Cuba Readies Re-election of Raul Castro

By Isaac Risco

Raul Castro at the recent CELAC Summit in Chile. Photo: TeleSur.

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba will hold a parliamentary election on Sunday that should initiate the second term of President Raul Castro, which would start later this month, reported DPA news.

A total of 612 deputies will be elected to the National Assembly of People’s Power. After the elections — rejected by domestic opposition and that should elapse without surprises — it’s estimated that in late February the new legislature will confirm Raul Castro for another five years in power.

If the plan is carried out for limiting the mandates of top officials to a maximum of two consecutive terms, as proposed by Raul Castro in 2011, this upcoming period will be his last five years in office.

Also see: Why Cuba’s Elections Draw So Little Interest

The younger Castro formally took office on February 24, 2008, although he had held the position on an interim basis after the retirement of his brother Fidel, who stepped down due to illness in July 2006. Both brothers are among the 612 candidates officially nominated for the National Assembly.

Fidel Castro, 86, tops the list for the municipality of Santiago de Cuba, in the eastern province of that same name. Raul Castro, 81, is running for the Segundo Frente municipality, also in Santiago Province.

In addition to the 612 candidates for the National Assembly, delegates will be elected to the provincial assemblies from among 1,269 candidates.

All nominees are previously elected by municipal delegates on the island and by citizen’s assemblies. Dissidents and countries like the United States reject the elections in Cuban as democratic “farce.” The island doesn’t allow active campaigning or other political formations alongside the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).

Around 8.4 million Cubans are being called to turn out to the polls on Sunday. Voters will be able to vote for one or all the candidates in their district, starting at 6:00 in the morning. According to the official media, voter participation has always been above 95 percent since the first elections held in 1976.

Many Cubans also privately criticize the little influence truly exerted by the legislature over the state apparatus, which is controlled by the Council of State and the top leadership around Raul Castro.

The elections, on the other hand, should continue the process of the rejuvenation of the political cadre led by Raul Castro. The president has repeatedly stressed the need to train new leaders because “time is short.”

Among the most influential politicians of the old guard who is retiring is Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon. The 75-year political has chaired the National Assembly since 1993 and was Fidel Castro’s foreign minister for a year (1992-1993).

Alarcon, who was a member of Fidel Castro’s historic July 26 Movement, is one of Cuba’s experts on relations with the United States.

Among the new faces will be that of Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela Castro, who is running for a position as deputy in Havana. The president’s daughter, 50, is known for her liberal positions in support of gay rights on the island.

Mariela Castro is seen abroad as the more “progressive” face of the Cuban government. It’s estimated, however, that her initiative for the legalization of gay marriage in Cuba was blocked by several historicos (old guard) within the Castro leadership circle.

Around 8.4 million Cubans are being called to turn out to the polls on Sunday. Voters will be able to cast their ballots for the slate or none or some of the candidates in their district, starting at 6:00 in the morning. According to the official media, voter participation has always been above 95 percent since the first elections held in 1976.


24 thoughts on “Cuba Readies Re-election of Raul Castro

  • The US has never accepted democracy in its “back yard”. What kind of regime do you think they would they have imposed on Cuba if the Bay of Pigs or the associated invasion plan had come off.

    Even if we look at events since the end of the cold war we can see that they don’t accept any criticism. Take US involvement in the coup against Chavez. They knew about it, they discussed it with the participants and were quick off the mark to recognize the new government. Take Bolivia, Evo Morales has recently claimed that he has irrefutable proof of US plotting against him and trying to destabilize the country. Also in Ecuador recently there have been reports of CIA plots to kill Correa

  • I undertand quite well what a dictator is. I’m just not a gullible as those who ape the Castro party line about the sham called “popular democracy”.

    If it walks like a duck & quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck. In this particular case, it’s a 54 year old olive green duck, a single-party, militaristic, oligarchic dictatorship.

  • No, you are still wrong or obviously don’t know what a dictatorship is. Being ruled by the same person does not make a country a dictatorship, after all he did get lawfully reelected every single time.
    And as I mentioned elsewhere, they cannot openly break the law to do whatever they want. They, at the very least play by the rules and while I agree that the parliament is functionally useless that’s not his doing is just the representatives doing a poor job for their electorate.

