14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 28 August 2017 — A video posted on social networks shows the first vice president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, concerned that critical activists with the Communist Party (PCC) will become candidates in the next elections. The “favored youngest son” of the power elite does not hesitate to propose actions to block the opposition candidates, thus committing a crime under the current electoral law.
The official alludes to six projects that are running “counterrevolutionary people as candidates for People’s Power delegates.” If the dissidents “become delegates, they will reach the Municipal Assembly and could reach the Provincial Assembly,” he warns. If they enter Parliament “it would be a way of legitimizing the counterrevolution within our civil society.”
Not satisfied with these assertions, Diaz-Canel insists on violating the law that regulates elections in the country, confessing to his audience, made up of cadres of the PCC, that “we are now taking every possible step to discredit this, so that people sense there is a risk. ”
The “favored youngest son” of the power elite does not hesitate to propose actions to block the opposition candidates, thus committing a crime under the current electoral law
Coincidentally, last Thursday the newspaper Granma reported on the actions that are considered crimes against the process. Among them is to violate article 171 of the legislation, which states that “every elector will only take into account, in order to determine which candidate he will cast his vote in favor of, the candidate’s personal circumstances, prestige, and ability to serve the people.”
The rules in force are strict: “The propaganda that will be offered will be the dissemination of the biographies, accompanied by reproductions of the image of the candidates.” No individual or organization is entitled to add details about any programs they support, their political tendencies, or any other publicity, to these few elements.*
The ruling party also insists that the party does not nominate any candidate, an assertion that has just been denied by Diaz-Canel when he reveals that the organization will discredit opponents or, and it’s the same thing, will post negative propaganda against them and boycott their candidacy.
The absence of electoral campaigns has been offered up years by the Government as one of the basic principles that differentiates the Cuban electoral process — which is “alien, in principle, to all forms of opportunism, demagogy and politicking” — from contemporary international political practice.
Behind the scenes there are other powerful forces: intimidation of the electorate, vigilance of State Security and tight monitoring by the Party
Beyond Cuba’s borders, campaigns of this type are based on two essential components: highlighting a candidate’s values and discrediting political opponents. Unfortunately, on too many occasions the competition between programs takes second place, while personal attacks and insults prevail, intended to insure that “people have a perception of risk” of what would happen if the candidate being attacked is elected to a public position.
On the island, the Popular Power elections are presented as the upper echelon in democracy as they do not appeal to clashes between antagonists, television debates and advertising paraphernalia. However, behind the scenes there are other powerful forces: intimidation of the electorate, vigilance of State Security and tight monitoring by the Party.
Many citizens dreamed that the upcoming elections, which will end with Raul Castro’s farewell to the presidency, would be governed by a new electoral law that would allow election campaigns between different parties. Rather than relying on such changes to be driven by the powers-that-be, initiatives like #Otro18 (Another 2018) and Candidates for Change set out to promote them from the bottom up.
The fear of losing political control has, however, prevented such transformations and has led Diaz-Canel to commit an electoral crime. It is paradoxical that what the current law considers an infraction is what opponents are demanding be included in a future electoral law: the ability to run a political campaign, to present proposals, and to publicly discredit the adversary.
*Translator’s note: Briefly, election campaigning is illegal in Cuba. Candidate biographies are drafted by the Communist Party and posted, with the candidate’s photo, on a single sheet of paper in a window in the candidate’s district. In the rare instance of a candidate not approved by the party making it through the first round, the official biography will make assertions along the lines of “the candidate is a counterrevolutionary who accepts funds from foreign sources.” An example of such a biography can be seen here.