CubaBrief: Responding to the electoral charade in Cuba, Cubans vow they will not vote.

This CubaBrief summarizes what the media and a few organizations are saying about the vote on Sunday, March 26. Regarding tomorrow’s election charade in Cuba, the Center for a Free Cuba’s Twitter account sent the following Tweet in Spanish.

In Cuba under the Castro regime there is a vote with:

No opposition candidates

No campaigning

No press freedom

No freedom of assembly

No freedom of speech

No due process

This is not an election. This is a dictatorship.

The Cuban National Assembly is a rubber stamp body that echoes, in unanimity, the edicts of the dictatorship. It is lamentable that Elian Gonzalez whose mother, Elizabeth Brotons Rodríguez, drowned seeking to have her child live in freedom, will now become an instrument of a segregationist dictatorship where only Communist Party and mass organizations members can be candidates.

Voting booth in Cuba.

Elections are not held in Cuba, which is not a democracy. Cubans vote in a one-party dictatorship where the candidates are chosen by the regime’s top brass through committees made up of people chosen from the mass groups the dictatorship founded. The rest of the population that does not support the regime is politically segregated.

Cuba’s 2019 constitution declares that the country is officially a one-party system with the Communist Party serving as the “superior driving force of the society and the state” and “orienting the communal forces” toward the creation of a “communist society.” Internal democracy does not exist in the Cuban Communist Party. For vacant national assembly seats, bogus elections are held every five years. The Cuba Decide campaign is warning Cubans that the vote on March 26th will be subject to irregularities by showing a video over Twitter of a Cuban official stuffing a ballot box during the 2019 constitutional referendum. Attempts to conduct election observation in 2019 were subjected to repression. Below is the initial report presented by Cuba Decide when the polls closed.

Cuban dissidents in the island are calling on citizens not to take part in the sham. “Not attending the electoral farce orchestrated by the regime is an act of elementary consistency with truth and justice. No to tyranny,” tweeted from Cuba Eduardo Cardet, national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement yesterday.

The Associated Press spells out the Orwellian nature of “elections” under Castroism plainly in their headline yesterday: “Cuba holds national elections with no opposition candidates.”  The first line of the AP article underscores that there are no contested elections: “Cuba holds National Assembly elections Sunday, but there are only 470 candidates running for the 470 seats, with no opposition challengers and no campaigning.”

What is the purpose of this exercise? Professor Jaime Suchlicki of the Cuban Studies Institute explains what the dictatorship’s actual objective is: “Like in most communist countries, elections in Cuba are not aimed at changing previously selected officials, but rather at highlighting existing polices and mobilizing the population to support the communist system.”

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project in their March 23, 2023 report “Political Repression in Cuba Ahead of the 2023 Parliamentary Elections” predicted that “unaddressed grievances and repression might lead to lower voter turnout in the upcoming elections, which could, in turn, further undermine the legitimacy of Cuba’s next government.”

Art historian Carolina Barrero, who returned to Cuba from Spain in 2020, and was forcibly exiled on February 3, 2022 is at the forefront of a call for Cubans to boycott the elections to be held on March 26, 2023 with a Youtube channel: Cuba dice No a la dictadura [ Cuba says not to dictatorship] and on Twitter @CubadiceNO [ Cuba says NO] . The campaign is using the hashtag: #YoNOVoto Nonviolent theoretician Gene Sharp defined this type of boycott as an example of citizens’ noncooperation with government.

Reuters, in their March 22, 2023 article “As Cuba Election Day Nears, Some Voters Ask, ‘Why Bother?‘” offers some anecdotal evidence of voter apathy.

Like a growing number of Cubans, 77-year-old Havana resident Humberto Avila says he will likely sit out Sunday’s legislative elections. The retired university professor says he’s done the math – 470 candidates, 470 open seats – and sees no point in voting. “That’s the same number of candidates as open seats,” he told Reuters. “There are no choices.”

Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat, spokesperson for the Cuban Democratic Directorate, member of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance delivered a video taped message to the Cuban people from Monte Cristi Province in the Dominican Republic to boycott the electoral farce to be held in Cuba on March 26, 2023.

