Elections in Cuba, Venezuela and the USA

Fernando Ravsberg*

Balloting here in Cuba will end with the election of more than 600 deputies and the president. Photo: Raquel Perez

HAVANA TIMES — Nominating is underway in Cuba for candidates who will run in the general elections, which will end with the election of parliament deputies and the president of the republic. In this first stage, grassroots assemblies are being organized in all neighborhoods, and candidates are being chosen from among local residents.

More than half of these municipal offices will be filled with new delegates, but no one expects any surprises at the national level. Most Cubans are convinced that Raul Castro will be reelected, along with almost all of the deputies being members of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC).

Much more attention is focused on the Venezuelan elections, because any change there could dramatically affect the lives of Cubans. The main source of income for the economy comes from the exchange with Caracas of medical services for oil.

Similarly, the outcome of the US election could have a major impact on the daily lives of people on the island, many of whom fear the return of travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans and reductions in remittances.

Citizens’ Concerns

Edel Rivero, a 25-year-old teacher, believes “the elections in Cuba are symbolic because they’re not going to produce change.” He adds that what’s more important is “the election in Venezuela, because that relationship is key to Cuba,” along with “the US elections, because what happens there always affects us.”

Ninety 90 percent of Cubans vote in elections. Photo: Raquel Perez

“There will be no surprises in Cuba,” said dissident journalist Miriam Leiva, “the candidates nominated by the PCC will be elected, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the United States and Venezuela. If Chavez loses or weakens, the Cuban economy will spin into crisis.”

“The Cuban elections don’t stir great expectations, but the ones in the US do, because a Republican victory would mean cuts in remittances and travel,” says Enrique Lopez, a 70-year-old specialist in religions, adding “if Chavez lost, the supply of oil would be cut and our economy would collapse.”

The Cuban media is also giving special attention to the electoral processes in the US and Venezuela. This past Saturday, for example, official television made these their principal topics on the news program “La mesa redonda” (The Roundtable).

The value of health

The services of Cuban doctors in Venezuela account for the bulk of the country’s foreign exchange earnings, around $5 billion (USD) annually. According to Cuban economists, this surpasses the combined revenue coming from tourism, remittances, cigars, sugar and nickel.

Most of the labor of Cuba doctors, teachers and athletic coaches is paid for in the form of oil, but some sources claim that the sale of those services has reached such a level that Caracas is paying Havana an excess amount of money to keep the relationship balanced.

Bilateral cooperation is key for the reelection of President Chavez, who is running his campaign based on the social achievements of “missions” such as his “Barrio Adentro” program, where Cubans provide professional health care, education and sports service to the poorest areas of Venezuela.

“There will be no surprises in Cuba,” said dissident journalist Miriam Leiva, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the US and Venezuela. If Chavez loses or weakens, the Cuban economy will go into crisis.” Photo: Raquel Perez

Although opposition candidate Henrique Capriles said he will not suspend the agreement with Cuba, no one on the island believes that 35,000 Cuban doctors will remain in Venezuela if the opposition beats Chavez.

Tourism based on exiles

The other electoral process being carefully followed by Cubans is the one in the US. Most of them believe that if the Republicans manage to unseat President Obama, there will be more difficulties ahead for family relationships and therefore for their personal incomes.

Remittances from the US amount to around $1.2 billion (USD), equivalent to a quarter of what Cuban doctors produce in Venezuela, but this has great social significance because it’s money that goes directly into the people’s pockets.

Yet many fear that a Republicans return will mean prohibitions on travel to the island by Cuban-Americans, as occurred under President George W. Bush. Obama lifted the restriction but Miami Republicans are calling for its re-institution.

Since travel to Cuba was allowed, about 400,000 Cuban-Americans visit the island every year. According to the Bureau of Statistics, they have become the third largest tourist group staying in hotels – behind Canadians and Cubans who live on the island.
(*) See Fernando Ravsberg’s blog.


