The People’s Vote Validates and Abstention Discredits

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Up early in Camaguey to sell oranges. Photo: Carlos Dura

HAVANA TIMES — It was and is many socialists’ serious mistake to believe that a truly fair society could be the result of an undemocratic political system. 

Omitting this absurd thing of saying that “there is a different way of interpreting democracy” (because this is an attack on our most basic intelligence), where “different” means “without democracy”, our country is still trying to save or preserve what is officially called “the Revolution” using this extremely questionable method.

In these local “People’s Power” elections, District Representatives (representing a portion of a neighborhood) are being elected, who will be members of Municipal Assemblies and the fact that nominations can’t be completely free has already been proven. The opposition can’t be candidates, even though the law doesn’t exclude them, and any real chance they had of attending the Nomination Assemblies were intercepted in many different ways.

In legal terms, it should be a person’s “merit” that makes people choose them from among the other possible candidates, not the use of force and negative political propaganda within the community. The second thing involves a serious violation of the current electoral law in force.

According to the government, the Cuban people follow them “faithfully”, so it’s assumed that reading that a candidate is an opponent in their autobiography (the only legally-authorized form of campaign publicity at this stage), people would automatically deny them their vote and standing alone with their conscience in front of the ballot card, they mark the expected “YES” for the Revolution.

However, if this confidence of mass support is constantly used as a reason to not change anything, then why did they decide to tarnish the electoral process with this added and crystal-clear anti-democratic behavior? Nobody knows why. Words and events don’t fit together.

It was a golden opportunity to be able to prove or refute, at least in some isolated areas, what has been discussed a lot up until now: whether huge rallies and processions are or are not conclusive evidence of the Government and political system’s majority support.

Then, there was also the big test of whether any opposition candidate, in the case of winning: would they be able to hold a role in office that demands a public oath of loyalty, by law, to the Cuban political system and the Revolution? A truly controversial point for different political positions.

The Cuban political system is already famous for not depending on the people’s direct vote for the most important political positions in the country. Only the District Representative is put forward by voters and directly elected out of two or more candidates.

Coincidentally, it’s the most insignificant position in Cuba: there is no salary, no car, no office, no resources. They only channel complaints and possible solutions or excuses. Going above the district representative, the more power the political-administrative position has, the further it is away from a direct popular vote.

Looking through the bars of a colonial window. Photo: Carlos Dura

While it’s true that this “election” of Representatives is a source for the Provincial and National Assemblies with 50% of its members entering into these positions, it’s the Nomination Commission that makes the selection; it is never the result of people’s free proposals or election. And the people don’t “elect”, they only approve of a single slate when it comes to National Assembly members.

Just take a good look at how in State Councils and Ministries, nearly every Representative (at the beginning, all of them) belong to the other 50% (who were elected by the Nomination Commission) “by chance”. None of them are Representatives of those elected as Representatives! And therefore, none of them received the people’s direct vote! This is something that underlines the serious problems our political system has and there is an urgent need for this to be reformed.

Any system that respects its people should have a visibly democratic system, even more so if it wants to be called “socialist”. In spite of the stigma that surrounds a lot of people’s minds because of extreme experiments in the past, and some today, democracy has to be inherent to socialism.

Socialism without democracy is a hoax because you can’t emancipate or bring justice to a people whose rights aren’t all respected. Let there be no doubt: the people’s vote is what validates and their abstention, discredits.

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    Logical and correct analysis. The concept of the Cuban people following the communist political regime “faithfully” is just baloney as they have no choice.
    I was particularly interested in the photograph of the pitifully few oranges in the cart in Camaguey. Prior to the revolution, Cuba was a major fruit producer. Our local veterinarian who is now aged 64, told me that when he was a child, sacks of juicy oranges could be purchased on the streets of our community for very small sums and that the supply slowly reduced over the years until it was no longer possible to buy any. The remnants of substantial pre-revolution orange plantations can be seen when travelling on the autopista, but it is evident that no endeavor has been made to replace old trees and there is no sign of pruning. Why?
    The same veterinarian is now very fearful about the future for his wife and himself as retirement and old age approach, On November 2nd he told me of those fears and posed the question of how they will be able to survive on the pittance of the pension. I recall the date, because on the same day, Bruno Rodriguez addressed the Press Club in New York talking of the successes of the Castro regime and as is obligatory for all representatives of the Castro regime, castigating the US for the ‘blockade” (which is actually an embargo – there is a defined difference in both English and Spanish) and again refuting the approach made by Barack Obama. What a difference between the imaginary Cuba painted by Bruno Rodriguez and the reality of the fears of my friend. What advice would you give him to allay his fears?
    Readers my have noted that I frequently in my own contributions here, refer to the “reality” of life in Cuba for Cubans. My home is not in Havana, which like most capital cities provides greater opportunities than other communities, nor do we have any tourist attractions. In consequence, I experience the raw reality of Cuba and the consequences of the communist system which the Castros have imposed upon it. The sycophants of the regime squeal in objection about such realities being revealed or discussed, but almost without exception they live in the comfort of capitalist societies and at most know Cuba only as tourists visiting tourist locations for brief periods.
    It will not do to just paint those who like myself know Cuba intimately as right wing extremists, to do so is not only incorrect, but an insult to those of different political viewpoints, but holding common cause in supporting the democratic multi-party system as compared with totalitarianism. Osmel Ramirez Alvarez has previously described himself as a democratic socialist, and he concludes his article by writing that:

    “Socialism without democracy is a hoax.”

    Does that make him a right wing extremist?

    • Joseph Marti

      Anything that colors outside the lines of Lenin/Stalinist socialism definitely right-wing (hard to imagine anything left-wing). Thanks for the thoughtful contribution Carlisle, and for addressing one if my pet peeves -EMBARGO, not “Bloqueo.”

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        Hope you understand Joseph that I tend to expatiate because the opportunity to contribute here is limited as I spend most of my time in Cuba. But I am glad you find my contributions interesting, I am fortunate because I am able to speak from personal experience, When I wrote ‘Cuba Lifting the Veil’ I did so because Cubans are unable to expose the truth and are jailed if they so endeavor, and also they would be unable to get published. So I tried to present the reality of their lives and their history.
        Distortion is commonplace in communism and the embargo being described as a blockade is an example.
        I note your view about Donald Trump(f) with interest. He too distorts.

  • Gerard Matthews

    Time for the present administration to pack their bags and go! The Citizens of Cuba have been downtrodden by their own government for quite long enough. The time has come for free and honest open elections. The people have been repressed for far to long, now is the time for a possible change of government and direction. Come on mR president do the decent thing and pack your bags and just leave quietly!

    • Joseph Marti

      While I admire your straightforwardness, about as much chance as Trump permanently vacating his wacky ass out of Pennsylvania Ave on his own volition.