Here’s a message to media and policy makers from People in Need, a Czech human rights and development NGO, about “elections” in Cuba.
It’s a reminder that the process in Cuba should not be confused with what are commonly called elections in democratic countries.
Cuba continues to be governed by a single party regime which imprisons internal opposition and severely limits freedoms that are considered sacred in all other democratic countries. There are basic ways in which the Cuban people are not able to participate in these elections by their own free will and which the selections of candidates are limited and unfair.
During the municipal elections, Cubans:
– cannot vote in secret ballots, candidates are chosen in public meetings
– cannot control the counting of ballots at all the levels of electoral committees
During the Parliamentary elections, Cubans:
– have almost no real choice in who can be considered a candidate since they have no right to propose independent candidates on a national level
– the number of candidates is equal to the number of people who are to be elected
– candidates are chosen by six specific organizations under the direct control of the communist party
– not affiliated with one of these six organizations have no means of participating in the selection process.
– voters can be over-represented by serving on one or several of the organizations
– voters can only select the approved candidates for the ballots to be considered valid
– ballots with no candidate selected or with write-in or other suggestions are invalid
Various members of the opposition have criticized the electoral system. Owaldo Paya Sardinas, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, called upon the government to change the law and allow real free and fair elections. “In this moment in our history, Cuba needs transparency and confidence and that only can be achieved by respecting the ideas and rights of everyone, not imposing an electoral process … that for years has impeded the people from freely expressing and deciding for itself,” he wrote. Martha Beatriz Roque, an economist and former political prisoner, said that the elections are not secret, because candidates are selected only in public reunions. “Imagine what support can an oppositon’s cadidate get in this public meeting in front of all these people from government’s apparatus. He will immediately has to think about his sons and family, in fact that they can all loose a job or that he can even become a prisoner,” she wrote.
We ask the media and policy makers not to follow the Cuban regimes propaganda and to learn more about the real working of this process. To that end you can find the two analysis by Rene Gomez Manzano here, and here.
For more information you can directly contact following people in Cuba:
* Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, leader of the Christian Movement Liberation (Movimiento Cristiano Liberación – MCL) and author of the Varela Project, which calls for a referendum on civil liberties. In 2002, the Sakharov Prize was presented to Payá by the European Parliament, and he has been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace several times. Phone: +537 41 01 49 or +537 40 48 56.
* Martha Beatriz Roque, economist, and one of the two women arrested during the crackdown in March 2003. Roque joined the opposition in the end of 1990 and, in 1994, founded the Cuban Institute of Independent Economists (Instituto Cubano de Economistas Independientes). She was condemned to three years in prison in 1997. In 2002, Martha Beatriz founded the Asamblea para Promover la Sociedad Civil, a coalition of more than 300 democratic organizations on the island. Phone: +53-7-946821
* Oscar Espinosa Chepe, one of the 14 journalists set free, for health reasons, from the so- called Group of 75, formed by the dissidents imprisoned in March 2003. Since his liberation, Espinosa has become one of the main sources of information for those who want to know more about the situation in Cuba. He continues to send his articles and analyses abroad. His wife, Miriam Leiva, is a well known member of the Cuban opposition, as well. Phone: +537 209 4645
* Laura Pollán, wife of independent journalist Carlos Maseda, arrested in March 2003 and condemned to twenty years in prison. Poyán is a founding member of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) movement, which received the Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament in 2005. Phone: 53-7-873-4165