By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — In Cuba, your vote is secret, but you are allowed to personally share how you voted and I have had the desire to explain mine… I cast a blank vote this time.
Marti said something along the lines of “not voting is a crime in a Republic.” I agree with this idea, but I believe that the Apostle was referring to a democratic Republic, where there is a rule of law. That’s why, even though I put in a blank vote, I support those who abstained from voting. It’s their prerogative, plus, it communicates their message of dissent against the political system, much more directly than my protest vote.
Today, everything is called a “republic” even including highly authoritarian governments. Cuba is a telling example of this. If I become attached to this reality, I also would have decided to tacitly abstain, but other factors influenced my decision and I chose to actively abstain.
I always vote in the local municipal elections because even though I don’t agree with the political or electoral system here in Cuba, I have the chance to choose between several candidates I know. However, this isn’t the case when it comes to electing national lawmakers and provincial representatives.
Up until early 2013, my vote had always been positive, even checking the “for everyone” box. Although it’s been a while now since I’ve believed in the system or in the possibility that the candidates could do something good or useful for me or my country, but I still gave them my vote.
I thought about the over six hundred Cubans elected to the National Assembly who would receive a new binder (hard to get here in Cuba), a comfortable week-long trip to the capital twice a year, eating well and going far away as they can from domestic chores. It was the only positive thing and I gave them my vote, as I didn’t see the point in abstaining before.
Today, I believe that things are changing and I am even changing. We are experiencing decisive moments in the country’s history and the Cuban system and Government’s impossibility to push the country forward even in financial terms. Forces of change are a little more ready to push for a working democracy, and the historic generation will slowly pass down power bit by bit, calling for continuity of the Revolution and an iron fist against democratic forces, as the only way to do so.
Personally, I am a lot more aware of the real value of my vote; more active in exchange for change, via journalism; and I have even seen the ugly side of the system here, suffering the repressive methods they employ firsthand because I had dared to be an honest person and tell people what I think. However, in spite of everything, I’m a person who weighs up every aspect of an important decision and I try to remain congruent with what’s going on around me.
Many people in my town, Mayari, Holguin, are all for change in Cuba, but the Revolution is generally looking to finetune democracy without losing what they believe to be “achievements”. They know that Fidel and Raul have kept them in poverty with their economic failures, but they appreciate them for what they believe “to be the good in their work” (and how can you not in this country?). They know about my ideas and they silently support them, afraid of being labeled “counterrevolutionaries”. And so on, like most of our people are.
I intend to always keep my ties with the people around me, without being a hypocrite. We are living in a time of change and even though I’m just a journalist, people see me as an alternative politician and officially judge me as an “opponent”. I don’t spend my time judging people because they don’t understand their reality better (I see others do this misguidedly), I’m just trying to be constructive and useful. Many of my neighbors were waiting to see whether I would vote or not and at 5:30 PM, my wife and I cast our votes, both of which were left blank.
I was able to fulfil my moral duty by abstaining in this way and I was also able to meet the expectations of those around me, who were hoping I wouldn’t adopt a radical attitude. Many neighbors have approached me to congratulate me for my action and I know that public opinion is favorable. I have made it clear to everyone that I cast a blank vote and my reasons for doing so, and quite a few people envy me believing this to be a brave act.
“If only I had the courage to cast a blank vote, but I’m afraid the ballot paper is marked somehow and they find me out,” this is what the majority of people think. Personally-speaking, I’m proud to form a part of the nearly two million Cubans (abstentions plus null and blank votes), who have manifested our disapproval of the continuity of an authoritarian regime which is what these elections needed: this was my yes for Cuba.