  • Moses, there is nothing preventing the opposition to meet each other, as a matter of fact that seems to be their only occupation. And the access to mass media is irrelevant in the context of the Cuban elections because no candidate is allowed to, meaning that both pro-government and opposition play in a level field in this regard.

    The fact is, only 14% of the Cuban population is member of the PCC. Add to that another 10% of members of the UJC politically aligned with the former and you still have 76% of the Cuban population not aligned with the party, and from that number only 10% are absentees or invalid voters.

    In other words, 66% of the population without any political alignment votes for the pro-government candidates, while everyone that wants the king of change championed by the dissidence is in a segment that is lower than 10% of the population. That’s why the Castros wins every time.

    The claim that US will influence Cuban politics in any way they can is not only an indisputable fact, is codified into US laws and both the president and congress are forced to enforce said laws at the best of their capabilities.

    Cuba has been 24 years in a deep economic crisis such as the world only sees after a war. In a few years they lost 50% of their economy, something roughly to the effects of the Great Depression in the US, and when something of that scale happens, all the values of the society deteriorates very quickly.

    Under such circumstances, lots of people look for a different perspective, one that can leads to a better future, but is indisputable that the main figures of the opposition are finding a lot of personal gain in the opposition business, some financial (as I’ve mentioned before, financing the opposition in Cuba is cheap) others try to get a ticket overseas for themselves and their families.

    And that’s what Cuban people see, add the lack of a coherent position and you get what you see, a vast majority of the population don’t trust them for the future of the country.

    DISCLAIMER: I want to make clear that I’m not implying that ALL members of the dissidence are in for the money and the easy life, but over the years the Cuban government has gathered and disclosed lots of information about the main dissidence leaders some of them quite revealing.

    PD: You are just being naïve. Humans are humans in the US and elsewhere in the world. In a crisis situation like the one we are discussing, where starving to death was not a far-off threat, people sell whatever they have to feed themselves and their family, morals and principles be damned.

  • AC, thank you for your civil responses but you seem to fail to accept the brutal reality Cubans face who oppose the regime. Without freedoms of assembly and mass media, the dissident community has been unable to communicate effectively with each other, let alone with the ‘live and let live’ Cuban in the street who is too busy trying find food to eat every day to be distracted by politics. As a result, the Castros have virtually assured themselves that organized opposition would likely never materialize. At least not peacefully. The ‘straw man’ is the constant claim that the US would automatically influence Cuban politics negatively if multiple parties were permitted. You can’t have it both ways. Unless you assume that Cubans are so weak-minded that a foreigners with money to buy influence could convince Cubans to support policy against their national interest? Is that what you are claiming? All the money in the world will never convince Americans to adopt Grady’s noble but unworkable cooperative socialist utopian fantasies. If Cubans want to be socialists, they will be socialists. Venezuela (I still can’t believe it) voted FOR Chavez! Anything is possible.

  • It is very much to the point to talk about Fidel and the policies he established and pursued for 50 years. His brother follows his line today, even as they make a few economic reforms. As the regime has made clear: there will be no political reforms. In other words, Raul’s election is a foregone conclusion.

    It’s well known that the US State Dept and many in the CIA were taken in by Castro’s pro-democracy rhetoric. When Batisita cancelled the 1958 election, the US cut him off of all further military aid and were willing to see if the growing revolution would bring positive change. Castro double-crossed his own allies in the revolution and refused to hold the free elections he had promised. Those who objected to the cancellation of elections were shot or tossed on prison, like Huber Matos.

    In June 1959, Matos spoke out against the growing influence of the Communists in the revolution. For this Fidel ordered Camilo Cienfuegos to go and arrested him on charges of treason. It was immediately after arresting Matos that Cienfuegos dies in a mysterious plane crash. Suddenly, two chief rivals were out of the picture.

    I am well aware of the standard story that Castro did not decide to “go Commie” until after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961, when he gave a speech declaring the socialist character of his revolution. The problem with this story is that it does not fit the known facts.

