Cuba’s referendum on 25 September is about far more than gay marriage

On 25 September Cubans will go to the polls to vote in a popular referendum on a new Family Code, which, if approved, will become law. Media coverage, in and outside of Cuba, including in the UK and US press, has presented the referendum as a vote on gay marriage. The truth is that the proposed family code runs over 100 pages; only a handful of the 474 articles are relevant to LGBTQ+ rights.

Presenting it as a referendum on gay rights is not only incorrect but also dangerous. It allows the Cuban government to obscure some of the highly problematic aspects of the code, which have the potential to violate the fundamental rights of all Cubans and would give the authorities another, and very effective, way of silencing independent or critical voices.   

Most worrying is Article 191 which would allow for the removal of children if their parents fail to fulfil a list of responsibilities detailed in Article 138. These include the duties to instill in their children love for the homeland, respect of its symbols, and respect for the authorities (Article 138 (ñ)).

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“I want to be a good man” – an interview with David Rosales, son of Pastor Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo 

CSW spoke with David Rosales, son of Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo, pastor of the independent church Monte de Sión in Palma Soriano, who today is serving a seven-year prison sentence in the Boniato Maximum Security Prison in Santiago de Cuba. 

The religious leader was accused in December 2021 of public disorder, criminal incitement, disrespect and assault, after he and his son David participated in the national protests on 11 July 2021. The Cuban regime, using false information and witnesses, accused Lorenzo and David of responsibility for wounds suffered by ‘seven public order agents and one civil servant who was taking care of the institution. At the same time, they damaged the state bus, which was parked where the acts took place.” 

On 17 July 2021 David Rosales was released under precautionary bail because of his participation in the protests. This measure was modified, and David was exonerated from criminal proceedings after a fine, paid on 19 August 2021, was imposed.  

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From Nicaragua to India: The global community must stand up for the work of independent civil society 

On 28 June, the Nicaraguan parliament stripped the Missionaries of Charity – the order founded by Mother Teresa – of its legal status. Days later, they were expelled from the country entirely, with local media reporting that 18 nuns were driven to the border by migration officials and police officers before crossing on foot into neighbouring Costa Rica. 

No doubt the incident drew particular attention as a result of the high profile of the organisation in question, however the targeting of the Missionaries of Charity in this manner marks just the tip of the iceberg in a nationwide crackdown on civil society and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which has been ongoing for several years. 

Ever since protests erupted across the country in April 2018, and particularly since the re-election of Daniel Ortega as president in November 2021, the Nicaraguan government has acted with increasing antagonism towards anyone it perceives as critical of the current regime. This has included the Roman Catholic Church, to which the Missionaries of Charity belong, and which in February 2022 saw a number of its affiliate private universities and aid organisations targeted in a similar manner. 

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Cuban Zersetzung: The disruptive Stasi tactics employed by the Cuban government to disintegrate church life in Cuba

The Ministerium für Staatsicherheit, more commonly known as the Stasi, was the official state security service of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), one of the most repressive and well-known secret police agencies in history.

From its foundation in February 1950, to the fall of the Berlin wall in November 1989, the Stasi created a vast intelligence network, gathering information and targeting individuals and groups in every sphere of life with ruthless and insidious efficiency.

The Stasi employed several staple techniques in their attacks against individuals and communities. Persistent questioning, the spreading of slanderous information, repeated arrests, physical attacks and the targeting of family and friends as leverage were all commonplace. These techniques formed the basis of Zersetzung, a mission with the objective of disrupting or ‘disintegrating’ the structure and work of groups and the lives of individuals.

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You are my other me: The importance of educating the Mexican women of the future 

Florinda was just 11 years old when her family was displaced from the community of San José Yashtinín, San Cristóbal de las Casas Municipality, in Mexico’s Chiapas State in 2012. She was unable to continue with her studies for around two years following her family’s displacement because the paperwork and certificates she needed to enrol in a new school were left behind. In 2019 she told CSW she hoped to finish her studies in order to teach other children. 

Another woman, Alma, was 17 years old when her education was interrupted after her family was forcibly displaced from their village of Tuxpan de Bolaños, Bolaños Municipality, Jalisco State, in December 2017. She was subsequently unable to enrol in a new school, derailing her plans to become a nurse. 

Three years ago, to mark Children’s Day in the country, Alma travelled to Mexico City to meet with government officials. She also met with the National Council to Prevent Discrimination (CONAPRED) who expressed regret for what had happened: “We owe you an apology, this country owes you an apology…We have certainly failed in the process but we are here to protect you, so that your trajectory in life is what you want it to be.” 

This year, as Mexico observes Children’s Day, we call for more than an apology; we call for action.  

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