Associated Press, March 24, 2023

Cuba holds national elections with no opposition candidates

By ANDREA RODRÍGUEZ

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba holds National Assembly elections Sunday, but there are only 470 candidates running for the 470 seats, with no opposition challengers and no campaigning. Voters essentially will do no more than endorse the nominated slate of candidates.

The polling held every five years technically is nonpartisan, but falls under the indirect control of the country’s true power under the constitution, the ruling Communist Party.

Half of the candidates come from municipal assemblies chosen in local elections last November. The other half are nominated by groups representing broad swaths of society — such as a women’s group and workers unions. All are vetted by election committees with ties to the party.

Cuba’s establishment says the system is inclusive and builds unity, while steering clear of the divisiveness of party politics or any ill effects of big-money donors.

The outcome may be a foregone conclusion, but one indicator that will be closely watched is how many voters abstain from the process. That number has been growing over the past decade, which some critics point to as an erosion of confidence in Cuba’s one-party system as the country suffers a deep economic crisis.

WHAT IS THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY?

The National Assembly is nominally the country’s highest governing power. It approves laws and votes for the president and executive officials from among its members.

In practice, the chamber typically endorses initiatives and the leadership favored by the Communist Party, which is the only political party allowed on the island nation and is enshrined in the constitution as the leader of society.

Half of the delegates come from municipal assemblies voted in during November elections, in which voters chose councilors from 26,746 candidates to fill 12,427 seats around the country. The other half are made of well-known personalities proposed by workers’ unions and social organizations such as the Women’s Federation, University Youth Federation and National Association of Peasants.

Special candidacy commissions with ties to the Communist Party then whittle the candidates down to 470.

The new National Assembly is expected to convene April 19, when it will vote on the executive leadership, with current President Miguel Díaz-Canel expected to be re-elected.

WHO ARE THE CANDIDATES?

Candidates include major Cuban leaders such as Díaz-Canel, the semi-retired former Communist Party leader Raúl Castro, Economy Minister Alejandro Gil, and Premier Manuel Marrero.

They also include musician Eduardo Sosa, LGBT community representative Mariela Castro and scientist Eduardo Martínez. Also a candidate is Elián González, who as a child in 2000 famously became the center of a diplomatic custody battle between Cuba and the United States.

Carlos Miguel Perez, a 36-year-old computer engineer who owns a medium-sized business, is a candidate in the capital’s Playa municipality. He told The Associated Press that he accepted the nomination of a telecom union after learning that the current assembly approved a 2023 budget that limits tax breaks to small and medium-sized businesses like his.

“It is necessary that there also be a representation of this private sector in the Cuban parliament,” said Perez, who is not a member of the Communist Party. “In Cuba, the election process, as I see it, is very popular, very popular with the people.”

There is no salary for being a National Assembly member.

HOW MANY PEOPLE VOTE?

Participation in elections in Cuba is high, but has been on the decline for a decade.

The National Electoral Commission said that for last November’s municipal elections about 31% of eligible voters abstained from voting, That translates to 69% participation, which is still high by international standards, but a substantial decline for Cuba where voting is not compulsory but traditionally was considered a national duty.

The rate of abstention for national elections was 14% in 2018 , and only 6% in 2013.

Many observers see the trend as a sign of declining enthusiasm for Cuba’s government as it fails to turn around deteriorating economic conditions.

Manuel Cuesta Morua is a dissident and the leader of Council for a Democratic Transition in Cuba, which is calling for people to stay away. “People will abstain because they are tired and fed up with a system that does not represent the plurality of the society,” Morua said. “There is no possibility for citizens to choose between different faces, different alternatives, different visions.”

