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Castro breaks tradition with 'no' vote in Cuba

Published:Wednesday | August 20, 2014 | 8:00 AM
Castro

HAVANA (AP):

Yet another revolutionary tradition has been broken in Cuba: A lawmaker voted "no" in parliament. And it wasn't just any lawmaker.

Mariela Castro, the daughter of President Raul Castro and niece of Fidel Castro, gave the thumbs-down to a workers' rights bill that she felt didn't go far enough to prevent discrimination against people with HIV or with unconventional gender identities.

None of the experts 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.

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

Few in Cuba were even aware of the vote until after the measure was enacted into law this summer, at which point gay activists publicised the vote by Castro, who is 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 herself seemed to hint there could be more debate in the assembly.