“Many Voters Will Not Vote for Me” / Cubanet, Orlando Freire Santana

Hildebrando Chaviano (photo by the author)
Hildebrando Chaviano (photo by the author)

“Some do not know me well, some are prisoners of fear.” Interview with opposition member Hildebrando Chaviano, candidate for delegate to the People’s Power.

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Orlando Freire Santana, Havana, 15 April 2015 – Independent journalist Hildebrando Chaviano is one of the opposition candidates nominated by districts in the capital with a view towards the midterm elections to be held this coming April 19. In order to learn of the most recent events surrounding his nomination, we visited him in his apartment on the 28th floor of the Focsa building in the El Vedado neighborhood.

Q: Have you noticed any change recently in your neighbors’ treatment of you?

A: “I can tell you yes, indeed. But a change for the better. Neighbors approach me and greet me cordially. Even those who have never had a close relationship with me, now I notice they are friendlier.

“However, the neighbors from the building are one thing, and another is the workers of the State establishments located here in Focsa. Many of them, due to the extent of their working hours — especially those in the food business – will vote at this polling station on the 19th.   And certainly, I am aware that they have distanced themselves from me. I am convinced that they have been told categorically that they may not vote for me.

“Even recently there occurred a telling event. Some reporters from the German television station Deutsche Welle visited me. When they were leaving we came to the building’s reception area where they wanted to take some pictures of me. The receptionist, very startled, left the place, because according to her own words, ‘Not for anything in the world could I appear in those photographs.’”

Q: What has been the popular reaction to the exposure of your biographical data, full of insults for being a “counter-revolutionary?”

A: “My perception, basically through conversations with my neighbors, is that this time the biographies have been more widely read than in prior elections. They have even told me that they have seen passersby, who have nothing to do with this polling station, stopped in front of the photos and biographies.

“Most of the neighbors are convinced that the insults placed in my biography are revenge by the authorities for a nomination that they did not expect.”

Q: Do you believe that voters are ready to support an opposition candidate?

“It is undeniable that there are many voters who are not going to vote for me. I am not referring to neighbors from my building but to people in the rest of the district. Some because they do not know me well, and others are prisoners of fear. Among the latter ideas are entertained like ‘what if there is a hidden camera that films the voting,’ ‘what if each ballot has a password that identifies the voter’… Nevertheless, it is no less certain that people want something different, and many see me as a brave person who has decided to confront the machinery of power.”

Q: Do you believe that an opposition delegate can adequately carry out his work in the midst of the bureaucratic structures of the People’s Power?

A: “I think so, as long as you have a program of action. Because, look, here almost all the delegates that enter office do it without a defined program, and therefore they become simple ‘errand boys’ between their voters and the municipal governments. Under those conditions, obviously, they end up swallowed by the governmental bureaucracy, and they also lose the trust of the voters.

“I appreciate that my trips abroad have given me insights about initiatives that could be implemented at the community level.”

Biography written by the official electoral commission (photo courtesy of the author)
Biography written by the official electoral commission. Among other things it says that Chaviano is a counterrevolutionary and that his activities are funded by foreign groups (photo courtesy of the author)

Q: What message do you send to Cuban voters a few days before the election?

A: “The voters must lose the fear of voting for an opposition candidate. They should be convinced that it is possible to vote for a candidate who does not represent the interests of the government. Because even in the hypothetical – and almost impossible – case of finding out the identity of the voters, it would not be possible to repress so many people simultaneously.”

Translated by MLK