Cuba sees high turnout at polls for constitutional referendum

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Cubans flocked to the polls on Sunday in a vote expected to approve a new constitution that institutes modest economic and social changes while maintaining the one-party socialist system.

By 2.00 p.m., 75 percent of the 8.7 million electorate had cast ballots, according to the national electoral commission. Results are due to be announced on Monday.

The debate over the constitution has dominated the country’s politics for months, even as it struggles with economic stagnation and as the deepening crisis in Venezuela brings its ally into the crosshairs of US President Donald Trump’s administration.

White House national security adviser John Bolton ripped the referendum on Twitter as “another ploy of the Cuban regime to cover up its repression and tyranny.”

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said the vote was taking place as events in Venezuela showed the “imperialist threat” facing the region.

“Today we are going to win ... It will also be an important victory for Venezuela,” he said after waiting in line in Havana to cast his ballot.

“I think the Americans in their arrogance have been wrong. People are waking up when they see these nefarious practices and realize what is behind this show,” he said.

Former President Raul Castro, who remains head of the Communist Party, kept an unusually low profile in apparent deference to his successor Diaz-Canel.

State media screened footage of Castro casting his vote and chatting with school children at a polling station, but he made no comments to reporters.