An Election in Cuba: ‘Not a Day of Reflection’ and Electoral Messages at the Polls

A session of Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power, showing the deputies voting unanimously, as is the norm.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist,27  March 2023 — Ahead of the election results in Cuba on Sunday the 26th, it is worth reflecting on some aspects of the process that was followed. Specifically, the practice of asking for votes up until the time people arrive at the polls is one controversial aspect of Cuba’s communist electoral system where plurality does not exist. Furthermore, there isn’t even a day after campaigning finishes to provide a day of reflection.

The electoral throng designed by communists to get their way has little do do with usual democratic practices. Actually, Díaz-Canel who aspires to subsequent reelection launched a grand election speech in front of the state media cameras in an attempt to influence participation up until the last minute. All rather undemocratic, of course.

And what did the leader speak of in front of the cameras? Well, more or less, the same as always. In district number 44 in Santa Clara, where he cast his vote very early at one poll — which justified his hasty return from the Iberoamerican Summit in Santo Domingo — before entering the poll, Díaz-Canel launched into a speech, the content of which had little to do with what democrats tend to do at polls during voting.

In effect, he said he was convinced that “the candidates have had the opportunity to dialogue with the people about Cuba’s challenges facing the economic blockade and unjust inclusion on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.” A claim that continues to transfer responsibility for the country’s dire economic situation to its northern neighbor, despite the fact that its government’s decisions explain, to a great extent, the disaster which has occurred. Furthermore, the dialogue with the people has been non-existent.

After announcing that the National Assembly “should change it’s system of working to facilitate the exchange with people and advance the legislative agenda” during an announcement of government action that conveys the communist leader’s absolute conviction that he will be selected once again o continue until 2028 by the delegates chosen in these elections. Later, he expressed his confidence that “the Cuban people will defend the future, the homeland and unity of the revolution with their conscious and optimistic vote.” It is crystal clear.

Not satisfied with weaving this into his speech, Díaz-Canel resorted to pontificating upon the phenomenon of migration in the context of the current global crisis. Surprisingly, he said, “Cuba is not immune to the problems faced by migrants in the world,” but that he is “also confident that many of the young people who have left the country will return.” A coded message that was for internal consumption directed at all the families torn apart by the rupture, that has displaced in just one year more than 200,000 Cubans.

Then he continued on the domestic messaging, revindicating “the role of young people in Cuba’s development and the importance of offering them spaces for their academic and professional training, as well as for their participation in innovative processes and social transformation.” A lot of grandstanding, but young Cubans are leaving the country. They do not accept the misery in which their parents and grandparents have lived, and are searching  for a better life, far from the empty ideological messages. From there, Díaz-Canel’s next message was to call for “unity and dialogue among all sectors of Cuban society,” and to reiterate his “commitment to the defense of the revolution and national sovereignty.”

He later hailed “the diversity and representativeness of the unique candidates running for Parliament,” which is nothing but a contradiction in itself. He justified it by saying that “in these candidates, all the sectors are represented and the majority are women, that is important because it allows us to have better representation from the country’s social fabric.” But that already happens in all countries around the world and there is no reason for Cuba to be an exception.

He ended by referencing the economic and social challenges the country faces and reiterated his “rejection of any external interference that aims to undermine Cuba’s sovereignty and independence.” Díaz-Canel rejected that “some could prioritize the economic situation,” which leads us to ask what the vote should depend on. He then said that, in his opinion, “most people know that despite the difficult economic situation if we were once again a colony of the United States the problems would only grow, if everything were privatized. What would be the future of the young people?” The eternal obsession since the times of Fidel Castro. Of course, a hodgepodge of tantrums that was possibly not correctly picked up by the media, since everything seemed like absolute nonsense.

Leaders of democratic countries rarely make these types of allegations at the polls when they go to vote. At most, they congratulate themselves on that day, rejoice that everything functions and trust that the day will turn out for the best. There is no room for lowbrow speeches and demagoguery. In Cuba there is.

In the single-party democracy, as Mogherini defined it, the maximum leader says whatever he wants at the polls when he goes to vote, and there are no limits. The playing field is his and no one else’s. He is even allowed to announce the priorities of his government, before he is elected by those whose mission it is to elect him or not. It is an international embarrassment however you view it.

The socialist democracy in Cuba is lightyears away from international practices. The power is highjacked by a farce, which resists advancement.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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