Voting in Cuba

By Yasmani Guzman

Hosts of the Dancing in Cuba show. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES – These days, what’s most talked about on the streets of the capital, apart from the lack of food, is the television program Bailando en Cuba (Dancing in Cuba). Which couple dances best, to whom will they give their vote to leave the hot zone*, who looks capable of reaching the finals, etc.  Almost no opinions are heard on the general elections both before and after the vote on  Sunday.

Why is that the case?

Could it be that people don’t care who runs the country? Could it be that there are no surprises and that is why there is no interest? Could it be that it doesn’t matter who the president will be if he will follow the same policies as the Castro brothers? Could it be that people are aware that their vote does not determine anything?

Few comments, no election atmosphere, but on Sunday March 11th the vast majority went to the polls.

Why would that be?

Could it be that people think that it is better not to “mark” yourself? Could it be that there is some social pressure for those who decide not to go? Could it be that routine, inertia or apathy has turned us into zombies?

However in certain circles, in some way close to power, the subject is discussed. Some believe that the fight for the throne is intense, ruthless. That the old codgers do not want to leave, but other younger people want to take control of the country. According to the gossip, such a battle is taking place in meetings behind closed doors.

Likewise it’s said that in those meetings there are five possible candidates being considered for the presidency: Gerardo Hernandez, Ramiro Valdez, Mercedes Lopez-Acea, Marino Murillo and, of course, Miguel Diaz-Canel.

These five are more than known by most people, some more visible than others, some with more “merits” than others, but none with the charisma to connect with the masses and all are related to the current government.

And since our electoral system does not allow the candidates to express their views, nobody knows what program they have in mind. Or well, yes you know, it’s the same one we’ve had thus far.

In the first phase or stage or whatever you want to call it, where the neighborhood delegates were elected back in November, Raul Castro and his repressive apparatus managed to eliminate any opposition candidacies. Could it be that the electoral law contemplates that?

Publicity for the government’s campaign for voters to select the entire slate of candidates.

More than 180 names were not included on the ballots, even though on paper every citizen residing in the country for a period of not less than two years can supposedly be a candidate. Harassing their families and intimidating the candidates themselves, they left the ground clean so that only official policy flourishes. Therefore the “new” Parliament elected Sunday will not bring any surprises.

Electoral campaigning is prohibited although there are exceptions. For example, the government uses its entire media and resources to encourage voting for the slate; it’s easier, says the presidents of the CDR (the neighborhood Committees for the Defense of the Revolution) when they distribute a summons for the vote. In this way the 605 candidates selected for 605 legislative seats would get a vote of confidence.

They also give us a flyer, card or other form of advertising, whatever they want to call you, where they inform us how to vote with the emphasis on that little circle where you should put the little cross that indicates that you agree with everyone. It told us that as voters we have the right to vote for one, for several or for all the candidates, but it does not tell us that we have the right to cancel the ballot or leave it blank. Why would that be?

The mediocre TV program of Dancing in Cuba captures people’s attention because Cubans like dancing, yes, but also because on the show, their vote actually determines something. In contrast, in the municipal or general elections, your vote will not change anything. Why would that be?
*Hot zone: where are the dance couples who fail to move to the next round. It is the public’s vote that determines whether or not they leave the competition.