Army General Raúl Castro Ruz exercised his right to vote at a polling station in the Havana municipality of Playa. Photo: Estudios Revolución

On the morning of Sunday, February 24, the First Secretary of the Communist Party Central Committee, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, exercised his right to vote in a polling station of the Havana municipality of Playa, to endorse the new Constitution of the Republic of Cuba.

After depositing his ballot, Raúl exchanged with the young students who guarded the ballot boxes, and with members of the polling station staff.

Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Councils of State and Ministers, exercised his right to vote in polling station No. 3 of electoral district 57, in Playa municipality, and exchanged with the press about the complexity of the moment, the significance of February 24 for Cubans, and how much the approval of the new Constitution implied.

“We are experiencing a time of imperialist threats. The intention is to impose a platform of capitalist and neoliberal restoration in Latin America, and the most perverse practices are being resorted to. What happened this Saturday on the border of Colombia and Venezuela is part of that. This aggression is fundamentally directed at the peoples of Latin America, the Bolivarian, the Sandinista, the Cuban revolutions,” reflected the President.

President Díaz-Canel voted at polling station No. 3 in Playa’s electoral district No. 57. Photo: Juvenal Balán

He pointed out the lack of decorum demonstrated by several governments of the region during Saturday’s orchestrated provocation on the Venezuelan-Colombian border. He offered the example of the Colombian President, encouraging war under the pretext of humanitarian aid. He also mentioned the President of Chile, at the head of a government that has yet to bring to justice the criminals of the fascist dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet; and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, who seemed to be heading a command post, ordering what should happen on the border.

“And what we Cubans are experiencing this Sunday cannot be separated from this context, as we are also voting for Latin America and the Caribbean, and for Venezuela, because the dignity of the continent is at stake here,” Díaz-Canel stressed.

He also highlighted the significance of February 24, a date on which several momentous historic events are commemorated, reaffirming it as “a day calling for unity and continuity.”

He recalled the resumption of the independence struggles on this date in 1895, after the unifying efforts of Martí, to integrate war veterans and new fighters. He also called to mind the approval, in 1976, of the first socialist Constitution in times of Revolution, a text that implied a “constitutional advance.” And it was on the same date, in 2008, that Raúl assumed the leadership of the country. “That’s why today is a day of continuity, of reaffirmation, of unity,” the President insisted.

Díaz-Canel continued by noting that Cubans were united and voting “because nothing that is happening in the world is distracting us from our daily battles, principally in the economy, in preparation for defense, and in all areas of society.”

The Constitution we are voting on, that we have drafted with the debate and the contribution of all, is more robust than the initial draft text. “I am convinced that the majority of Cubans will vote Yes for Cuba, for the Revolution and for the future, because this Constitution dignifies and extols the values of the Cuban people, the legacy of Martí, of Fidel, of Raúl; it is a Constitution that extends the rights of all, that formulates a socialist state of law; it is an advanced, modern Constitution that will allow us to untangle processes and move forward in a more determined manner,” the President added.

Díaz-Canel also referred to the broad legislative exercise that would follow the approval of the new Constitution. “We are already organized to ensure that, in the shortest possible time, we can approve and implement all the laws that reinforce the Constitution. So that it is born with all the legal support it demands. We are calling on all jurists of the country to ensure that, from the moment public policies are considered, they emerge with legal strength.”

He likewise highlighted the contribution of this process of debate and constitutional reform. “We are going to be a country with greater legal awareness from now on, and if we involve all those who must participate, in the following stages we will gain more.”

“I’m optimistic,” he said, “and more than that, I feel certain, because so many good people can’t be wrong. We have seen, in the most affected places, the support of a sea of people that confirms that we are going to win, that we will have a victory.”

“The better world to which we all aspire is not with neoliberalism. It is with socialism, which we must continue to perfect, and seek a better economic response to problems, because, socially, it has already shown that it is more just,” stated the Cuban President.

The National Electoral Commission (CEN), in its last report on closing the polls, described the constitutional referendum exercise as positive, and recognized the broad participation of the people.

The number of registered voters on the electoral roll was 8,669,714. A total of 24,297 polling stations operated in 12,513 electoral districts, as well as 198 special polling stations. More than 400,000 people were involved in ensuring the vote ran smoothly, including electoral authorities, supervisors, collaborators, students, and data reception and processing teams.