    Fidel & Raul were known to have associated with the Communist party long before the revolution. Fidel advised his brother not to join the party for appearance sake. Raul met the Soviet agent Nikolai Leonov in Mexico in 1953 and again in 1955. Leonov later became the top Russian diplomat in Havana after the revolution.

    Fidel Castro visited the US in April, 1959. While in town, he gave a speech in which he declared he was not a Communist and that his revolution had nothing to do with Communists. When Nixon gave Fidel a list of known Communists in his revolutionary leadership, Fidel pretended to be shocked. This was a big joke to Fidel, because travelling with him were several members of the Cuban Communist Party, with false identities. Nixon was not fooled by Fidel’s bearded bald-faced lie, and told Eisenhower that in his opinion, Castro was lying.

    You also have the historical facts out of order. Cuba introduced the first Agrarian Reform Laws in May, 1959. Under this law the revolution confiscated 480,000 acres of land owned by US corporations. The US cut the sugar quota in response to this law, in June 1960: a full 14 months later, and well after Cuba had seized without compensation US owned property in Cuba. The US did not cut all Cuban sugar imports until 1961.

    Cuba is indeed a dictatorship. The country has been ruled by the same two brothers for 54 years. The rule of law is based upon what they say the law is. The parliament is a rubber stamp which approves their decisions on command.

    Fortunately, the world avoided a nuclear apocalypse during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But if Fidel Castro had had his way, the Russian nuclear missiles would have been launched at America and a full-on nuclear war would have ensued. When Khrushchev received what is now referred to as Fidel’s “armageddon letter”, in which he begged and demanded that the Soviets launch a surprise attack on the US, the Soviet leader realized his Cuban client was a madman and it was therefore too dangerous to place Soviet missiles in Cuba. Sooner or later, Castro would gain control of the missiles and start a war. This is why the Soviets turned the ships around and withdrew the missiles. No, it was not Kennedy’s steely resolve that pushed the Russians to back down. It was Fidel Castro’s megalomania that terrified Khrushchev.

  • I’m not even saying whether is right or wrong, I’m simply pointing to the source of the one party policy and the reason why they are so adamant in keeping it that way.

  • Nice, both a strawman argument and a false dichotomy in a single sentence. Is sounds awesome, but wont help your cause in a discussion. I hope you were interested in a discussion and not a pointless rant, right?

    First of all, is pointless to talk abut “him” or “his”. Fidel is, for all practical effects, long gone. His shadow still looms, and his prestige can go a long way, but lots of things that have been happening were simply unthinkable with him in power. Also, Cuba technically is NOT a dictatorship, it has a constitution, parliament, applies the rule of law, etc. the fact that you don’t like it is not good enough to call them that.

    Regarding your tidbits about history, you are demonstrably wrong. The US FAILED to accept Castro’s revolution, for the most part because BATISTA was their puppet, got forcefully removed and the new government wasn’t as open as the old one to US suggestions.

    So they cut the sugar quote (the equivalent to declare economic warfare in a country like the Cuba of that time) and the Castro government reply by nationalizing lands of certain size, and from that point was this for that like two bickering children and in the end the new government was forced to radicalize itself in order to survive. And what is worse, it forced them to fall toward the communist block in order to have a minimal chance of survival against an adversary the size of US.

    And in that, he succeeded. After all, his government has lasted more than 50 years of dirty warfare, open invasions, nuclear apocalypse end even the fall of its backers.

  • That’s the same facetious excuse the Castro’s have made for 54 years: “We have to be a dictatorship, or else the Americans will invade.” Simply put, it’s bullish*t. The US was willing to accept Castro initially, until he proved himself a Communist dictator. Fidel Castro, in his own words, considered the US an enemy state from the beginning of his revolution. He was never interested peaceful co-existance or normal relations with the US. He directed Cuban foreign policy in this manner ever since, solidifying his power by opposing a common enemy.

    The US would happily accept democracy in Cuba today. The only people preventing it are the ruling clique. They’re against democracy because they know it will mean then end of their power and perks.