Julio Antonio Martínez Estrada, a lawyer, professor and a fellow at Harvard University, said he believes participation will continue to decline, in part due to the economy. “It is a response to the political and socio-economic problems of recent years,” Estrada said, adding that it reflects “distrust and an enormous hopelessness” among Cubans.

https://apnews.com/article/cuba-national-assembly-elections-communist-party-b23e6569bbe6cd54ace03131b873d7ec

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, March 23, 2023

Election Watch

Political Repression in Cuba Ahead of the 2023 Parliamentary Elections

23 March 2023

On 26 March 2023, voters will elect 470 deputies to Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power, who, in addition to fulfilling legislative functions during their five-year term, will be nominating Cuba’s next head of state. The government has characterized Cuba’s political system as a grassroots democracy, where candidacies to the parliament largely emerge from municipal authorities and are approved by the National Candidate Commission, a body composed of social organizations, such as labor unions and student associations.1 

In practice, however, Cuba’s electoral process has been criticized for blocking the opposition’s access to power. Notably, the Council for Democratic Transition in Cuba, a platform created by opposition members to promote pluralism, freedom, and human rights, has called voters to boycott the upcoming elections after pro-government supporters reportedly prevented several opposition candidates from running in the November 2022 municipal elections.2 

Criticism of Cuba’s political restrictions ahead of the 2023 electoral process takes place against a backdrop of anti-government mobilization and state repression of dissenting voices during the mandate of incumbent President Miguel Díaz-Canel. In 2021, the state responded to an historic surge in demonstration activity prompted by shortages of basic goods and COVID-19 restrictions, targeting activists and opposition figures for retaliation.3 The government is also set to harden the crackdown on dissent with a new penal code that came into force in December 2022. The code criminalizes those “endangering the functioning of the State and the Cuban government,” the sharing of “fake information” online, and the intentional offending of another person.4 

This report explores the main demonstration and political violence trends in Cuba since 2018, and highlights the key challenges shaping the country’s upcoming elections. It finds that the government has used a combination of repressive tactics in an effort to quell growing frustration and dissent amid socio-economic hardship, including the targeting of civil society and opposition members, an increasing use of violence against civilians during periods of heightened demonstration activity, a resurgence of violent pro-government actors, and heightened levels of arrests and short-term detentions. 

Unaddressed grievances and repression might lead to lower voter turnout in the upcoming elections, which could, in turn, further undermine the legitimacy of Cuba’s next government. The election results will be unlikely to trigger immediate demonstrations because deputy candidates run alone in each jurisdiction, leaving little doubt about the outcome of the vote. However, should the new parliament fail to provide solutions to the country’s economic challenges, long-term anti-government mobilization will likely continue to mount. Amid ongoing suppression of the opposition, the parliamentary elections will also be unlikely to bring about increased political freedom, as Cuba’s highest power continues to be vested in the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, a position held by President Díaz-Canel since 2021. Expressions of dissent among the opposition could result in yet more state repression.

[ Rest of report here ]

https://acleddata.com/2023/03/23/political-repression-in-cuba-ahead-of-the-2023-parliamentary-elections/

US News and World Report, March 22, 2023

As Cuba Election Day Nears, Some Voters Ask, ‘Why Bother?’

By Reuters

March 22, 2023, at 7:27 a.m.

By Dave Sherwood

HAVANA (Reuters) – Like a growing number of Cubans, 77-year-old Havana resident Humberto Avila says he will likely sit out Sunday’s legislative elections.

The retired university professor says he’s done the math – 470 candidates, 470 open seats – and sees no point in voting.

“That’s the same number of candidates as open seats,” he told Reuters. “There are no choices.”

In Cuba, government-organized selection committees choose the candidates, who must then receive more than 50% of validly-cast votes in their district to earn a seat in the National Assembly, the country’s highest lawmaking body. Political campaigning is illegal.

Cuba says the system promotes unity and action, reducing the sway of money in politics. Critics say it lacks transparency and amounts to a rubber stamp for one-party rule.

Either way, declining turnout could threaten the new assembly’s credibility and – amid a deep economic downturn – add to a growing sense of malaise in a country that has been a Communist-run state since shortly after the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

“More is at stake than ever before,” said Bert Hoffmann, a Latin America expert at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies.

“With the crisis in the economy and society, the political mobilization power of the state and the party is eroding,” he said.

Abstention has spiked in recent elections, rising to a four-decade high of 31% of eligible voters in municipal elections in November.

While that rate is still modest in comparison to many Western democracies, it marks a drastic change from elections under former leader Fidel Castro, when nearly every Cuban of voting age typically cast a ballot.

Yuliesky Amador, a law professor at Cuba’s University of Artemisa, told Reuters that the economic crisis, soaring prices, and recurring power blackouts will make this election the most “complex” since 1993, following the collapse of Cuba’s former benefactor the Soviet Union.

