Cuba, Where the Old Leaders Elect the New

Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno

Raul Castro on July 26, 2013. Photo:
Raul Castro on July 26, 2013. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES —This last 26th of July address was far too important. A round anniversary of the assault on the Moncada Barracks, held in Santiago de Cuba, attended to by many foreign dignitaries.

This time, President Raul Castro didn’t give the platform to Cuba’s new First Vice-President Miguel Diaz Canel, as he had done in previous July 26 festivities with former First Vice-President Jose Machado Ventura.

In addition to paying tribute and expressing his gratitude to different individuals, countries and cities, the president made a brief remark – the most significant of the entire speech, in my opinion – about what we are going through at the moment and our future.

The revolution’s historical leadership, he declared, “begins to step down so that the young can take their place, peacefully and with a sense of serene confidence that stems from the new generation’s proven capacity to maintain the course of the revolution.”

The inevitable passage of time has imposed this as a necessity on Cuba’s current government, which today acknowledges and explains that “the process of handing the chief responsibilities of the nation over to the new generations in a gradual and orderly manner is underway.”

We could say that Diaz Canel is a clear example of this renewal within the leadership. And, to tell the truth, I am bothered by the whole affair.

It would be reasonable to say that a bigwig’s ultimate power isn’t put to the test during his term of office. It would be reasonable to say that their ultimate power lies in deciding, when it is time to step down, who will be handed the sceptre, in order to become the new bigwig.

First Vice President Miguel Diaz Canel

As usual, I cannot help but ask myself a few questions. What does the “process of transferring power” over to someone consist in, who controls it and how is it handled in general?

The Cuban president/general insists that institutions are of the essence in guaranteeing the country’s smooth, orderly functioning. However, he again blatantly avoids the fact that no institution, no leader, no course set by any government will ever be more legitimate, respected and powerful than democracy – the legitimate representation of the people’s will.

Abiding by the sovereign will of the nation, serving the people represented by the government, this summarizes the role that all governments should play, particularly those that would claim to be revolutionary and socialist.

We can’t have a situation in which a “historical leadership” has secured a “place” of power, of preponderance (even if it is given a name with a nice ring to it, like “vanguard”) and now “begins to step down” to hand over power to the new, selected caste of leaders.

The space of democracy, the space where citizens chose, evaluate and, if necessary, remove, those leaders it believes will represent them most faithfully, is apparently not to be mentioned by the official discourse.

What of the mechanisms of the People’s Power, which aren’t true democratic institutions, but are the closest thing to these in Cuba? No, no, the sun was beating down on that platform in Santiago de Cuba too intensely to waste time talking about things that aren’t important.

Cuban workers in Old Havana.

But, the fact of the matter is that we don’t have to agree with the way this process is being organized. No new batch of fresh bigwigs, chosen at finger-point by the old bigwigs, could ever hope to secure any legitimacy in the eyes of the people. Nor could they credibly demand discipline, restraint and devotion from these people.

No new batch of leaders will ever secure any legitimacy unless it subjects itself to and abides by the principles of those societies made up of individuals with equal rights. And these principles invariably demand universal suffrage, a process whereby every citizen, old or young, male or female, of any race, religious creed or sexual orientation, living anywhere in the country, judges and elects those who will become their representatives on the basis of their merits and capabilities.

The legal authority to judge and elect all current and future leaders lies exclusively with the totality of the electorate.

Only respect towards this democratic principle – an obvious one, to be sure – can effectively protect the unity of all honorable Cubans, a unity that is of the essence to the country, not only its current president.


28 thoughts on “Cuba, Where the Old Leaders Elect the New

  • August 2, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Until ‘one-party only’ elections are abolished, your false arguments against dissident participation in the electoral process will likely continue to appear substantive. Fortunately, the young Cubans that General President Raul is counting on to continue the disastrous revolution began by he and his brother are voting with their feet and leaving Cuba in record numbers. Unlike you, who can extol the empty virtues of the Castro regime from the capitalistic comfort of your home, most Cubans who are forced to live under Castros rule think differently.

  • August 1, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    The economic reforms are important changes. I think most analysts without a political axe to grind will agree.

    If most Cubans preferred to leave, I doubt that you would continue to see the overwhelming support for the government that we continue to see in every national vote, including one earlier this year.

    The aging of populations is a widespread phenomenon. Yes, even in the USA. As women become more educated, they tend to have fewer children.

  • August 1, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    These so-called “activists at the grassroots level” are Party members. The CDR committees which must approve the nomination of candidates are Party members. The Cuban media is controlled and directed by the Communist Party.

    To insist the Party has no political role is absurd: the Cuban Communist Party is the only legal party on the island and it holds a monopoly on all political, social, economic and governmental bodies.

  • August 1, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    The Cuban political system has not evolved for 50 years. While introducing his limited economic reforms, Raul Castro declared that there will be no political reforms.

    Most Cubans would prefer to leave the island. The fact that Cuba has a declining and aging population is clear evidence the people do not see any future on the island. Last year over 46,000 Cubans emigrated, most of them young people.

    Can you do the math? What future will Cuba have when senior citizens out-number children?

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