Jueves, 13 de Diciembre de 2018
Última actualización: 09:06 CET

Cuba's 'elections': asking the man on the street


On June 14 the Council of State announced general elections. In this first stage (September 2017) only partial elections will be held, in which district delegates are to be elected.

It is obvious that the "elections" are not usually a crucial phenomenon in Cubans' lives. People are hardly excited, nor is the monotonous tempo of life altered in the country by this event, which ought to be momentous.

"Elections? Well yes, I think so. I've heard about that. It seems to me that this year we are to choose the delegates," says a carriage driver who covers the Cocal route, in the city of Mayarí.

"I don't care who it is. In the end no one can do anything for anyone. It's always the same old thing, and nothing is solved. The few times I go to the meetings is when they hook me and I can’t get away,” one passenger said.

A hospital nurse stated firmly: "You go to the meetings so you don´t stand out, which is not a good idea, for many reasons. Who thinks it's important? Nobody! Even getting any candidates is difficult because people are proposed, and they almost all refuse, with 20 different excuses. Even active members of the Party refuse. It's a pain in neck; the only thing they can do later is to tell people 'That can’t be done.' They don't even get paid for that tough job, which takes a lot of time, listening to the people and going to thousands of meetings. I was a neighbor of a delegate, and it’s a pain in the neck."

In a small survey of 25 people of different ages and social groups, this same view predominated, with different nuances. Only two (8%) saw the Cuban elections as important: 2It is a key moment for us Cubans and for the Revolution. Even more now, with that crazy new president, Trump, who insists on returning to aggression against Cuba. We will participate again, massively, like no other country in the world,” were the words of one of them.

A significant figure was that 17 respondents (68%) did not even know that the elections had already been scheduled. Neither were they aware that they form part of a general election process that will renew even the national Government.

Only one of them (4%) knew that this time independent candidates would run in some districts of the country.

"Yes, the opposition wants to change its strategy: instead of not participating, like before, they will now try to gain ground within the system. Maybe it will work. I am a whole-hearted opponent of the system, although I have not been politically active for many years," he said.

"Here in Mayarí the movement was dismantled, and I was starving. But I still have a lot of relationships, and I found out about the elections. I would even like to run because I think the strategy makes sense, but I'm hesitant to go to the meeting. I haven't participated in anything for 20 years!" explained the respondent.

Most, however, responded with expressions of surprise: "First I've heard of it!" "Dissenters as delegates? You think? Is that even possible? They must be crazy!"

It was interesting that, in general, there were no expressions rejecting or deriding dissenters - something significant in a country where the regime has described them as stateless and dismissed them as mercenaries and terrorists. Nor is there any legal framework to accommodate plurality, and the State-Party monopolizes all the media. It denies them access to political opponents and discredits them, sullying their public image. Hence, their plans and proposals are barely known.

The survey revealed apathy towards the election process. Although the news and press announced the commencement of this process, people are not enthusiastic. They just don’t care. Most people do not even remember hearing about it. There is no electoral atmosphere in the streets. Everything remains the same. Obviously, there is a lack of a civic culture or confidence in voting as a mechanism for change and democratic social mobility.

Nonetheless, although the people are generally unaware of it, this year the "elections" do have a different connotation, for two reasons: one, because Raúl Castro is expected to abandon the government, and, for the first time under this Constitution the president of Cuba may be someone without the surname "Castro." Second, because for the first time the opposition will actively participate and put Cuban electoral laws, purportedly non-partisan, to the test.

Undoubtedly, a true challenge for Cuba today.