14ymedio, Madrid, 30 March 2023 — Although the votes on March 26 “reaffirmed revolutionary convictions”, according to a statement by Miguel Díaz-Canel on Wednesday in a meeting of the Council of Ministers, the official had to devote several minutes to defend the legitimacy of the process after 2.5 million Cubans who live on the Island were left without representation.
This last data point has been claimed by D Frente, an opposition organization, which published a statement that same day suggesting that the sum of those who either abstained, left the ballot blank, or annulled their ballot indicates that 33.8% of the electorate “were not in favor of the continuity of the current Cuban political order.”
Conscious that the elections resulted in an historically high abstention rate (24%) since 1959, Díaz-Canel centered on minimizing the importance that one in four Cubans did not show up at the polls by comparing it with another geographic context (the U.S.), while refusing to compare it with another temporal context, that of the legislative elections five years ago, where only 15% of registered voters abstained.
“The comparison the enemy attempts to make between these results and those obtained in the 2018 national elections is opportunistic, as they are completely different electoral contexts,” he said, and went on to state how the situation on the Island has worsened in the last five years, presumably due to the tightening of the blockade, its supposed consequences — from the lack of electricity to lack of credit in international markets — and the U.S. media “campaign to discredit”.
More importantly, in exchange, Díaz-Canel seemed to compare the data with the elections in democratic and multi-party systems which have little to do with the Cuban context. “The same press that covers up electoral results in first world countries which aren’t even blockaded, nor attacked, nor subjected to enormous media campaigns, and the participation is barely above 60%,” he said.
The government official also spent a good part of his time justifying the electoral transparency. Activists and opponents — relying on images published by citizens, independent, and even official media — have cast doubt on the participation rates offered by the National Elections Commission (CEN), but Díaz-Canel defended that there is no proof that there were illegalities in the process.
“Even though the counterrevolutionary campaign was intent on presenting the elections as lacking transparency, the truth is that they do not have a single bit of evidence, not one bit of evidence of any irregularity,” he said. From there, he continued with an explanation on the different processes required to approve candidates and in which, in his opinion, everything is open to the citizenry.
That there is no independent candidate nor one that does not subscribe to the official discourse does not surprise the General Secretary of the Communist Party, for whom international observers are unnecessary; even in democracies well-recognized and funded by the population, such as the U.S. or Spain, the electoral process is supervised. “We don’t need international observers, everyone has the right, the possibility and the authority to be an observer, and they do it.”
The government official presented as extraordinary, events that are common any election, such as showing empty ballot boxes as the polls opened or counting the in front of those who attend–a half-truth, since the director of this very daily, Yoani Sánchez, attempted to exercise that right in 2019 and was only able to do so following an act of repudiation and many obstacles.
For Díaz-Canel, however, Cuba couldn’t be more proud. “We’d have to ask ourselves, why the biased and tendentious view — simply, colleagues, because we are an example for the world. And we must continue to defend that example, and that example must also be defended with the encouragement give of the people who produced results during these elections,” he added.
The government official also puffed his chest recounting the percent participation which, in his opinion, offer “the demonstration of civility, but also patriotism, of loyalty to the Revolution,” by the people amid the difficulties. “There is expectation, trust, and I believe we all must work as part of that learning in search of, above all else, an economic response to the country’s current situation,” he said before enumerating the long list of the day-to-day problems for Cubans, which span lack of food, housing or water, deficiencies in education, health and transportation, or the alarming increase in violence of all kinds.
Faced with these, he did not offer any solutions, beyond aiming for a change was based on magic realism that will result in “tremendous energy to continue advancing because in these elections, Cuba won.”
One vision that differs from that detailed by D Frente in its statement, in which it considers the vote a “a confirmation of delegates previously designated to those posts.” The organization denounced the harassment and arrests against those who attempted to promote abstention, something which is prohibited by Cuban law although it is legal in most countries where voting is not obligatory, as well as direct or indirect coercion of voters for them to cast their vote and to do so in the convenient sense.
“Even when the process didn’t benefit from the supervision of independent observer institutions nor with the minimum guarantees of a democratic electoral process, the public results by CEN show the continued erosion fo the current political regime,” stated D Frente, which urges the elected delegates to take on the issue of the system’s representativeness and demand “that all political prisoners be released; that the human rights of all Cubans be respected without political discrimination; recognize political pluralism; and begin a process of transition to save the country from the crisis it is currently living.”
Translated by: Silvia Suárez
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