A Castro breaks tradition with ‘no’ vote in Cuba

HAVANA — Yet another revolutionary tradition has been broken in Cuba: A lawmaker voted ‘‘no’’ in Parliament. And it was not just any lawmaker.

Mariela Castro, the daughter of President Raúl Castro and niece of Fidel Castro, gave the thumbs-down to a workers’ rights bill that she believes did not go far enough to prevent discrimination against people with HIV or with unconventional gender identities.

None of the specialists contacted by the Associated Press could recall another ‘‘no’’ vote in the 612-seat National Assembly, which meets briefly twice a year and approves laws by unanimous show of hands.


‘‘This is the first time, without a doubt,’’ said Carlos Alzugaray, a historian and former Cuban diplomat.

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He said measures widely criticized in grass-roots public meetings, such as a law raising the retirement age, had passed unanimously in the Assembly.

Few in Cuba were aware of the Dec. 20 vote until after the measure was enacted into law this summer, at which point gay activists publicized the vote by Castro, the island’s most prominent advocate for gay rights.

Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban analyst who lectures at the University of Denver, suggested it might ‘‘open doors for other important initiatives.’’

Mariela Castro seemed to hint there may be more debate.


‘‘There have been advances in the way things are discussed, above all the way things are discussed at the grass-roots level, in workplaces, unions, and party groupings,’’ she said in an interview posted in late July on the blog of Francisco Rodriguez, a pro-government gay rights activist. ‘‘I think we still need to perfect the democratic participation of the representatives within the Assembly.’’

Others are skeptical it will set a precedent.

‘‘I would say that this is more a sign of what Mariela can get away with than a sign of what your everyday parliamentarian can get away with,’’ said Ted Henken, a professor at Baruch College in New York.

In her crusade for gay rights, Castro has often taken stands that challenge the social status quo.