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      Socialist Democracy in Practice

      By Manuel Yepe

      Cubans are going to the polls on Sunday, March 11th to elect members of the Provincial Assemblies of People’s Power and deputies to the National Assembly of Cuba.

      From this democratic exercise will emerge the new Cuban parliament and its superior body, the new Council of State, which in turn will elect the new president of the Republic of Cuba, the successor to General Raúl Castro Ruz who has been in charge of the government of the nation since 2008.

      Raúl initially occupied the position by a statutory substitution, as President Fidel Castro Ruz became ill and it was incumbent upon him to replace him in accordance with his duties as First Vice-President. During the two consecutive presidential terms that followed, he was elected by the will of the citizens expressed at the ballot box, President of the State Councils and Ministers.

      But this time Raul has announced his decision not to run for re-election. Raúl Castro has been, since the beginning of the armed struggle against Batista’s tyranny, the second figure in the leadership of the revolution. His performance at the head of the government has earned him an increase in the prestige he already had for his performance at the head of the country’s Defense Ministry.

      No one questions his authority and the enormous popularity among the people that would enable him to continue in the presidential office in a new period. But Raul Castro himself has advocated the need to work for the renewal of the leaders of the revolution and the government, which, in the eyes of the people, has made it necessary to abide by his decision not to continue in office in the payment of a debt of gratitude to his President.

      For more than six decades, Cuba has been engaged in a permanent war of resistance with the American superpower, in which an extraordinary trust of the island’s population in its historical leaders has been forged.

      Neither Raul nor any other figure of great revolutionary authority in the population has indicated his preference for any individual for the highest state office, abiding by principles that the historical leadership of the revolution has defended and practiced of preferring the progressive renewal of leaders and cadres from the roots. The design of the Cuban electoral system was based on contributions from constitutional lawyers and other specialists committed to the independence and respect for the will of the Cuban people. It is not a copy of other systems, although it is based on the results of the analysis of texts prepared by the founding independentistas of the Cuban nation.

      It’s also based on a study by Cuban experts of electoral systems of many countries in Latin America and other nations of the world. All this was systematically enriched by the practice of a population with an incomparably higher level of education and culture than before the revolutionary triumph of 1959.

      In Cuba there exists, by constitutional requirement, a single party that, however, is not an electoral party nor does it participate at all in the electoral processes. Rather, it acts as the binding authority of all the people in order to defend the independence of the nation and prevent its absorption by the neighboring imperialist superpower. This is a latent danger since Cuba ceased to be a Spanish colony after bloody liberating wars from 1868 to the ending of the 19th century, based on many heroes and great sacrifices.

      Election advertising is prohibited on the island today. Neighbors of the communities elect their delegates from among themselves, who are members of the municipal assemblies, an exercise that is the essential basis of the system’s total democracy.

      In the municipal assemblies made up of delegates from the base, candidates are elected to be members of the provincial assemblies and deputies to the National Assembly of People’s Power.

      The latter elects the Council of State, composed of some twenty members who elect its President, the Head of State, who is also the head of the Government.

      All elected representatives, from the base delegates to the President of the Republic, are required to report on their performance several times during the year to those who elected them.

      The initial inspiration has been Greek democratic assemblies. However, unlike those, from which slaves were excluded, the voters are men and women; white, black and of mixed race; civil and military: the whole range of Cuban society. There are no limits other than those that restrict the rights of some whose legal sanction by the corresponding judicial authorities determines so.

      The system is still perfectible. But its statutes require that any modification must always be aimed at bringing the country’s political leadership closer to the people, bearing in mind the essential fact that the hegemonic power in Cuba is always and only in the hands of the Cuban people.

      Manuel E. Yepe, is a lawyer, economist and journalist. He is a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana. He was Cuba’s ambassador to Romania, general director of the Prensa Latina agency; vice president of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television; founder and national director of the Technological Information System (TIPS) of the United Nations Program for Development in Cuba, and secretary of the Cuban Movement for the Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples.


      Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann

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