order to maintain sovereignty in the current situation, to keep pace with the world without abandoning the essence of what Cuba is.
With the new Constitution and the people we have, how do you view Cuba’s future?
With greater development, with more participation of the people in the definition of their path forward.
In that scenario, do young people have the right to be optimists?
We are part of that process, so not only do we have the right, we have an obligation to be optimistic.
ON THE ELECTORAL LAW
ARTICLE 164. In accordance with the provisions of Title II (*) of this Law, the National Electoral Commission, the Provincial, Municipal, District, and Special Electoral Commissions are designated. The National Electoral Commission, in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, establishes what is necessary to guarantee the exercise of the vote by those who are outside the national territory on the day the referendum is held.
ARTICLE 165. The Electoral District Commissions designate the members of each of the Polling Stations. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs determines who appoints the members of each of the Polling Stations abroad. The premises in which the Polling Stations operate outside the national territory are designated by the heads of the respective missions.
* Refers to Article 16, subsection ch, of Chapter I Electoral Commissions, which reads: Special Electoral Commissions that execute the provisions of the National Electoral Commission and fulfill the functions determined by this Law.
The consultation process abroad:
A total of 2,125 proposals were submitted, including 1,150 modifications, 350 additions, 406 deletions, and 219 requests for clarification.
The Minrex enabled web page received 4,571 visits from 123 countries and proposals were submitted from 58.