Just the Right Amount of Naiveté

February 5, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Someone once said that in any initiative to speed up transition in Cuba, you need to include a pinch of political naiveté. I think so too. We shouldn’t frustrate the dreams of others, just because we believe they are impossible. We must be optimistic. Sometimes a simple action brings about results.

However, you must be very careful. Naiveté, but only in the right amount. An excess could lead to idealism. Ignoring reality results in costly errors, and in the political arena they are repaid with interest.

These days, Liberal Party members are promoting a platform called “Candidates for Change.” The promoters, mostly opposition politicians, intend to run as candidates for Municipal Delegates in the elections called by the State Council for next April.

Their proponents believe that anyone proposed, nominated, and elected, could “drive the changes that Cuba so urgently needs” and try to “reach the place where they can peacefully change the law.”

The idea doesn’t seem preposterous. It is a valid way to prove, first, that the mechanisms for access to power in Cuba are completely rusted over, and second, that citizen political participation is a gross fallacy. In other words, the Cuban electoral system is not democratic.

To prove this thesis, it is not necessary for aspiring candidates to actually be elected. Simply being proposed is enough. We already know that having an open political opinion against the government is sufficient cause for being denied access to all positions and offices of the state.

Never mind that the Cuban Constitution only requires merit and ability. You can be an excellent worker, be viewed positively in your social environment, even be an excellent professional, but if you disagree with the regime, you will immediately be treated as a ‘worm’ (a malcontent). Suffice it to recall that the Constitution of the Republic states that equality is enshrined by the state and won by the Revolution, and if the Revolution gives it to you, it can also remove it.

However, the objectives of the promoters of the “Candidates for Change” reach all the way to the election stage. Although some participants simply go along with seeing their biographies published, which refer to the party they belong to.

This is precisely the point where you notice a certain amount of idealism, and ignorance of the contents of the applicable law. First is the constitutional recognition of one-party rule in Cuba, which renders illegal any political organization that professes an ideology different than that of the Communist Party (PCC).

It is a delusion to believe that the government will recognize membership in a party that, in fact and in law, is illegal. Next, the PCC is not directly involved in elections. It doesn’t need to be. The Party’s members are scattered throughout the state organization, and its guidelines take constitutional precedence over those of the state.

Putting forth candidates of a party can be dangerous. Chiefly because it can be used by officials to discredit them, especially in a society ignorant of political issues and laws, a population that for more than 50 years has been indoctrinated in the belief that multiparty politics is a thing of the devil.

Another factor that candidates aspiring to be elected municipal delegates have to consider is whether they have enough popular support to have a chance to compete for office in that district.

Let me explain. The municipalities are divided into districts, and these are in areas of nomination, which hold general meetings of voters. The number of areas cannot exceed eight and each nominates a single candidate. Which means that applicants will have to be preferred among the possible nominees.

It is not enough that you were born and raised and now live in the neighborhood where everyone knows how you think and shares your ideas. The aspiring candidate has to know that the majority of his future electoral body prefers him, regardless of his political affiliation. We are not naive, we know how the state framework functions.

Other facts to consider. Dissidents are subjected to smear campaigns, and are linked to fictitious ‘mercenary’ activities promoted by the United States. State Security can organize repudiation rallies in hours. And among the Cuban population there is not enough awareness to voluntarily decide, without weighing the possible consequences for an individual and his family, whether to support a candidate for change. That is a reality.

In search of public support, it is not advisable for office-seekers to give out publicity. That could be interpreted as a political propaganda campaign, and as such, engaging in an illegal election activity, and could result in criminal prosecution for commission of a felony.

Despite these obstacles, it is possible that one of the candidates could actually be elected as a Municipal Delegate. But from that position can he promote the desired change?

The Constitution of the Republic recognizes that the Assemblies of the People’s Power, which include the municipal assemblies, are the higher local bodies of state power, invested with the highest authority to run the government in their jurisdictions.

For them to enact valid and effective legislation requires a simple majority vote. As a consequence, the number of candidates for change presumably elected must be greater than half of the members that make up the representative body. Only then will their proposals be adopted as legislation with significance.

Another question is whether the municipal assemblies have real decision-making power to promote democratic change in the country. The Constitution, in establishing the operating principles and organization of state agencies, says that “inferior state bodies are responsible to higher ones and must render accounts of their work.” It is therefore very difficult for a decision of the Municipal Assembly to go against what the State Council decides, for example.

Even if we can remain optimistic and try to make people understand the real meaning of the mandate given to the delegates: the assemblies are accountable, not just to air gripes and complaints, but to send representatives and demand efficiency in their management, and to instruct them to seek solutions and not settle for answers that justify the gross inefficiency of the system.

That would be one way to achieve change. But we must be aware that the officials would still have a trick up their sleeve: Impeachment. This legal mechanism has constitutional recognition and is expanded on in Act 89 of 1999. It has only been used once in the entire legal system.

The people’s representatives can be impeached for various reasons: repeated breach of public trust; committing acts that detract from good public opinion; engaging in conduct incompatible with the honor of being a public representative. The simple act of meeting with ‘worms’ or those disaffected with the revolution may be sufficient cause to initiate an impeachment proceeding.

I don’t want to be a wet blanket. But efforts to promote change will bear fruit only if the legislation is studied in depth, and all the pros and cons are discussed. Very ambitious projects can be idealistic. With just the right amount of naiveté.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: Tomás A.

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