“Many people are saying, ‘I am not going to vote because the elections do not solve my problems,'” he said, calling it a “punishment vote.”

Groups primarily outside Cuba have launched a campaign encouraging abstention, calling the electoral process a “farce” in videos circulated on social media.

Amador said a recent record-breaking exodus of Cubans will further complicate the picture.

Many of an estimated 300,000 Cubans who left for the United States last year – nearly 3% of the island’s population – remain on the voting rolls, he said.

“It’s worrying because we’re not talking only about abstention,” he said. “We’re talking about a substantial percentage of people who won’t be here to vote on March 26.”

‘UNITY VOTE’ PLEA

Cuba’s government has encouraged participation in Sunday’s election, touting a “unity vote” – in which Cubans check a circle to approve every candidate on their ballot – as a show of patriotism.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel is himself a candidate for the National Assembly, who will choose the next president – widely expected to be Diaz-Canel – from among their number.

In a series of “exchanges” with voters in his home city of Santa Clara, aired in part on state-run television, he has slammed the United States for a Cold War-era trade embargo that contributes to the island’s ongoing economic woes.

“This vote is for the Revolution … and to continue to defend our socialist system,” Diaz-Canel told textile workers in Santa Clara.

For some Cubans both young and old Reuters spoke to, those arguments make sense.

Rey Lazaro Blanco, a 19-year old geography student at the University of Havana, told Reuters he will vote on Sunday.

“We live in a country with shortages and a million problems,” he said. “But we should never lose hope that things can get better.”

(Reporting by Dave Sherwood, additional reporting by Alexander Frometa, Anett Rios and Mario Fuentes, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Copyright 2023 Reuters.

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2023-03-22/as-cuba-election-day-nears-some-voters-ask-why-bother

Cuban Studies Institute, March 10, 2023

March 10, 2023

Cuba Insight

A publication of the Cuban Studies Institute

“Elections in Cuba:” More of the Same”  

Like in most communist countries, elections in Cuba are not aimed at changing previously selected officials, but rather at highlighting existing polices and mobilizing the population to support the communist system.

Cuban parliamentary elections, late this month, without any opposition groups or parties, will ratify the weak and ineffective presidency of Miguel Díaz-Canel. More importantly, however, will be the appointment of Manuel Marrero as second-in-command and a possible Díaz-Canel successor.  A former minister of tourism and current prime minister, Marrero is a party apparatchik former protégé of Luis Alberto López Calleja, head of GAESA and czar of the economy, until his recent sudden death.

Neither policy nor direction will change as a result of these elections. The influence and control of the military on the Politburo of the Communist Party will continue. Cuba’s foreign policy of support for Russia, China and Iran will not change. With Raúl Castro alive or even after his death, Cuba is unwilling to change its policies or to provide a more humane and liberal political system. The Cuban population remains intimidated and afraid of taking any actions to defy the system. They paid dearly for the July 2021 uprising. Outmigration seems the immediate and only response to repression and to the deteriorating conditions on the island.

*  Jaime Suchlicki is Director of the Cuban Studies Institute, CSI, a non-profit research group in Coral Gables, FL. He is the author of Cuba: From Columbus to Castro & Beyond, now in its 5th edition; Mexico: From Montezuma to the Rise of the PAN, 2nd edition, and Breve Historia de Cuba.

https://mailchi.mp/cubanstudiesinstitute.com/elections-in-cuba-more-of-the-same?e=c04efada67

The New York Sun, February 26, 2023

Foreign

Elian Gonzalez Emerges as a Candidate for Cuba’s Communist Legislature

CLARA PREVE-DURRIEU

Sunday, February 26, 2023

At age 5, after reaching America in a desperate voyage by boat, he was seized at gunpoint by the Clinton administration and sent back to the communist island.

The man once known as “Little Elian,” who as a boy was seized at gunpoint by American authorities after fleeing to America in a rickety boat and sent back to the communist island, is set to become a member of Cuba’s legislature.

It is a heartbreaking development for free Cubans in the United States. They still remember how young Elian Gonzalez was found near Florida’s coast more than 20 years ago. His rescue set off a widely publicized custody battle between Cuba and America.

