Reports from Cuba: Political Marginalization and the Citizen
Political Marginalization and the Citizen
Published in Curazao, issue 24
May 3, 2013
The marginality, an effect of exclusion, is a phenomenon that prevents or limits the enjoyment of certain rights. It manifests itself in all social relations, including politics. In these lines I circumscribe the case of Cuba, where the revolutionary process swept civic participation mechanisms and replaced by others, created and subservient to the state.
Citizens participate independently in matters of interest through civil society organizations of which it is part. Also involved electing representatives to positions in government; in this case there is the risk that the elected turn their back to their commitments to the voters, as repeatedly occurred during the Republic. Precisely this fact served as an argument to the insurrectional process that took power in 1959 with a commitment to restore the 1940 constitution and call elections immediately.
The elections are important for the people as long as they express the public opinion. But public opinion and electoral democracy are the foundation of the building. Then comes the building, meaning, the system of government as a hierarchical structure where power goes from the majority to a minority. So depending on decisions made by that minority whether or not they represent the best interests of their constituents, we face a democratic or undemocratic government, demonstrating that elections are necessary but not sufficient.
The seizure of power by the revolutionaries in 1959 provoked a violent break with the established system. It replaced the Constitution of 1940 and with it the institutional base. Then the revolution, which has become a source of law, swept away civil society and all the spaces that were instruments of civic participation. The country headed towards the totalitarianism that penetrated the entire social fabric, liquidated political pluralism and thus eradicated the concept of citizen. Seventeen years later, in 1976, a constitution was adopted that legalized the marginalization of the people in politics.
Since then, Cubans were limited to electing district delegates. Thereafter, where the destiny of the nation is decided, the Candidacy Commissions created by the same power, decide the candidates for all positions in government, from the municipality to the National Assembly of People’s Power; meanwhile the people are reduced to confirming the propositions of said Committees. As an end result there exists a government that has been predetermined. This explains the excessively prolonged time leaders remain in positions of power, indicating the nonexistence of democracy and evidence that the elections, as a manifestation of popular sovereignty, are something that remains pending.
The Cuban case demonstrates that democracy — the best instrument of the people to exercise their freedoms — is fragile. Its strength depends on civic education, the rebuilding of civil society independent of the state and the reconversion of Cubans into citizens; it is the only way out of political marginalization.