Many Cuban citizens like us, belonging to the people, who are sovereign, petitioned during the discussion phase on the constitution for a change in the law in order for there to be direct suffrage such that the people would be able to elect, through their vote, without intermediaries, those that would occupy the main positions of responsibility in the country: be it President of the Republic, Vice President, Governors, as well as those not yet called Mayors but who currently perform duties as the highest authoriy at the municipal level.
This is and will be one of the keys to evaluate the level of democracy in any country. A direct, free, competitive and free vote is what guarantees the exercise of citizen sovereignty. This was not achieved within the text of the constitution, while many hoped that this would find its way into the Electoral Law. All elected positions, except for district delegates and representatives, are elected through a complicated system which leaves in the hands of a few representatives the selection of executive authorities at the municipal, provincial and national levels. This first point points out that the new Electoral Law favors less democracy, if it be possible.
The second point is that candidate commissions remain in place in this law.This strange organism in under the absolute control of the sole party, having as its mission to come up with the roster of candidates at the various levels. Evidently, this constitutes a firewall to stop anyone not in the approved list of the party from gaining access, not even to be a municipal candidate.
The third point is the primacy of the sole and excluding party, the Communist Party, which places itself above all structures and institutions in the country, even above the State itself. During the discussions regarding the drafting of the Constitution a high official of the parliament even stated publicly that nobody could give directives to the Party. The absence of plural parties is institutionally depriving a diversity of opinions from different philosophical, religious, economic and political options from accessing a mechanism of representation in the institutions of the State. The “new” Electoral Law leaves in place the one-party system.
The fourth element to evaluate this electoral norm is that it explicitly prohibits that candidates present their own plans for governing or to conduct electoral campaigns to make their proposals known, if they had any. In no other place in the world, except for authoritarian and/or totalitarian regimes, is it conceivable to have an electoral system devoid of allowing electors to find out about, compare, elect or vote for, informed by the proposals presented by the various candidates, movements or parties.
How can a system be considered democratic if the sovereign cannot find out not even what those intent on representing it are thinking or proposing to do? It is the height of absurdity. Democratic countries are even criticized, correctly, when during election debates among various candidates they indulge more on personal attacks, even intimate or private issues, instead of focusing the public debate on the content of their respective programs.
In fifth place, but not in the least unimportant, we should keep in mind that in the last term of the neighborhood assemblies to elect candidates to run to be delegates, which is the lowest rung on the ladder of the current electoral system, some citizens, utilizing their personal, civil and political powers, tried to participate in these assemblies of neighbors in an attempt to enroll as possible candidates. Instead provable and open acts of repression were visible, which are violations of the very electoral law including the invasion of these assemblies by people from other districts, whose sole mission was to stop by any means, including mob actions and the offensive disqualification of any person which may try to excercise their right to run for a post.
These five elements, which spring from the very heart of the “new” Electoral Law up to the negative experiences in their application at the base level, are but a part of an analyis much more on the legal side, which reaffirm these civic criteria and which are easily identifiable right on the text of this brand-new law.
Unfortunately, once again, the expectations for change, the hopes for an opening towards a gradual democratization process, have been blocked and screwed in place with a legal norm which changes some of the structures but does not respect the essence of any electoral law which is to guarantee the greatest real and effective participation, not formal or symbolic, of the citizen, who is the sovereign of the Nation.
This “new” law continues to block the plurality which is part and parcel of the very constitutional nature of any society, which can be represented by a diversity of parties, movements or independent citizens in a fair competition and in conditions of equality, so that the country may elect those it considers the most qualified, honest, skilled and dilligent to serve the Nation to take it to freedom, full democracy, prosperity, social justice and happiness.
Cuba has spent 60 years in this kind of experiment which the whole of humanity has tried out, with all its defects, as of everything human, and with its achievements visibly proven and easily compared. It is evident that an eartly paradise does not exist anywhere, and so it will always be possible to play one-upmanship when comparing nations. All systems have their vices and crises: corruption, banalization, high rates of abstentionism and indifference towards politics; economic inequalities and high rates of poverty, among many others. We already know in Cuba, following six decades under an experiment aiming to erradicate all these scourges, that some of them were never erradicated and that others have come back under a different cover. Then, what sense does it make to aspire to greater degrees of democracy and to achieve different results, if these very same methods are still in place?
In a democracy it is possible to change the government every 4 or 6 years, when it achieves or not the promises that it offerend during the electoral campaign in order to reelect it or a different one that has the possibilty of doing it better. The challenge is to make these changes avoiding that a child of Cuba may offend another Cuban disqualifying him or her with epithets such as “counter-revolutionary, mercenary, worm, traitor.” And all this without being attacked in the streets, detained arbitrarily, cited without a lawful reason, interrogated without a lawyer present, tried and jailed for political reasons or for exercising citizen journalism.
Cuba deserves the unity of all its children. But the selected path to unity by way of unanimity goes against human and social plurality. Cuba deserves peaceful coexistence which is only achieved by cultivating unity under diversity and pluralism. This recently approved Electoral Law is not conducive to this, as it is, in essence, as equally exclusive and hegemonic as the previous one, regardless of how they change some of the structures of the State.
We continue to request a truly new Electoral Law, pluralistic in essence, inclusive in its methods, and serving in its totallity the full, equal, competitive and transparent totality of the inailable sovereignty that resides in each and every Cuban, regardless of how they think, be they in the Island or in the Diaspora.
Without this type of democratic participation and civic organization, none of our problems will find a structural and sustainable solution coming from those that have to provide it: we, the Cuban people.
Pinar del Río, July 24, 2019