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Cuban Opponents Who Bet On The Ballot Box

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 3 April 2017 – In any part of the
world, the first option a politician has to participate in power is
usually through elections, but in Cuba this path seems the most Utopian.

However, on the eve of the start of the electoral process that will
culminate with the formation of the ninth legislature of Cuba’s National
Assembly of People’s Power and ’s departure as president of
the country, different opposition groups are taking the opportunity to
submit themselves to the verdict of the ballot boxes.

The hope of competing before the electorate as an alternative found
encouragement after the February 2015 announcement that there would be a
new electoral law. The idea that the new legislation would necessarily
be more flexible stimulated that part of Cuba’s opposition sector whose
plans do not include “overthrow the dictatorship.”

In October 2008 a small group of opponents from the town of Punta Brava
grouped under the name of the Liberal Party of the Republic of Cuba
launched the initiative to “accept the challenge of participating in the
elections for district delegates.” The political scientist Julio Aleaga
participated in this project as an adviser and, offering himself as an
example, stood for office in the capital neighborhood of Vedado. On that
occasion he obtained a single vote, his own.

Now Aleaga is leading the Candidates for Change project. In conversation
with 14ymedio he explains that since 2014, as part of a maturation
process, they have created an executive secretariat that organizes all work.

“We have been monitoring the Accountability Assemblies of the district
delegates where violations occur, such as not respecting the
requirements for a quorum, or declaring that the Assembly has been held
when in fact it has not and, at a higher level, the reports on the
number of Accountability Assemblies held in the country that do not
correspond to reality.”

In addition to that work, he states that wherever there is a
representative of Candidates for Change, they have presented the
problems of the community in the Assemblies with proposals to help solve
them.

This project also promotes the idea of ??encouraging Afro-descendants to
engage inpolitical processes as decision-makers, to become active in
politics and jointly promotes women’s participation in political life.

However the absence of the announced new Electoral Law has reduced the
expectations of those hoping to see a rift in the single-party political
life of Cuba. With regards to this, Aleago says, “Apparently the
government ‘has dropped the ball’ and we have decided to work with the
tools we have to build change instead of waiting for that change to take
place in order to have better tools.”

Another initiative that focuses on the electoral issue is Otro18
(Another 2018). Their work is made up of three parts: one is the search
for and preparation of candidates for the upcoming elections; another is
the constitution of what have been called Citizen Observers of Electoral
Processes (OPE); and, finally, the paving the way for the citizenry
to receive the message of this platform.

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, an experienced opponent from the social-democratic
persepctive, explains that for the task of finding and preparing
candidates they have a road map and attitude guide to establish
like-minded approaches. “In this sense,” he emphasizes, “we focus on an
unwavering requirement that they not receive money for the process of
putting themselves forward.”

With regards to the observers, it is a network that watches over the
process at every stage. “We demand as a requirement for being a Citizen
Observer that the person not be a candidate and maintain absolute
neutrality.”

As a founding member of the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD), Cuesta
has invited the organizations that meet as a part of that collection of
organizations to include in each of their activities an “Otro18 agenda,”
so that, regardless of the fact that each organization has its own
platforms and programs, they also engage in this initiative. “In the
coming months,” Cuesta says, “the entities involved in MUAD will begin
to provide candidates, observers for the network and, of course,
activists to mobilize the electorate.”

On the subject of the promised new Electoral Law, Manuel Cuesta takes
for granted that it will no longer be the one that governs the upcoming
electoral process. “A clear signal is that they have created an
application for mobile phones where the electoral process is explained
through Law 72, which should have been repealed to make way for a more
flexible one.”

Perhaps the most obvious question you can ask a politician who believes
in electoral processes is what are their hopes of winning votes. Julio
Aleaga affirms that they have now counted a hundred people ready to
present themselves as candidates in all of Cuba, with potential
candidates concentrated in Santiago de Cuba, Havana, Sancti Spíritus and
Cienfuegos.

“We would love to have about 300 people occupying the seat of the public
service, but reality tells us that this is a dream too far. We are
betting on the electoral exercise, the breakdown of social neglect with
respect to elections. The real result won’t be measured in the number of
candidates chosen, but in raising public awareness that elections can be
an engine for change,” he says.

Manuel Cuesta, for his part, takes a look at his agenda and explains:
“As of the beginning of April, we have 83 people who have shown their
willingness to stand as candidates, mainly distributed in Havana,
Santiago de Cuba and Pinar del Río.”

Cuesta recognizes that it is difficult to speak of numbers in the
question of predicting presumed victories, but one can venture how the
proportions might turn out.

“The first step is to overcome the difficulty of the area assemblies,
where the vote is by a show of hands. Of all those who can show up, be
it 70 or 700, only 15% would have the opportunity to pass this test and
get to the ballot. Then the Electoral Commissions of the municipality
will prepare a biography* for each of them, with somber tones, as they
did in the previous process with two candidates, whom they clearly
defined as counterrevolutionary elements. At the polls, maybe 4% would
be elected as a delegate, and with that we would be more than satisfied.”

For any of these projects, the main thing seems to be to open the game
of competitive elections at the municipal level. It is taken for granted
that these elections will be neither free, nor plural, nor fair, but at
least they will try to make them competitive. In fact, so far the
Government has refused to compete, even among themselves.

Among those who support overthrowing the regime, there are those who
accuse these initiatives of “playing the game of dictatorship.” The
truth is, those in command in Cuba do not show any enthusiasm for anyone
to play any kind of game and they are repressing with great intensity
all those involved in Candidates for Change, Otro18 and other projects
along the same line.

Before the end of this year we will know if the effort undertaken made
any sense.

*Translator’s note: Under Cuba’s current electoral law, candidates are
forbidden to campaign. The only presentation of their candidacy is a
one-page (or less) ‘biography’ with their photo and a statement about
who they are — strongly focused on a list of the mass organizations they
belong to — with no information about political opinions. This biography
is not prepared by the candidate, but by the Electoral Commission. As
noted in the article, two opposition candidates who made it to
small-area local ballots in the last elections, were described in their
biographies as “counterrevolutionary” with a brief detailing of the
‘bad’ things they have done, for example being “funded by foreign
groups.” Neither won.

Source: Cuban Opponents Who Bet On The Ballot Box – Translating Cuba –
translatingcuba.com/cuban-opponents-who-bet-on-the-ballot-box/

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