Chronicle Of A Failed Nomination

Roberto Santana Capdesuñer, independent candidate from Holguín. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 26 September 2017 — Located between two bays, the Holguin municipality of Antilla is among the smallest of Cuba. In District 3, young Roberto Miguel Santana Capdesuñer aspired to be a delegate at the Nominating Candidates Assembly, but a mixture of chance and likely bad intention prevented it.

Santana, 27, has been collaborating for two years with the platform #Otro18 (Another 2018) and has become coordinator of the initiative in the provinces of Granma and Holguín. In order to make a living, he obtained a license as a food seller, but the inspectors pursued him with the fines until they made his “life impossible.”

He then got a job at a state-run restaurant where he kept the accounts. However, they soon dismissed him on the grounds that he was not reliable because he was not revolutionary. Fed up with feeling segregated for not sharing the ideology of power, he decided to throw himself into activism.

Santana talks about the situation of his town with the same pain that he would recount his personal sufferings. “Our main problems are housing, food and lack of medications. In our pharmacy there is a list of 120 drugs which are missing,” he says.

The port of Antilla, which previously gave life to the place, is no longer operating and there is only one tobacco factory and a corn mill.

Like most Cubans linked to the political opposition, Santana has been the subject of police citations, arbitrary arrests, searches of the house where he lives, confiscation of his belongings, interrogations and, above all, a systematic campaign to discredit him.

Along with the risks, his attitude has also placed him in a leadership position among his neighbors. “Many people come to tell me their problems because they see in me an alternative, something different and that fills me with satisfaction,” he tells this newspaper. “There are more people who put their trust in me than those who see me as an enemy.”

In the current electoral process, the Nominating Assembly of his area was scheduled for September 7, but was suspended without fixing a new date due to Hurricane Irma. After a few days, the nomination process began again throughout the municipality, with the exception of District 3 where the activist resides.

Santana recalls that on Monday, September 18, he was advised that they could see his daughter at the pediatric hospital in Holguín. That same night he went there with his little four-year-old Lauren, and she was immediately admitted, he says.

The haste to hospitalize her came as a surprise to Santana, who on other occasions found that “there is a long wait for that.” At seven o’clock the next day he received an urgent call to inform him that the people in charge of calling the meeting were telling the voters that the Assembly would be held in an hour.

Trapped in the provincial capital, two hours from his village, the aspiring delegate saw his candidacy dissolve. The neighbors who were in a position to propose him thought that his absence was a sign that he had given up standing for election. The work he had done for more than two years and waiting for that moment came to nothing.

He later learned that no citation to come to the meeting was delivered to his mother-in-law’s house where he lives with his wife. “At that time there was no transport between Holguín and Antilla and even if I had had a car of my own it would have taken two hours to get there,” Santana laments.

Of the 200 voters in the district only 70 participated in the Assembly, according to what several residents told 14ymedio. An irregularity that contradicts the electoral rules, which require that “the massive presence of the voters of the area be verified beforehand,” before the meeting begins.

“They took advantage of the fact that I was facing a family problem to call the meeting just one hour ahead of time,” claims the activist. In his mind, the idea that State Security was behind such haste took shape. “It was unethical, a real trick,” he said.

Contingency and arbitrariness conspired against Santana that night to prevent his being chosen as a different delegate. “Not like others who want to serve as puppets to the government, sheltered behind the wall of the Communist Party, but as a counterpart in favor of the people of the neighborhood,” comments the frustrated candidate.

For the moment and under the current Electoral Law, the young activist will have to wait at least two and a half more years to try again.