Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. - http://www.cubafreepress.org

28 de Abril del 2000

JOURNALIST ASKS WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF CUBA HELD FREE ELECTIONS? by Orestes Martin Perez, Cuba Free Press.

Pinar del Rio.- This past April 25 the first page of the government daily “Granma” carried a huge “98.06%” in red letters. That cipher, described euphorically in that newspaper and many other national publications referred to the number of voters participating in the first round of elections for delegates to the People’s Power Assembly. This cipher bears closer scrutiny.

It is well known we do not get too many political choices when we make our selection! The government tends to look at the participation in the voting process as tantamount to approval by the electorate of its policies. Thus the figure of 98.06 percent is presented as the number of those who support and endorse the totalitarian one-party rule of our socialist system.

Continuing along those lines, one can understand why the government exerts such coercion and pressure on the people to vote. If they don't vote, they can say good-bye to any hope for a better job; the local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) would never give such a non-voter the recommendations needed.

If a person already has a good job yet doesn't vote, he/she runs the risk that the political watchdogs pass word to their employers. There may be very little fuss at the time, nothing said face to face. But when least expected, the non-voter may be “let go” from their job as no longer needed.

A law-breaker is "not as bad" if he votes. A counter-revolutionary is less so, if he votes. Even vocal opponents, participating in recognized opposition groups are more "digestible" when they vote. So, of course, all law-breakers vote as do or try to do all sorts of dissidents and others generally critical of the system. That may be morally questionable but it is a way to lessen the personal consequences and the repression they would otherwise be subject to. The governors encourages this duplicity and benefit from it.

Most people realize the elections mean very little in their day to day lives. Certainly the candidates elected hardly have any say in the legislative process which follows those elections. The purpose of the elections is to provide a democratic "mask" for the ugly totalitarian face of our system. The real power to legislate, judge and execute is in other hands, not in those elected to the assembly.

But, as if this parody of democracy were not already bad enough, some electoral colleges use fraud. This is particularly the case where opponents speak openly of their decision not to vote. An attempt is made to purge their names from the list of voters. This is not legal. Cuban electoral law establishes the right to vote as something which can not be taken away be it used or not.

There are other angles as well: a method favored by some dissidents is to vote with blanks or to void their ballots as they vote. That choice is the way they express their rejection of a system which tries to manipulate them. But the state in a shameless maneuver uses even those votes as having been cast for an alternative choice and still counts the votes as showing participation at the percentage they had decided in advance as desirable.

But let us look at those numbers in better detail. In the last election the 1st tally showed over 223,000 ballots were left blank and more than 242,000 were voided. If we add the approximately 156,000 who did not vote even when properly registered we calculate 7.8 percent of the voters were in disagreement with the regime. That is about 500,000 Cubans who said “NO” to the farce. This number should be considered in any discussion of political alternatives.

If, after all the pressures, the blackmailing, the propaganda in favor of voting, the fraud and manipulation of the electoral colleges, the selection of candidates with identical political interests - if even then more than half a million voters say “NO,” it would be interesting to see what the voters would do in truly democratic and free elections. Isn't that an interesting question? Perhaps some day we shall see if the facts will give us an answer.

Orestes Martin Perez, Cuba Free Press


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