HAVANA TIMES — Four years ago I became interested in elections for the first time. This year I followed the second electoral process in my life. Yet on neither of those two occasions did these involve elections in my country.
Unconsciously, I’ve convinced myself that elections abroad affect my life more than those in Cuba.
In 2008, I watched the “Mesa Redonda” (“The Roundtable” news/commentary TV program) on the elections in the United States and I read articles on that topic in the Granma newspaper.
Obama’s election could have meant the end to the embargo and the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States.
If life in this country didn’t improve, at least I had the security that the justification …I meant to say the reason… would not be the blockade imposed by the US government.
But none of that happened.
Life showed that it would take more than a Black president in the White House, despite him having proclaimed himself the president of change. We learned that it takes more than reaching the presidency full of good intentions and that there are countries where the president isn’t lord and master of the country.
We found out that it isn’t enough to win the Nobel Peace Prize to deserve one.
This year I kept up on the elections in Venezuela without having made up my mind whether I feared or desired a Chavez victory. Two days before the Venezuelan people went to the polls, a friend told me that it would be good if Chavez lost so as to destabilize our government.
“If the country doesn’t receive fuel, it won’t be like the Special Period crisis, when people endured alumbrones,” (what we called the brief intervals between blackouts) he said.
I don’t know if I want things to change like that in my country. I fear that if we are subjected to greater shortages than we already face, people will take to streets — rightly so — and they’ll likely be suppressed in the name of national sovereignty.
I have to confess that by the Friday before the October 7th Venezuelan elections I had stopped thinking about them.
On Sunday I got home around six o’clock with the intention of sitting down and watching one of the few TV shows I follow. It was canceled though because the Mesa Redonda was devoted to following the Venezuelan elections, two hours before the polling stations closed.
Neither the moderator nor his guests on the Mesa even mentioned the disastrous consequences that a Chavez loss would mean for us. They discussed the benefits reaped by the Venezuelan people thanks to their government, and they especially praised the existence of democracy in that country.
They even quoted former US president Jimmy Carter, and that was what made me start thinking; because, to be honest, I don’t trust the moderator or the guests of the Mesa Redonda that much when it comes to discussing democracy.
That doesn’t mean that I think Jimmy Carter has the last word on that subject either, but at least he’s an outside observer, someone less compromised than the guests on the Mesa.
I don’t know if the people on the show realized that perhaps they overly praised Venezuelan democracy. If we look at things carefully, we’ll see that it’s true that Chavez is in his third term, and some people think he’s trying to eternalize his grip on power (health permitting).
But what’s wrong with the re-election of a president when people consider them to be doing a good job, especially when people have the political mechanisms at their disposal to remove such a person when they desire?
In Venezuela the elections had the participation of more than one political party. Each voter had the opportunity to decide and to make a difference with their vote. According to the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), over 80 percent of the people voted. They even lined up to exercise their right to vote and to decide the future of their country.
This Sunday, Cubans will turn to the polls to vote for delegates to represent them in their local municipalities. Then …we will sit and watch. We won’t have participation in the election of the City Council, nor the provincial or national assemblies, or for the president of the country. But we won’t be surprized by the final result.
I’m sure that here in Cuba the voter turnout will be more than the 80 percent experienced in Venezuela. But how many people will cast their ballots with the conviction that their votes will have any weight in the country’s life?
How many of them will go to the polls only to avoid standing out, which might look bad if they’re ever applying for a job in tourism or some other well-paid position?
But above all, what future will we be able to decide with our votes, beyond a delegate who will attempt to solve our problems for a while or give us comforting answers whenever they feel their hands are tied?
Once again the Venezuelan people went for Chavez, but they had other alternatives. They could have voted for any other candidate. The opposition was represented. Capriles had the opportunity to speak to the people, to use the mass media to let people know what they could expect from him if they elected him as president.
What is the mechanism for changing the leadership in Cuba? What representation do those who oppose the government have, even if they are a minority?
“Venezuela gave the world a lesson in democracy,” said Carlos Alvarez, the head of the UNASUR delegation, after Sunday’s election.
Did Cuba receive a lesson as well?