Chronicle           PRINT
January 11, 2008

Apparent Calm

by Laritza Diversent
January 11, 2008

HAVANA, Cuba – The tranquility that one might sense at the moment from Cuba’s political landscape is hardly synonymous with calm. The significance of certain facts, which have been mostly overlooked, is evidence of the regime’s fear and insecurity. The stale image of Fidel Castro that displays his biographical information in the massive campaign for his nomination as a national deputy has invoked indignation and laughter. It shows a picture from 20 to 25 years ago or perhaps more, when he was still plump and healthy. His actual appearance these days is one of decrepitude.

Raul Castro’s trip through Santiago de Cuba this past December 24th demonstrated the lack of comfort that the main leaders of the socialist revolution have about the upcoming elections.

The area of Santiago de Cuba was chosen strategically for its geographic characteristics. Most of the areas municipalities have low population densities because of the mountainous terrain, which permits the proposed candidates to claim a victory from a small electoral body. Thus, they can maintain their advantageous positions in the National Assembly.

This it is the reason why some of the most powerful people in the Cuban government are nominated for provinces with these characteristics. In Santiago of Cuba’s case alone the nominated candidates are, besides the Castro brothers, Juan Almeida Bosque, Ulysses Rosales del Toro, José Ramón Balaguer Cabrera, Abelardo Colomé Ibarra and Fernando Vecino Alegret, among others.

The political strategy is based on demographic studies of each region in the country, which bear in mind the average level of education and the political attitudes of the population, in order to assure the status quo for the highest ranking government officials in Castro’s bureaucratic oligarchy.

The simple speeches that Raul Castro gave in different Santiago localities, was almost an urgent appeal to the population to vote for Fidel. There is no doubt that he performed this campaign tour as a representative calling personally for his brother’s election.

The fact that he has tried to convince the townspeople of Santiago, and indirectly the people of Cuba, of Fidel Castro’s mental integrity is further evidence that we Cubans still have our doubts. The details that have been given about his health are insufficient and unverifiable.

And yet, we haven’t even stated the concrete objection that we have about newly proposing the deteriorating Quixote of the East as a national representative. It is a well known fact that his illness will make it impossible for him to carry out his functions as representative.

Articles 21 and 25 of the National Assembly’s specific outline the rules for how and when a representative can be chosen. In the case of Fidel Castro, his inability to campaign for his own nomination, shows sufficient evidence that the laws in the books are not respected.

They are using his figure as curtain to cover up Cuba’s political landscape, or perhaps they simply want to complete the final wishes of the Commander: to die in the power. I am inclined to believe that it is the latter.

The 20 year old image that accompanies campaign materials is intended to leave an engraving in the memory of the Cubans of the vigor and sturdiness of his past glory.

One thing that we can say for sure: the continued presence of Fidel Castro in the political life of the country is a joke.

In an environment where there have been minimal political confrontations, the actions of Raúl Castro are senseless. He should be focusing on enforcing the laws and the proximity of the elections.

Article 171 of the Electoral Law on "Electoral Ethics", specifies that candidates must participate as a group in acts, conferences and visits to workplaces. In this case, Raúl Castro did his tour alone, in order to taking advantage of his political prominence by giving Fidel even more of an advantage over the other candidates.

It doesn’t matter if the votes are registered as united or in a block, because in this particular case, these actions have made the vote irrelevant for the other nominees. On account of him, all of the proposed candidates have assured themselves a position in the National Assembly.

The fact is we Cubans will be victims in the days ahead. Any incentive, from participating in the upcoming election or for using political confrontations to permit us to determine who the people most capable of representing our interests are, has been removed.

Raúl Castro also took advantage of the occasion to make promises to the town of Santiago. In almost 50 years of socialism, the revolution has never worried about their hydraulic networks. On the contrary, they have let time corrode them or destroy them. I highly doubt that by 2009 or any time in the near future that the province of Santiago of Cuba, with its geographical particularities, will have running water 24 hours a day.

The fact that the existing laws prohibit publicity for election campaigns, doesn’t mean that our process is actually free of such displays. Or that examples of opportunism, demagogy and cheap politicking aren’t present. The fact that such major governmental figures are the ones violating these laws and that nobody dares to contradict such disrespectful political and legal acts, is just further evidence of what Cuba’s political landscape is really like.

It is proof that neither of the Castro brothers is different from the other. Those that think that under the current mandate things will change in our favor have pawned their hopes in vain.


Click here to read in Spanish

Translated by Scott Hudson (People in Need)


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