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Cubans Vote in Foregone Conclusion

January 22, 2008 02:15 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Cuba one-party parliamentary elections offer 614 candidates for 614 National Assembly seats. The “ballot” may be a step towards Castro’s retirement.

30-Second Summary

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Americans who are unable to make up their mind in the presidential primaries might spare a thought for the situation of the Cuban electorate on Jan. 20.

With each of the parliamentary positions, including president, voters had a choice between endorsing a single candidate or leaving the box next to the name blank.

Since there was no opposition, Cuban officials emphasized the turnout, which, reports The New York Times, exceeded 95 percent of registered voters.

Despite the lack of options, change may still be on the horizon. The new National Assembly will ultimately decide whether the 81-year-old Fidel Castro—who has ruled Cuba since 1959—will officially retire from office.

The main contender for the presidency is Fidel’s younger brother Raul, who has served as de facto president since 2006.

University of Miami history professor Jaime Suchlicki tells Marketplace that even if current Vice President Carlos Lage slips into the top slot instead of Raul on Castro’s departure, Lage “is going to be a puppet of Raul Castro. He is not going to be an independent actor.”

Still others think that the elections had little to do with the island nation’s changing political atmosphere, and everything to do with Raul Castro’s attempts to convince Washington to end its trade embargo.

Former Cuban Vice Minister of Finance Antonio Jorge told Marketplace that “Raul Castro will try to portray this as a true populist political process, in which after extensive discussion of the weaknesses and defects and shortcomings of the regime, now we have a general election and people participate to the tune of 99 percent. So what more can the U.S. ask for?”

Lifting the embargo would be a huge boon to the Cuban economy, clearing the way for IMF and World Bank loans. The Financial Times recently published an op-ed arguing for such a move. However, the State Department has made it very clear that while President George W. Bush is in office, no such development is likely.

Headline Links: Cuba’s one-party election

Background: ‘Ailing Castro Hints for First Time of Retirement’

Reactions: Cubans, Castro and Vice President Lage

Analysis: ‘Fidel’s Brother Seen as Economic Hope’

Opinion: U.S. policy

End the embargo
The elections don’t signal change
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