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1/28/03 - CUBA'S FARCICAL ELECTIONS - 2003-01-29

Cuba's electoral system would be a joke if the consequences for the Cuban people were not so serious.

On January 19th, there was an election for the Cuban national assembly. But the election was a farce. Why? Because there were just six-hundred-nine candidates for six-hundred-nine seats. Each national assembly seat was sought by just one candidate -- Communist dictator Fidel Castro's candidate. And the national assembly is itself a farce. It basically has one job: to rubber-stamp Castro's repressive policies.

Why do Cubans participate in this kind of farce? Pressure on the people to vote in Castro's phony elections is very high. Many Cubans say they or their families would suffer retaliation at work or school if they did not vote. Meanwhile, dissidents who tried to monitor the election were denied access to polling places, contrary to Cuban law.

"We are perfecting our revolutionary and socialist democracy," said Castro on election day. But the fact is that citizens of Cuba do not have the right to change their government peacefully. Castro’s Communist regime infringes on citizens' privacy rights and denies freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association. The government limits the distribution of foreign publications and maintains strict censorship of news and information.

Castro's phony election prompted Cuba's Communist Party daily newspaper Granma (grahn-mah) to declare that the national assembly balloting is "overwhelming proof of popular support for the nation, the revolution, and socialism." And Cuba's vice president, Carlos Lage (CAR-lohs LAH-hay), called the elections "truly democratic and free."

Yes, such comments are ridiculous. But for the Cuban people, they are ridiculous in a very sad way.