A political opposition group in Cuba has accused the government of preventing or interfering with people who want to stand in local elections this Sunday, and is calling on Cubans not to vote.
Municipal elections, which are held every five years, are one of the few opportunities that ordinary citizens on the island have to participate in elections.
The Cuban government says the system is an example of primitive democracy, in which participants elect candidates from their communities at local assemblies, and then vote freely.
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez tweeted Thursday that the upcoming vote was “a true reflection of our participatory democracy”.
But anti-government protests in July last year saw hundreds of people prosecuted and jailed for rioting, vandalism and sedition.
Some have chosen to emigrate, while others say they were forced into exile. The people who are left say that what the government has done has caused people to disagree.
“Obviously this is disrupting the power that the organizations have to unite with what I see as the majority of people who want to change,” Manuel Cuesta Morua, head of Cuba’s Council for the Democratic Transition in Cuba, told Reuters this week. .
He also said that the security of the government in Cuba has prevented three opposition hopefuls from participating in their meetings.
The official said he knew of one protester – 30-year-old baker Jose Antonio Cabrera from Palma Soriano, a small city in eastern Cuba – out of more than 26,000 candidates.
The government did not respond to a request for comment on Cuesta Morua’s claims. Reuters could not confirm the claims.
Yuliesky Amador, a professor of law at Artemisa University in Cuba, told Reuters that “any Cuban citizen can be nominated”.
“People choose [the candidates]and having beliefs against the government does not prevent it,” he said, and added that any other problem would be against the laws of Cuba.
There are 26,746 candidates for 12,427 positions in Sunday’s election, in a country of 11 million people. Campaigning is illegal in Cuba, and candidates for wards are elected at neighborhood meetings based on their credentials, not their opinions.
They must not belong to the Communist Party. Some candidates are independent, but only a few opposition parties have run. Cuba has long viewed the opposition activities as subversive and says they are supported by foreign money to fuel the uprisings.
Cuban leaders say that the country’s elections are more democratic than Western models, which they say are run by big businesses and corruption.
Reuters interviewed by phone five dissidents who remained in Cuba. None of them said they have any plans to participate in Sunday’s election, nor do they know about the chosen opponents.
“It’s all a joke,” Berta Soler, leader of the dissident group Ladies in White, told Reuters by phone. “I don’t trust the electoral system in Cuba.”
Many activists have called on Cubans not to vote.
The opposition group Archipielago, whose members are outside Cuba, has asked voters to stay home, destroy their ballots or leave them blank.
“This could be the best opportunity to say loudly to the government and other countries that the dictatorship no longer has the majority it boasted for years,” Archipielago said in early November.
Disobedience has increased in recent years.
The Cuban constitution of 1976 was approved by 98 percent of voters, more than 98 percent, while the 2019 constitution was approved by about 87 percent of voters, while the voter turnout dropped to 90 percent.
September’s referendum on the government-sponsored Cuban Family Code was approved by 67 percent. The turnout has dropped to 74 percent, low by international standards but the lowest in Cuba since Fidel Castro’s 1959 coup.