Ivan Garcia, 12 March 2018 — After six o’clock in the afternoon, do not ask Daniela, a single mother of three children, her opinion about the Cuban electoral process or whether she was planning to vote on Sunday March 11 in the imitation-plebiscite that will ratify the 605 deputies to the parliament which, on April 19, will elect the new State Council and the President of Cuba.
And when night falls, Daniela’s apartment is the closest thing to a small hell. While trying to prepare the food — spicy chicken, white rice, black beans and tomato salad — her children fight among themselves to watch certain programming on television or they start playing football with a ball that crashes into the walls, threatening to destroy the home’s furniture and decorations.
Around eleven o’clock at night, when her children are asleep, Daniela offers her verdict on the elections in Cuba: “All the elections here are a montage. What do they solve? Nothing. It’s a joke. It is part of the simulation that we live in this country. On Sunday I will go and leave my ballot blank as I have been doing for a while. Although that does not solve anything, whether I vote a blank ballot or do not vote at all, the future delegates are already chosen.”
Rosa María Payá Acevedo, daughter of the opposition figure Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, who died in a traffic crash in July 2012 and whose family accuses the olive-green autocracy of having caused the fatal crash, has another point of view.
At the head of the CubaDecides organization, Rosa María, who lives between Miami and Havana, carries out a campaign for Cubans to annul thir ballots by writing the word Plebiscito on them.
In her opinion, “it would send a signal of rejection, both to the electoral system and to the government of Raúl Castro” and would support the proposal promoted by CubaDecides, to hold a binding plebiscite that would initiate a political transition towards democracy on the Island.
Other opposition groups, such as the Forum for Rights and Freedoms, headed up by Antonio Rodiles and Ailer González, believe that the road to follow to demand the rights hijacked by the regime is marching in the streets. They believe that participating in electoral processes is validating the dictatorship.
The dissidence, divided and without a popular base, has not been able, or has failed, to build bridges with ordinary Cubans. They speak the same language and have more or less similar aspirations — democracy, economic freedom and freedom of expression and free elections — but for now they are not working together.
Ordinary people see the dissidence in another dimension, either due to the official narrative or the poor performance of the opposition, which rarely appears in the community and lives from a discourse focused on the outside.
Given the lack of leadership, political apathy and fear that still grips many Cubans, the position of a broad segment of Cubans with respect to the elections on Sunday, March 11 is to continue the simulation. Or just stay at home chatting or watching television.
I chatted about the subject with several Habaneros. Ana, an engineer, will take advantage of Sunday to straighten her hair and organize her daughter’s closet. “I’m not going to vote. I do not swallow another story anymore. One can be deceived for ten, twenty or thirty years, but now it’s six decades with the same story and the people get nothing.”
Otto, a bus driver, is going to vote so as not to raise a red flag with his CDR — the block watch group formally named Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. “Living in my house without official permission are my wife and her mother who are from the east of the country. If I don’t go to vote the CDR will air my dirty laundry. I’m going to leave the ballot blank, or write a bad word or put an X through all the candidates, but none of these options will resolve our problems.”
Carlos, a sociologist, believes that the electoral process in Cuba is an infectious and undemocratic mechanism. “It’s pure formalism. Cubans do not elect the president directly. The vote on Sunday is not to elect anyone, it is to ratify a group that was already chosen by the authorities. Not going or leaving the ballot blank, perhaps it is useful for the statistics and you can see that popular support has been lost. But if just 50 percent of the voters attend, staying home will not prevent the nominated candidates from being elected. ”
Hilda, an official, will work in an electoral college in the municipality of Diez de Octubre. Without blushing, she repeats the regime’s tirade: “The elections in Cuba are the most transparent and democratic in the world. The polls are guarded by pioneers (elementary school students), not by soldiers. And at the time of counting, any citizen, even if he is an opponent of the government, can observe the count. Our electoral model is not perfect, but it is among the best on the planet.”
Faced with the questions of why Cubans can not directly elect their president; or why a person who does not belong to the Communist Party can’t run for office; or the prohibition on participating in the elections as neighborhood candidates, enforced against dozens of dissidents; or not allowing direct plebiscites on citizen proposals, Hilda responds:
“Our system to elect the president is parliamentary, just like in other nations. Cuba is a one-party democracy. The individuals who tried to participate in the constituency elections are mercenaries paid by the United States to overthrow the system. And we can not accept that. Holding direct elections on popular requests is more science fiction than reality,” the official argues.
Due to ignorance or disinformation, she did not know that direct plebiscites are carried out in Switzerland. Those in charge of the electoral processes of the Cuban regime should visit that country and learn how a real democracy works. And not continue congratulating themselves on a useless invention.