Deep down, Cuban Americans knew that when young Gonzalez was seized by the Clinton administration and sent back to the prison island, he would be bound to be conscripted as a follower of the Cuban communist president, Fidel Castro.

“Fidel put many things in my hand,” Mr. Gonzalez told CNN in 2017. “Fidel told me if I wanted to be an athlete, he supported that. If I wanted to be a swimmer, he supported that. If I wanted to be an artist, he supported that — and he did.”

The regime sees Mr. Gonzalez as an icon of the Cuban revolutionary struggle against America, the founder of the Miami-based Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, Yanet Brunet, tells the Sun. “He was placed as a symbol of how evil the United States is.” 

At the end of a custody battle between Mr. Gonzalez’s Miami-based family and his Cuban father, the boy was returned to the island. Castro and members of the Communist Party went on to coddle the lad, according him privileges that, Ms. Brunet marks, no other Cuban gets.

“He has been handpicked and preselected for this position because of his status as a revolutionary figurehead,” she adds. “He has been groomed for this position his entire life.”

A member of Cuba Decide, Carmen Algeciras, whose Miami-based organization fights for democracy in Cuba, tells the Sun that Mr. Gonzalez has been at the center of the regime’s propaganda campaign since he returned to Cuba.

“They are using him, once again, to try and gain credibility in the eyes of the international community and give out the image that they are an island full of supporters,” she says. 

At 5 years old, Elian Gonzalez was found a couple of miles from the coast of Fort Lauderdale on Thanksgiving day in 1999. His mother had attempted to escape the Cuban regime with him but drowned after their boat sank. 

The boy’s relatives welcomed him into their home at Miami. Yet, back in Cuba, his father, Juan, and Castro began a legal battle with America to bring the boy back. The American Supreme Court rejected an appeal to keep Elian Gonzalez in the country. 

On April 22, 2000, federal agents, sent by the Clinton administration, stormed his adoptive family’s home, seized the boy at gunpoint, and took him from his weeping family. Videos of Elian Gonzalez’s terrified face flooded news channels around the globe.

When Ms. Brunet first found out that Mr. Gonzalez was set to become a candidate for the upcoming national assembly election, all she could think of was his mother. “I have a little boy,” she says.

“It’s a little emotional for me,” Ms. Brunet says, because the “irony” of this is that his mother gave up her life to get him away from the dictatorship of which he is now part. 

The executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, John Suarez, finds it “lamentable” that Mr. Gonzalez has now become an “instrument” of the dictatorship that drove his mother to risk — and give up — her life for his freedom.

“The Cuban National Assembly is a rubber stamp body that echoes, in unanimity, the edicts of the dictatorship,” Mr. Suarez says. He says that he is “saddened” for Mr. Gonzalez.

Cuba is a one-party state, where the Communist Party is the “superior driving force of the society and the state” that “orients the communal forces” toward constructing a “communist society,” Cuba’s 2019 constitution says. Sham elections occur every five years for uncontested national assembly seats. 

The faux-election system is a major hurdle to American recognition of Cuba. Terms of normalization were enacted in 1995 in  the Helms-Burton — or “Libertad” —  Act, signed into law by President Clinton. The law seeks to ensure a “peaceful transition to a representative democracy and market economy in Cuba.” Section 205 mandates that the government organize free and fair elections, “with the participation of multiple political parties.”

The candidates for the election are nominated by a Communist Party-controlled committee, giving voters only one candidate for each seat. Cuba’s constitution states that all Cuban citizens have the right to be a candidate. Yet, people cannot freely run or be elected.

“What you have are votes in a one-party dictatorship,” Mr. Suarez says. “Candidates are selected by the top brass of the regime,” who “politically segregate” anyone who does not support the electoral choices, he adds.  

During the March 26 elections, Cubans will select all of the candidates, some of them, or leave all of the options blank. Yet, they are not given the option to vote against anyone. The candidates who receive more than 50 percent of the valid votes cast are elected.

“The word election is kind of a loaded word for Cubans,” Ms. Brunet says. “In Cuba, there are no free or fair elections.”

https://www.nysun.com/article/elian-gonzalez-emerges-as-a-candidate-for-cubas-communist-legislature