Just a couple of weeks ago, the people of Cuba went to the ballots to elect their representatives. Paradoxically, Bush urged Cubans not to vote for the Communist “dictator”. This made me wonder, ‘How much say do Cubans have in deciding who rules them, and how much of a “dictatorship” is Cuba?”
Cuba has a unique political model that cannot be compared to any other country’s. At the local level, Cubans meet in neighbourhood councils to discuss local issues. Every couple of years, these councils elect candidates for the municipal assemblies. Those candidates, however, are not nominated by anyone else other than the voters themselves. No campaigns take place and only a single-page biography is printed for each candidate. Voters, however, generally know their candidates, because each neighbourhood council has about 1,000 to 1,500 voters, and the participation level averages at about 90 per cent.
Candidates need at least 50 per cent to enter the municipal assemblies, which then elect candidates for the provincial assemblies. The provincial assemblies also elect a number of candidates for the National Assembly, who require the ratification of the general electorate, and take up half the seats in the Assembly. Other seats are assigned for members elected by mass organizations such as trade unions, women’s and students’ organizations.
The National Assembly elects the President of the Council of State, generally known as the President, who then creates the Council of State, which is, more or less, the cabinet.
What role does the Communist Party play in the elections? Nothing. The party does not nominate any candidates, nor does it officially endorse any. This means that even though, for example, the Liberal Party is illegal, a person with Liberal politics can still run in the elections. In fact, while walking the streets of Havana, or any place in Cuba, one might be able to hear people talking freely about their country’s politics, and even criticizing their government.
The idea that Cuba arrests dissidents is the product of U.S. policies and its ongoing war against the country’s Communist regime. To cite an anecdote, back in 2003, Cuba arrested 75 “independent journalists” whom Amnesty International called “prisoners of conscience.” The fact of the matter is, as Philp Agee, a former CIA agent said “every one of the 75 arrested and convicted was knowingly a participant in US government operations to overthrow the government and install a different, US-favoured, political, economic and social order. They were not convicted for ideas but for paid actions on behalf of a foreign power.”
Cuba, like every other country, has laws against agents of foreign governments who try to overthrow its government. These have nothing to do with freedom of speech, but rather, are in order to protect the country’s sovereignty from foreign enemies. The CIA pays journalists to publish its works as if it were their own, not to mention the fact that Cuba is the target of several American acts, such as the Helms-Burton Act, and dozens of US-funded organizations aimed at overthrowing the island’s government, such as Center For A Free Cuba and Accion Democratica Cubana.
As Fidel Castro said in a recent interview, “Down through history, in all times, actions by people who put themselves at the service of a foreign power against their own nation have always been seen as extremely serious.”