TO CHOOSE TO BE FREE
We have been promoting changes to the laws for many years, so that the rights of citizens are respected. We have particularly insisted on a new electoral law, because that is the key for the people to exercise their sovereignty, which is the main objective of the Varela Project. The current electoral law and the systemic violations of freedom of expression and association are inhibiting the right of Cuban citizens to choose and to be chosen. You can read the Varela Project by visiting http://www.oswaldopaya.org .
We begin with the very Electoral Law, Law No. 72.
Only the Candidature Commissions, which are comprised of organizations that are unconditionally loyal to the Government and whose national leaders are also in almost all cases leaders of the Communist Party, can propose candidates for Deputies. The municipal assemblies of the People’s Power, which are institutions of the government, make the final nomination of candidates.
Therefore this is in violation of the right established in article 133 of the Constitution, which states “Cuban citizens, men and woman, have a right to be elected in the full enjoyment of their political rights.”
Therefore, it is no longer the Cuban citizenry that can be elected, but rather only those that are designated by these Candidature Commissions. Although perhaps they are consistent in this as in practice no Cuban citizen has any political rights. That is to say, government institutions nominate and its organizations propose, but not the citizenry or the people as such.
The voting process:
It is also not elections, because according to Law 72 only one candidate is nominated for each Deputy seat. Therefore if citizens chose their corresponding Deputy in a district, only one name could appear on the ballot, because there can only be a sole candidate. That is why I believe that the “unified vote” was established so that the names of various candidates appear on the ballot, to give the imagery of variety, but it is still the same number of candidates as the number of Deputies to be elected. Citizens can vote for one, for all or for some, but if one does not want any of the sole candidates, one’s vote does not count. One’s vote is only counted if it is in the affirmative.
The voter can not choose his deputy among various candidates, nor can they refuse all candidates because a ballot box to say no does not exist. Therefore, this is not an election, or even a consultation for voters to refuse or accept all of the sole candidates.
In my opinion:
In a logical sense, this is truly a joke.
In a legal sense, this is a violation of the Constitution.
In a political sense, this is a grave violation of popular sovereignty.
In an ethical and humane sense, this harms the dignity of individuals and the right of our people to define their own lives and their future.
If someone wants to take a look at the Electoral Law before voting, perhaps you will find it and perhaps you will find a copy of the Constitution, where you can read in article 7.1 “the National Assembly of the People’s Power is comprised of Deputies elected by the free, direct, and secret votes of the electorate, in proportion and in accordance with the process determined by law.”
I repeat, in my opinion, those who drafted the law established a process that violates the Constitution because it does not allow for Deputies to be elected, or to be elected by direct vote. But there is something even graver that was committed by the authorities and those who exercise power above the law. If so many people have received “visits” or signals for having not voted, if there have been “commissions” these days that have visited house by house to tell citizens to vote in the ballot of the unified vote and have also in many case asked if they are voting, then the vote is also not free. It is as if they want to violate the spirit of individuals, imposing on them what perhaps many do not want to do. This mechanism of intimidation is not new, and even if the law were flawless, the culture of fear that is imposed through all of the repressive and oppressive mechanisms to carry out the electoral farce is a terrible non-pop ular tradition.
Never before has such an intense and disproportionate and at the same time disingenuous electoral campaign been waged. All of the media that the people pay for has been utilized to promote a vote that will definitely not be an election. A real marketing campaign is being waged with artists, athletes, and a parade of everything they think is popular in order to condition the voters. These are the same voters who are not allowed to listen to other opinions, just as they are not allowed to choose another alternative, and are not allowed to elect. It seems that those who make the decisions only trust the citizenry when they are devoid of the possibility to choose freely. Those voters who support this government are not even allowed to choose from among various candidates the one that they believe would best represent the continuity and efficiency of this system. They are offered sole candidates, without alternatives.
The Deputies to the legislature that is coming to a close received the Varela Project legal initiative that was supported by more than 25,000 voters. This petition asks for a Referendum and proposes a new electoral law, that would allow citizens to nominate and elect their deputies as well as their representatives at all levels. Many of those who advocated for the Varela Project are now unjustly imprisoned precisely for defending national and popular sovereignty, for defending the rights of citizens to choose and to be chosen freely and democratically.
We do not have the capacity nor the intention to tell any Cuban whether or not he or she should vote, nor how to vote, but we do have the responsibility and mission to call on all Cubans to act freely, that is to say, moved by their own conscience, by honor, by love for their Homeland, and for liberty, his brethren, and the dignity of his children, without fear. That is liberation.
Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas
Havana, January 18, 2008