Reports from Cuba: Masquerade Cuban style and our recent ‘elections’

Javier Herrera writes in Havana Times:

Masquerade Cuban Style and Our Recent ‘Elections’

Cubans going through the motions.

Democracy in Cuba is nothing more than a poorly drawn caricature that is even worse in its implementation. The regime’s own laws stipulate this. Let’s take a look at recent events.

According to Cuban Law, the government exercises power through People’s Power bodies, the highest of these being the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP). According to the Cuban Constitution, the ANPP is:

  • The supreme organ of the State’s power and it represents Cuba’s Legislative Power.
  • According to the 2019 Constitution, it has legislative and constituent power within the Republic.
  • It is composed of lawmakers who are elected for a five-year period and can be reelected, representing the island’s 168 municipalities.

Its responsibilities include electing the President and Vice-President of the Republic with an overall majority, as well as the President and Vice-President of the Assembly itself, members of the Council of State, the president, vice-president and members of the National Electoral Council, the president and magistrates of the People’s Supreme Court; the public prosecutor and the General State Comptroller. It also appoints the prime minister, deputy prime ministers and other members of the Council of Ministers.

The Assembly is made up of representatives elected at a local or district level, who have risen up the organization’s pyramid and reached the highest tier of government. All of this sounds normal and democratic up until this point, but it’s easy to prove that this process is corrupt from the beginning to end.

In local elections, only Party members and allies run and are elected. This is the only level where there is a trace of democracy because there are normally many candidates. Generally-speaking, another Party member nominates them and then voters elect them more out of apathy or because of their charisma, rather than hoping that something positive comes out of their time in office.

Despite Electoral law stipulating that every citizen over the age of 16, without any legal restrictions, is eligible for nomination, this isn’t the case. An example? Let’s look at what happened in 2017, when 175 Cuban opposition candidates nominated themselves, forming part of the #Otro18 campaign, in the November 26th elections for the municipal Councils of People’s Power.

The Cuban Government had many unobstructed strategies and intimidation methods to stop dissidents forming part of the election process:

State repressors systematically interfered in “nomination assemblies, when residents from electoral constituencies would come together to approve which candidates would be listed on ballot papers. In some cases, aspiring candidates were arrested on the day of these assemblies and taken to remote places, placing pressure on voters and intimidating them. In other cases, they discredited candidates when they were unable to intimidate voters.

In extreme cases, and given the fact that Cuban electoral law bans candidates with a criminal background, they decided to condemn opposition hopefuls in summary hearings so they could discredit them as nominees, such as Jose Casares Soto, who was sentenced to five years iin prison on contempt charges that have been pending since 2012, or Armando Abascal, who was sentenced in a swift trial for incitement after he was identified as the leader of a protest in the town of Perico, in September.

Later, a video was leaked (February 2017) where the vice-president at the time and subsequent president of Cuba, Miguel Diaz-Canel said, during a PCC meeting, that the Government planned to “discredit” candidates who were considered “counter-revolutionaries.”

Looking at these facts, we can now address recent events in Cuba’s electoral history

On Sunday March 26th, the State called for elections to ratify the 470 candidates proposed to the National Assembly. Even though they were elections by name, it’s hard to say this is what they were and they were less democratic given the fact that contending candidates didn’t exist. 470 candidates were listed on the ballot papers for 470 seats in Cuban Parliament, without presenting a single alternative candidate.

The Cuban National Assembly

Add to this the fact that public scrutiny is practically impossible, regardless of the Constitution and Electoral law supporting this. Election observers outside of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) have never been invited and opposition members who have expressed their wish to exercise their right to supervise the process have been harassed, intimidated, threatened, arrested, or prevented from leaving their homes by the regime’s political police.

I am familiar with Joseph Stalin’s statement: “It’s not the people who vote that count, nor where or who they vote for, it’s the people who count the votes.” In elections marked by the highest abstention rate in the Revolution’s history, every nominated candidate was ratified, which was labeled a “victory” by the regime and coined by the national and international press.

It was these very same candidates that met during the National Assembly of People’s Power session, under its 10th legislature, at the Havana Conventions Palace, on April 19th. During the session, which was initially led by the National Electoral Council; the National Assembly elected its President, Vice-President, Secretary and other Council of State members from its representatives. It then went on to elect the President and Vice-President of the Republic; and at the President of the Republic’s proposal, they also elected the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers, Secretary and other Council of Ministers members.

Here’s how they vote in the National Assembly

Once again, we are talking about elections without opposition or alternative candidates. There weren’t any options outside of the nominated candidates and they were all voted in as you’d expect, almost unanimously if we don’t count the eight lawmakers who were absent and the two votes against Esteban Lazo as the ANPP President and one protest vote that appeared in the secret voting process.

The reelected president Miguel Diaz Canel and his VP Salvador Valdes Mesa

Regarding the position of President and Vice-President, Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel and Salvador Valdes Mesa were ratified for a second five-year term. It’s worth pointing out that despite the disastrous work of this presidential duo’s government, their performance was praised by many lawmakers who took the floor to exalt them.

With no regard for the severe economic, social and political crisis in the country today, the regime considered this reelection a victory and proclaimed it as such. At no point was the mishandling of the Hotel Saratoga or the Matanzas Super Tanker port disasters mentioned, when an official report about the causes and consequences of both have still not been presented up until today. Nor was anything said about the awful decision to go ahead with currency reform in the middle of the pandemic, which was supposed to get rid of the dual currency system and reorganize the economy. However, it’s done the exact opposite with more currencies circulating now than before and has further devalued the Cuban Peso, sinking the population in absolute poverty.

Those words of praise for the reelected president mentioned nothing about the over 300,000 Cubans who left the island in 2022, mostly young Cubans, nor was anything said about those who are trying to leave the country by putting their lives in danger, or the thousands of Cubans who are looking for a sponsor right now so they can emigrate to the United States, nor did they say anything about inflation or the poor state of hospitals and polyclinics. Or about the poor state of the education system, or the political police’s abuse and harassment of anyone who dares to think differently. In short, amidst all of that praise, there wasn’t any room to talk about all of the problems that are suffocating ordinary Cubans, as if these lawmakers, presidents and ministers were living in a completely different Cuba.

After the election results were announced of those who say they represent the Cuban people, it’s easy to see that the ruling elite is still the exact same, without any change in shape or form. Once again, the Cuban political circus has put on its show for Cuba and the world, but let’s remember that the show will only go on as long as the audience claps and there are more and more people who refuse to clap, both in and outside Cuba.