Sunday, March 11, 2018

These are not elections: Reflections on the electoral farce in Cuba

Poll watching a non-election in Cuba

Raul Castro at ballot box in Cuba
The Castro regime is seeking to spin a non-vote into a democratic election, but there is a basic fact that exposes the true nature of what is going on. Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez explained it succinctly over twitter, "#TheseAreNotElections Did you know that today Cubans do not elect parliamentarians but can only ratify 605 names written on the ballots for the 605 seats in the National Assembly? They do not select or discard because "selection" was already made by 'up there'."

Rosa María Payá reported from Havana that in polling stations where they could observe the counting of votes, an average of 37% of Cuban citizens had the courage to show their rejection of the electoral system and the government. In a tweet she gave a more detailed breakdown. "In all polling stations where we were able to carry out the independent observation of the vote count, percentage of rejection of the regime and support for the Plebiscite CUBADECIDE ranged from 18% in Río Cauto, Granma, up to 90% in Songo La Maya, Santiago de Cuba."
Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez tweeted this morning, "[d]id you know that all possible independent candidates who tried to be nominated in their neighborhoods were subject to arrests, acts of repudiation, house arrest and even legal irregularities in the assemblies to prevent their candidacy?" She was referring to the campaign Otro18 (Another 18), organized by social democrat Manuel Cuesta Morua and Candidates for Change organized by Julio Antonio Aleaga Pesant. Both initiatives sought to field candidates for 2018.

Annulled ballots in Cuba earlier today
 Press accounts of the "vote" in Cuba on Sunday claimed that this was the beginning of a post-Castro era and France 24 reported that it was "a key step in a process leading to the elevation of a new president, the first in nearly 60 years from outside the Castro family."  This is incorrect for two reasons because the last President without the last name Castro was 42 years ago and his name was Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado and he held that title from July 17, 1959 through December 2, 1976. Cubans called him "president spoon" (because he neither pricks nor cuts). It was their way of saying he had no real power because it resided with Fidel Castro and his brother Raul. Secondly, Miguel Díaz-Canel, the named successor to Raul Castro for the presidency of Cuba in all probability will be another Dorticós Torrado, a figure head without any power. Raul Castro will remain head of the Communist Party and de facto head of the military.

Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado and Miguel Díaz-Canel
The CubaDecide campaign on March 10th announced that they were organizing a poll watching effort today across Cuba and presented their results this evening. Over the course of the day irregularities were reported by poll watchers, and citizens attempting to vote.  Rosa María Payá Acevedo tweeted below on measures taken by State Security to shut down the poll watchers and block dissident voters from going to the polls. "Agents of the Cuban political police persecute sympathizers and promoters of the Plebiscite CUBADECIDE while we go to the polling stations to annul our ballots. It is not only an electoral farce, but one that violates its own rules."

Rosa María Payá also tweeted that "MININT - PNR police forces in Havana show the observers of @CUBADECIDE handcuffs as a threat so that we do not go to the polling stations to exercise our right, according to the law. Zero transparency in the Cuban Electoral farce." 

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1923 commented the following about elections,“I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this - who will count the votes, and how.” 

The effort to stop the poll watchers, though poll watching is permitted under current electoral law in Cuba, hearkens back to that principle of control alluded to by Stalin 95 years ago. Reports of mistreatment also appeared on social media. Ladies in White leader Berta Soler tweeted that Cuban State Security "tortured Lady in White Aymara Nieto [placing her] under the sun, handcuffed inside a patrol car."
Rosa María Payá described how "Cuban political police assaulted with electric current Abel Melcochini in Manzanillo, Granma, observer and activist of CUBADECIDE  and UNPACU, to coerce him and prohibit him from going to vote."
Rosa María reported that the following activists were arrested and or disappeared today by the Cuban regime to prevent them from reaching the polling stations: José Díaz Silva, Lourdes Esquivel, Adonis Milan, Zaqueo Báez, Sonia de la Caridad, Roberto Pérez, Aimara Muñoz, Abdel Estévez, Lázaro González Matamoros, Dairon, Alberto de la Caridad, among others.

Cubans "get" to approve the 605 pre-selected candidates with no other option. Poll watching, although legal, led to poll watchers being threatened, harassed and detained. Cubans are dissatisfied and a significant percentage engage in protest votes or refuse to take part. Despite the media hype, Raul Castro will maintain control from his position as head of the Cuban Communist Party and other Castro family members are in key regime posts.

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