Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — On March 20th, the Credit and Service Cooperative (CCS), of which I am a member, had its elections to choose the ANAP’s (National Association of Small Farmers) political direction from the base.
The electoral process had been completely rigged and I only need to describe what happened to show you how anti-democratic and manipulable it is, a carbon copy of the authoritarian socialist system’s own political model. This became clear when farmers from the CCS wanted to reelect Lilise Ricardo Rodriguez, but she had been removed from the candidates list because she challenged its corrupt management.
It is worth mentioning that not too long ago, ANAP leadership and cooperatives management were separated at a national level by Jose Ramon Machado Ventura (No. 2 in the Communist Party), but had been held by a single leader until that time. ANAP’s political leaders, as we know them, have come up against a dilemma ever since then: or they close their eyes to wrong management practices or they listen and take action based on farmer members’ complaints. And corruption, which has taken over Cuba’s political and economic system, is much greater in agricultural cooperatives as a result of some of the privileges they have here.
After members making countless complaints and her own experience of seeing how management acts poorly, especially with its finances and regulations, the former political president wanted to make it work better and she paid dearly for her honesty. The first barrier she came up against was the Municipal ANAP in Mayari, who aware of the CCS’ dysfunction and poor management, were always an accomplice and cut any attempt made by farmers short, to free themselves of this inefficient management that didn’t “observe” established financial regulations.
They questioned Lilise instead of accompanying her or at least heading a serious investigation. And not only did her words fall on deaf ears, she was also put into doubt as they were trying to pressure her into withdrawing herself. In spite of us farmers refusing and applauding her after her speech at the Members’ Assembly, she was removed from her position. We then decided that she would be reelected a month later at the elections on March 20th.
The administrative President’s maneuver with the Municipal ANAP was to guide the Nominations Committee that “they couldn’t put Lilise on the candidates list even if she were put forward”, inventing an alleged rule that nobody had seen before.
Candidates aren’t directly put forward by members, instead a committee holds personal interviews with every member and that’s where they draw up a candidates list voted by members, under the ANAP’s influence and pressure. An assembly is then held and they elect who they believe to be the best, under the ANAP’s supervision and pressure again. Doesn’t this anti-democratic process resemble the one used to elect the country’s leadership?
Excluding people from the list is their way to eliminate popular candidates who might be “bothersome” to their political or “corrupt” interests, which seem to be confused. This same mechanism has been used during the past three elections which this journalist/farmer has attended. Members have tried to elect me as Administrative President and as a member of the oversight committee, without success. The ever-present Municipal ANAP doesn’t allow it and they remove me from the candidates list or, afraid I’ll be put forward, ask the following questions in discreet meetings: do you want to put a counter-revolutionary, a mercenary, forward? Do you know what you are doing? Obviously, this question paralyzes the majority here in the Cuban scheme of things.
Lilise Ricardo didn’t sit still and she filed a long and well-argued complaint about acts of corruptopn and she handed in a copy to the Party, the Government, the Provincial ANAP and the Attorney-General’s office. It has been five months now and their response has been to exclude her from the elections, to intimidate her with a lawsuit against her and for her to still not have a job.
The municipal Communist Party person who deals with agriculture clearly wants to “wipe (corruption) under the rug” so as to avoid a scandal. He criticizes people in the community who support Lilise and says that “this isn’t the way revolutionaries solve problems.”
And the provincial ANAP sent their attorney. They are the ones who have threatened the brave Lilise with a lawsuit for false accusations and after verifying the facts, said that “there weren’t any problems as only half of her complaints (14 out of 28) were true, according to their verification.” What great jurists we have!
Neither Lilise nor the group of farmers who publicly support her have given in and they continue to pressure the People’s Power and the District Attorney’s office. Luckily, the president of the People’s Council is against shady deals in cooperatives, but she can’t do much if the municipal government is taking lukewarm measures.
Right now, farmers are unhappy and skeptical. They are literally afraid to speak out because “the corrupt” appear to be much stronger and they need their signatures for everything. This is the landscape of today’s cooperative, and from the sound of things, it’s not too far-removed from the rest of what’s going on in Cuba. Let’s see where these events take us, if corruption and complicit politicking win out, or whether justice does for those of us who denounce and suffer the former.