A year after Fidel Castro’s death, some wonder whether his brother Raúl is willing to leave power on February 24, 2018—as he promised in 2013, Newsweek reports:
Castro has worked to strengthen institutions “to guarantee the regime’s continuity,” said American University professor William LeoGrande. “Besides, Castro has said nothing about stepping down as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba,” he said, adding that Castro is likely to continue to wield influence in policy decision-making.
The ruling Cuban Communist Party (PCC) this week organized a “selection” masquerading as an election, according to the International Republican Institute’s Andrea Castillo and Travis Green. The government actively works to give the impression of a democratic process while controlling the outcome of the process and clamping down on dissent, they write:
In response, opposition platforms [were] calling on voters to write in “plebiscite” or “Cuba Decides” on the ballot instead of voting for the PCC candidate. This act of defiance would nullify the ballot, meaning it would be discarded. Citizens can also cast a blank vote, meaning they do not choose any of the options. These ballots are also discarded from the total tallies.
Being a member of the ruling Communist Party was not a requirement for participating in the process, but shutting up about political pluralism apparently was, the Economist reported:
The government found “wildly creative and sometimes even comical” ways to keep alternative candidates off the ballot, says Manuel Cuesta Morúa, the director of Otro 18 (A Different 18), a grassroots group to which most of them belong…The jump in the number of alternative candidates, from just two in 2015, is a sign that the demand for real democracy is spreading, says Pablo Díaz Espí, director of Diario de Cuba, an online newspaper. The challengers, who insist that they are not dissidents, communicate through a network of think-tanks, workers’ organisations, religious groups and youth groups.
Dissident groups said a record number of their supporters attempted to stand for nomination this year but were thwarted by state security agents who prevented them from attending the meetings, among other tactics, AP adds.
“Before going to work in the Obama administration, I had covered Cuba as a researcher for Human Rights Watch, when I’d been able to speak to Cuban dissidents only over phone lines tapped by the Cuban government, or by unannounced visits to their homes (which were under near-constant surveillance),” notes Nik Steinberg. “By 2015, I could openly receive some of those same dissidents in the offices of the US delegation to the United Nations,” he writes for the New York Review of Books:
Which is not to say repression on the island stopped. Dissidents continued to be harassed, beaten, and locked up. They still were fired from jobs and saw their kids expelled from school as punishment for the parents’ activism. And other countries continued to be reluctant to speak up about the Cuban government’s ongoing abuses.
Fidel Castro was no intellectual, despite the many mentions of “Fidel’s thinking” in official media, said Cuban dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua (left) “When you read his works, above all his speeches, you realize there are many contradictions at different stages, which aren’t due to changing situations but are contradictions in his own thinking,” said Cuesta Morua, who promotes the #Otro18 project for democratic change in Cuba.
“Cuba and the Cameraman,” a new film from documentary filmmaker Jon Alpert, will no doubt infuriate some viewers because of Alpert’s friendliness toward Castro and the fact that the authoritarian regime’s human rights abuses are not addressed, the New York Times adds.
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