Sunday, October 21, 2012

Elections in Cuba

Cuban opposition leaders dead under suspicious circumstances in past year

On October 7, 2012 the world witnessed contested elections in Venezuela, a country that is no longer democratic. On Sunday the world will be able to observe a Stalinist exercise in voting not an election but the forced ratification of a system that only recognizes one legal political party, the communist party, and where even the selection process of candidates is controlled from the center of power. Fidel Castro in an interview in 1960 with a Brazilian journalist explained his disdain for elections:
"It never functioned in Latin America. Elections are a myth. The parliamentary system in Cuba reflected the old system, which we are now destroying. Elections now would be a step backward, with time and effort wasted in sterile discussions and theoretical considerations."
The only "elections" held in Cuba over the past few years has been that of the dictatorship electing which opposition leader that threatens to be a political alternative should die prematurely under suspicious circumstances. Over the past year alone the founder of the Ladies in White, Laura Pollán and the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas have both died under strange circumstances. The family of Payá Sardiñas is demanding an international investigation.

Both Laura and Oswaldo were selected for an early termination of their natural existence by the dictatorship because they refused to go along with the plan laid out by the regime of making changes in appearance while maintaining the totalitarian structure of the dictatorship intact. Laura had succeeded in building a nationwide movement widely respected both inside Cuba and internationally. She also had the training, skills and experience to be an option for national leadership. She was also a woman of great courage. In the months prior to her untimely death, despite repeated physical attacks, she continued to organize and march and defy the dictatorship nonviolently. Her defiance was also reflected in her words:
"They can either kill us, put us in jail or release them. We will never stop marching no matter what happens." (2010)

"We are going to continue. We are fighting for freedom and human rights.” (September 24, 2011)

"As long as this government is around there will be prisoners because while they've let some go, they've put others in jail. It is a never-ending story." (2011)

“If we must give our own lives in pursuit of the freedom of our Cuba that it be what God wants.” (September 24, 2011)

"We are not going to stop. If you have imprisoned our sisters thinking that we would give up, they are mistaken. We are very united (...) all the women's movements are very close." (October 2, 2011)

Less than four months prior to his July 22 death on March 30, 2012 Oswaldo explained what was going on and Christian Liberation Movement's position on the subject:
 Our Movement denounces the regime's attempt to impose a fraudulent change, i.e. change without rights and the inclusion of many interests in this change that sidesteps democracy and the sovereignty of the people of Cuba. The attempt to link the Diaspora in this fraudulent change is to make victims participate in their own oppression. The Diaspora does not have to "assume attitudes and policies in entering the social activity of the island." The Diaspora is a Diaspora because they are Cuban exiles to which the regime denied rights as it denies them to all Cubans. It is not in that part of oppression, without rights, and transparency that the Diaspora has to be inserted, that would be part of fraudulent change.

The gradual approach makes sense only if there are transparent prospects of freedom and rights. We Cubans have a right to our rights. Why not rights? It's time. That is the peaceful change that we promote and claim. Changes that signifies freedom, reconciliation, political pluralism and free elections. Then the Diaspora will cease being a Diaspora, because all Cubans will have rights in their own free and sovereign country. That is why we fight. 

Oswaldo and Laura are no longer physically with us, but both their spirits and examples live on. Cubans both inside and outside of the island have a choice to make - an election or a selection if you will- to continue to go along with the dictatorship in order not to draw attention to yourself and eke out an existence on the island or flee into exile. Many have done it over the past half century and that is part of the reason the dictatorship is still there. In other countries others have confronted equally brutal dictatorships using nonviolent change and achieved positive change.

This other option is full of risk and it is to carry on the legacy of courageous and principled nonviolent resistance to the totalitarian dictatorship that has plagued Cubans with the systematic denial of their human rights This would be accomplished through a combination of creativity and courage sustained by perseverance and patience to achieve real and lasting change Laura and Oswaldo demanded. Not a fraudulent change but true change were all Cubans have their human rights restored. So that one day Cuban children are able to look back at Castro era as a sad and bizarre chapter of Cuban history and question how did it ever last so long. This the only real election going on in Cuba in which the outcome is not known ahead of time.

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