  • Quite correct, ac, with regard to “any political aperture.” Example: Grenada.

  • Yes, that’s the way it works, you vote for your local candidate and he represents you vote on the elections at the next level to select a set of candidates that will be confirmed by the electorate in the next cycle.
    For the Cuban system, the main point is that you are not supposed to vote from candidates you don’t know and are too far apart from were you live to have an objective assessment of their relatives advantages and disadvantages, while your representative has been working with them for a while can have an opinion of who is best to represent your area.
    The local candidate I mentioned before, is elected from your immediate neighborhood (typically you get one candidate every few blocks, based on population density). All of them are supposed to work at a municipal level, managing government resources and priorities but with very little power themselves.
    They elect from their own ranks the delegates to the provincial and national assemblies and in each case the people vote to validate the choice their representatives made.
    My point is that the system may not be the best, but it makes sense and is democratic enough (since there is no party requirement for any position at any level). Even if the party instructs their members to boycott one candidate, gaining enough candidates at the base level and electing opposition representatives should be doable within the system and there is nothing the government can do to prevent it.
    The thing is, the opposition is not popular amongst Cubans not only for the lack of vision, but because most of them are seen as opportunistic clowns looking forward to make a living from the money of Washington. That may or may not be true, but in a poll perception is king and regardless of the reason (government propaganda or getting caught too many times profiting from the situation) Cubans distrust them and are not voting for them at all.

  • No, what I’m saying is that the opposition don’t have a viable alternative to the government platform and that’s why is ignored at large by the Cubans.

    The problem with opening the political system to new ideas comes from an historical perspective. As long as US government is set to topple the Cuban government any political aperture (even mildly moderate) can be exploited quite easily to create a financed opposition capable to threat the system,

    This is an old adage in Cuban history, most of the independence attempts failed because the lack of unity against a common enemy, that’s why Marti created the Cuban Revolutionary Party and that precedent permeates Cuban ideology.

    Things could be very different if a powerful country like the US stops considering Cuba an enemy state and trying to change the government, but as things stands neither side will back out on their position.

  • ac, your response to Moses is impressive. You are able apparently to think creatively. (Perhaps we could discuss things in another venue?)

    I agree that what is most important in Cuba is good leadership, not the mechanics of how that leadership is chosen. Those who obsess about the lack of candidates are trying to strike a blow against the Cuban state, by any means possible.

    Perhaps the Cubans should refer to their one-party, one-candidate elections as “confirmation votes,” not as elections. The term “elections” implies real choices between alternatives, whereas what happens in Cuba is more a confirmation of choices that have already been worked out.

  • That’s a load of bollocks, around 10% of Cubans don’t vote or make an invalid vote and I’ve never heard of any retaliation whatsoever of any kind.

    And FYI, in Cuba people voice their disagreement with their leaders quite vocally (you can heard colorful language borderline to slander in crowded places -buses, lines, etc.). And the police don’t seems to care as long as is not organized or escalates to a dangerous situation.

    And what do you think is more obvious, whispering Fidel in very quiet voice or signaling a beard with the hand? I agree that they have unreasonable fears, but are from a different kind. The main issue is that the bulk of Cubans are not at one side of the political spectrum or the other, they follow the “live and let live” mantra and can’t care less about who is in charge.

  • Moses, I replied in the context of the current elections and in the Cuba of today, not of what would be better 50 years ago. And you are wrong, the choice has been always there, is just that in order to get a different outcome they need a lot of popular support to promote a different candidate and they don’t have it, period.

    Just make the people nominate and vote delegates not aligned to the government, it can’t be THAT hard, right? I reckon is not your favorite, but is democracy in action.
    And the facts are on my side, if Cubans were serious about change, they would have kicked out the government already, or at the very least you would hear more news of popular unrest.

  • “No wonder Cuban people rather stick with the current government.” As, how do you know. In the last 54 years, the Cuban people have never been given a choice of another leader who isn’t named Castro, let alone ‘another government’.

  • There are 612 positions up for election. There are 612 candidates. As one cuban said yesterday, it is a horse race with one horse.

