Democratizing Cuba? (I)

Isbel Diaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES, Feb 12 — I followed the speeches and discussions carefully during the recently concluded National Conference of the Cuban Communist Party. “The creation of a more democratic society,” using the words of President Raul Castro, seemed a vital issue. Nevertheless, I found little that pointed to this being realized.
In the first place, the current president devoted much of his speech to defend the single-party system established here on the island. The problem was that this defense was based essentially on making a critique of other political systems while providing very little about the virtues of the Cuban system – neither of which contributed much.

When he spoke about representative democracy, the president called it a model that “doesn’t work either.” Should one therefore expect the situation to be better in a country governed by a single party whose membership is only a small percentage of the population?

In my opinion, such models of governance by parties (mono, bi, multi) are clearly mechanisms to usurp power from ordinary individuals. Their empty promises to be the faithful interpreters of the interests of the majority are, simply, impossible to maintain.

If the promises were sincere, politicians wouldn’t be so nervous at election time as they search for some maneuver to fool people into re-electing them. Instead, they would simply accept the popular assessment of their four or five years in office.

However, since this never happens, I understand that the problem is not the individuals who attain power, but in the system of power itself.

Perhaps that’s why I like both the terms “empowerment” and “self-emancipation”; both refer to processes that don’t ignore relations of power and that are constructed from individuals in solidarity with those around them.

But, back to the conference…

If the party was so interested in this so-called “democratization,” why did they agree to continue working without modifying the statutes of the organization? Why did they fail to shake up the current membership of the party’s Central Committee? Wasn’t this an inopportune moment either?

After so many months of working at the grass roots level of party organization, as well as in the upper echelons of power, it wasn’t possible to organize internal elections? Was it a question of lacking the time or lacking the will?

Instead, the conference authorized the Central Committee (115 members) to decide on the changes that this body deem appropriate and made the even smaller Politburo (15 members) responsible for “adopting and implementing the necessary changes to the regulations of the party structure.”

Incidentally, the conference also authorized the Central Committee to make changes in its membership by up to 20 percent during its current mandate.

In other words, they did just the opposite of democratizing the organization! They further centralized its already problematic processes. The Conference met for a few days ago to agree on the wording around a few items, and that was it. The serious work will be done later by those powerful few, but behind closed doors.

To be continued…


Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

5 thoughts on “Democratizing Cuba? (I)

  • Isbel,

    A little more research shows that it was not that Clarke book but more than likely a book entitled
    “The Years Of The City by Frederick Pohl. In that book every office is chosen by a sort of draft or lottery .

    That type of government is termed a DEMARCHY or LOTTOCRACY and it is not limited to science fictionbut has existed in some form at some time in history and there is info on the net on this .

    Wikipedia is where I found a reference to the Pohl book .

  • Isbel,
    I may well have found it and it took about a minute.

    “In Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction novel Imperial Earth, the president of the United States is chosen by lottery from the pool of citizens who honestly do not want the job.”

    This sounds exactly like the story especially the part about the citizens not wanting the job.

    I honestly can’t remember reading that book by Clarke but I have read about ten of his novels so it might just have escaped my memory.. I have at times started reading a book only to find after 20 pages or so that it was one I’ve already read .

    Best wishes

  • Isbel,

    I cannot now remember the story name or author.
    It was probably a science fiction novel since my wife and I are both fans of the genre.
    We have well over 1000 science fiction books so looking for that one story which may well be a short story in an anthology would be very difficult. I can remember the mood of the story but that’s about it.
    I think it may be a Phillip K. Dick story .
    I’ll do a little research anyway and see if I can come up with it for you.

  • Hey John, do you remember the title of the story? it would be nice to read it… some funny situations could come out from this thesis… jejeje
    Is it a novel?
    Thanks for your comment

  • “If the promises were sincere, politicians wouldn’t be so nervous at election time as they search for some maneuver to fool people into re-electing them. Instead, they would simply accept the popular assessment of their four or five years in office.”

    A remarkably outstanding thought.
    Perhaps a one or two term limit would solve that problem but on the other hand that would keep those who are truly well intentioned and not corruptible from doing what they can do better than those who would come after them.
    I can remember reading a story of a future society in which people served as President by means of a lottery drawing in which every eligible citizen was entered. As I recall housewife Mrs. Hernandez ( or some such) was really annoyed that she had won the lottery and would have to spend all her time deal with all the issues that come before a leader for a few years.

    Okay, maybe that wouldn’t work at such a high level of responsibility with the wide range of knowledges required to do a good job but how about at the Municipal Assembly level ?

    One or two terms at most would give a deputy no time to be corrupted and all deputies in all the constituencies would be in the same position of being more able to serve the people who elected them and not the bureaucracy .

    I should think this concept might make for a good fictional novel of a possible future Cuban way of governing that could be the seed by which this comes about.

    Just some food for thought.

Comments are closed.