4 thoughts on “Elections in Cuba, Venezuela and the USA

  • Uncertainty in election outcomes in the US is not something to crow about. It indicates a divided populace, where the results are going to be disappointing to a large segment of the population.

    If it was a question of choosing between two people who both represented what the consensus of people wanted – national health care, affordable education, guaranteed income and housing – in short, what Cubans have – a divided vote would not represent a divided populace.

    But under the Rovian wedge politics model that is dominant in the US and elsewhere, where ‘wedges’ of voter groups are assembled to get the biggest portion of the pie, dissension is inevitable. It causes candidates to actively support the wedges it has a chance at winning over and to ignore the others.

    Previously, candidates formulated a consistent political philosophy and attempted to win over those that had trouble with it, making accommodations to their point of view when possible. If they were not successful, they lost at the ballot box. It resulted in representatives that were more representative of their overall constituency

    Now, candidates change their political philosophy as frequently as their underwear to gain the largest pie portion. Obama’s flip-flop on ending the US blockade of Cuba is a good example. It leaves voters highly polarized. I for instance, unlike ‘Moses’, would never vote for Obama if only because he can’t be trusted – but the Obama camp would have written my wedge off as being smaller than the Cuban-American lobby so it wouldn’t matter to them.

    The result – a goodly portion of the American electorate actively hate Obama as is vividly obvious in news footage. They will continue to hate him even if he cbecomes president. I don’t hate him but I wouldn’t give him the time of day if I ever ran into him.

    In an atmosphere of do-everything-you-can to win, a handmaiden of capitalism, it’s no surprise that wedge politics would ultimately become the standard model in capitalist so-called democracies.

    Divided nations, if divisions are not addressed, inevitably fall. It is why it’s not unrealistic to think that the prevalence of wedge politics may be the death rattle of capitalism.

    The 50-year reign of Castro represents a consensus that capitalist so-called democracies could never achieve in their wildest dreams. The very nature of capitalism makes it too divisive to sustain such a run.

    But there’s another reason. Capitalist countries typically install ‘term limits’ on their political leaders – the reason Obama will be history in four years, if not next month. The real ‘power behind the throne’ in capitalist countries are business elites. They ensure a popular leader, threatening their power, will not be around for long.

    US presidential term limits were put in place in direct response to President Roosevelt’s third election win. Roosevelt was a dedicated supporter of capitalism but was responsible for social legislation that has never been equalled since in the US. He was too threatening to elite interests.

    In the end, Americans have no real choice. Both parties serve the same masters – the business class. Notice how the financial people that are appointed by Republican presidents are regularly re-appointed by Democratic presidents and vice-versa. All they end up with is dissension and division resulting from the wedge model.

    No matter who wins the upcoming US presidential election, you can count on a level of unrest in the country that will lead to something, sooner or later. ‘Moses’ may even decide to live in Cuba some day!

    But probably not. Someone who prefers the imperialist capitalist pig, Obama over President Castro is likely to go down with the capitalist ship.

    (Btw, I can continue to use boilerplate text to describe ‘Moses’ president as he uses for Cuba’s leader if he insists on continuing in this vein. Continuously referring to the Cuban president as a dictator is a technique of propaganda that can easily be matched if he wants to descend to that level.)

  • John, your comment is baseless. Even without the electoral defects you suggest, no one can claim to know the outcome of a US Presidential election with any real certainty. In 53 years there has been no election in the US similar to the certainty that a Castro will be President in Cuba. It is a dictatorship by another name.

  • Like Cuba, the American presidential elections would not be in doubt either except for a couple of things. Voter i.d. laws and electronic and other frauds.

  • The UN’s assessment of the so called elections is correct:
    “the electoral process is so tightly controlled that the final phase, the voting itself, could be dispensed with without the final result being substantially affected”

    See: E/CN.4/1998/69

    More at:

    Also see:

    Report on United Nations Commission on Human Rights
    Inter American Comission on Human Rights




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