  • As I said, as ridiculous as it seems, Cubans fear that someone will know how they voted and certainly whether they voted at all. Because of my personal experience in Cuba, I have come to acceptthe fact that there are some fears I will never share or fully understand because I did not grow up under that kind of oppression. How else can you explain the fact that Cubans still whisper the name ‘Fidel’ or ‘Raul’? They use hand gestures, like stroking an imaginary beard to imply Fidel or pulling at the sides of their eyes to mean Raul. I have certainly made my share of jokes about the unreasonable fears that Cubans have but for them, reasonable of not, to deface or leave a ballot blank is not an option.

  • Essentially what you are saying is that because the Castros have crushed any and all alternatives for 54 years, the regime is the only option.

    That may be true, but that is also Cuba’s biggest problem. Cuba needs to open up the political system to allow a range of ideas to grow and flourish. Instead, the regime is increasing repression.

  • Yes, the awful shadow of fear… last time I checked it was primary and secondary kids guarding the voting polls. Little pricks surely were undercover agents l, secret police, perhaps?

    Now seriously, as happened in the last election, Raul is the only candidate capable to move forward the country without blowing it to smithereens.

    For starters, between the candidates with political clout, he is the more pragmatic and probably the only one with the guts to do what must be done (the unification of the two currencies and the end of the ubercomplicated market segmentation that renders useless any kind of strategic planning in the economy).

    In his first term, he already removed lot of silly restrictions that never made any sense and more importantly, created an space for the private sector that very slowly should jumpstart the econony.

    As for the opposition, if we disregard the fact that they don’t have any influence whatsoever and generally refuse to participate in the political process even when is open to all citizens (party membership is not a prerequisite at any level), they don’t have any viable alternative platform.

    “Free elections” and “democracy” won’t solve any current Cuba issue, in special the ones in the economy. They fail in pretty much all levels, they fail to explain how those two concepts translate to economic growth, they fail to explain where the funding will be coming from, they don’t even have a clue of what to do with the retired folk or the social programs, they don’t know how to distribute the peoples property between well, the people, not to mention the Cuban debt.

    In short, they lack a vision and most scenarios end in extreme poverty for a significant portion of the population (the most vulnerable -old and sick- for sure), a corrupt minority filthy rich and several generations paying for the whole ordeal.

    No wonder Cuban people rather stick with the current government.

  • So Raul will serve to “only” two consecutive terms. The first term lasted 54 years, the 2nd for 5 years. Sure, he says “time is short” now that he’s 82 years old.

  • Raul is up for reelection? Not exactly a nailbiter. It is important to distinguish between holding an election and holding a competitive and open election. With one name on the ballot, under a justified or not shadow of fear, the electoral process in Cuba in a joke and fools no one. Fidel, himself, has made it clear how he feels about real democracy. After Daniel Ortega lost his race for President in Nicaragua in 1990, Fidel openly complained ” why would you hold an election you might lose?” In an interview with Barbara Walters, Fidel once asked “what is so bad about dictatorship?” At a cost of $7B for the November elections, America’s version of democracy is not perfect, but at least we have a choice.

  • I think the limit of two consecutive, 5-year terms is good; but this probably does not solve the fundamental problem of the government intellectual process in state socialist Cuba.

    Socialism in any country needs to advance through a formal program of economic and social transformation. This is as true in present-day Cuba, as it will be in the future socialist republics in countries like the US, Canada and Mexico. That is, the personalities on top are secondary to the formal strategic program.

    Once again, under socialism, the strategic program is primary, the personalities on top, whose job it is to implement the program, are secondary.

    In order that a correct strategic program might be established, in the first place, or arrived at through practical testing over time, in the second, the leading party should have a form of democratic centralism that allows for constant, open-minded discussion and debate. This carries with it the right of loyal programmatic tendencies to arise, organize and advocate options that might be contrary to prevailing policies. This is the soul of Leninist inter-party democracy.

    Raul is a good choice to lead for another 5 years, I trust, but it is the program that matters, and the program of state monopoly ownership carries with it the economic and social dysfunction of the past.

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