Cuba: Sham ‘Elections’ Make 91-Year-Old Raúl Castro, Elián González Lawmakers

(L to R) Commander Ramiro Valdes Menendez, Former Cuban President Raul Castro, and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel attend the Torchlight March on the 170th anniversary of the birth of Cuban national hero Jose Marti in Havana on January 27, 2023. (Photo by ADALBERTO ROQUE / AFP) (Photo by ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP …
STR/AFP via Getty Images, ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP via Getty Images

The Cuban Communist Party held “elections” on Sunday in which 470 hand-picked candidates vied for 470 seats in the National People’s Power Assembly, the national lawmaking body — meaning every candidate was guaranteed a seat.

No opposition candidates appeared on the ballot and several regional “elections” boasted some of the country’s most well-known and powerful political figures. Among those gifted lawmaking seats on Sunday were former dictator Raúl Castro, 91, and Elián González, a communist celebrity best known in the United States as a child refugee deported at gunpoint by leftist President Bill Clinton in 2000.

The official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, Granma, quietly announced Castro’s plans to return to public office in February with little explanation as to why. Castro, for decades the closest ally of his brother and fellow dictator Fidel Castro, officially retired from in 2021 from the presidency and the far more powerful position of chairman of the Communist Party, presumably heralding in a new era of totalitarian rule under current figurehead President Miguel Díaz-Canel. Díaz-Canel’s time at the nominal helm of the country has been so disastrous for the Party – featuring the return of widespread food shortages, nationwide power blackouts, and historic protests – that Castro announced this year he would seek political office again.

González became internationally known in 2000 after arriving by sea in Florida. His mother, Elizabeth Brotons Rodríguez, drowned attempting to get her son out of the communist country and González was rescued at sea. Clinton nonetheless deported him back to his father, sending a highly-armed law enforcement team to storm the home of his American relatives in Florida and send him back to Cuba. The Communist Party turned González into a loyalist celebrity, appearing on state television to encourage the worship of the Castro family.

Cuban state media prominently featured reports of Raúl Castro visiting a voting center to cast his ballot for the regime’s hand-picked choices, but downplayed the fact that Castro himself was running for office.

“The revolutionary leader was nominated as [a] parliamentary candidate from the 2ns Front municipality, in eastern Santiago de Cuba province,” the state-run Prensa Latina noted.

In February, after the regime announced Castro’s candidacy – and that of 90-year-old Cuban Revolution veteran Ramiro Valdés – Cuban politics experts told Breitbart News that his return was a de facto vote of no confidence for the younger generation of communist leaders.

“Without the presence of the surviving Castro brother, co-founder of the regime, everything becomes uncertain,” Orlando Gutiérrez-Boronat, the co-founder of the Cuban Democratic Directorate (Directorio), told Breitbart News. “Raúl Castro must remain in charge because there is never anyone who can fully replace him.”

González, meanwhile, represents a younger generation beyond Díaz-Canel’s that could potentially secure the longevity of the regime.

“The fact that I will share in a part of the historic direction fills me with pride,” González said in February, “knowing that Raúl will be there doubles my joy because we will have experience and the example at our side still and I know I will be in that hall with our army general.”

Castro and González will go on to “elect” the president of the country, expected to be Díaz-Canel, with no popular input outside of the sham elections this weekend.

As the elections were entirely non-competitive – “nobody chose anything … the Party elects itself,” as dissident Cuban activist Carolina Barrero told the Argentine news outlet Infobae – international observers have focused on assessing voter turnout to determine how disillusioned Cubans have become with their 64-year-old regime. According to the Cuban government, as of Monday, 75.92 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, up from 70.34 percent tallied as of 5:00 p.m. local time on Sunday. While international outlets such as Reuters described the number as “stronger than expected,” local independent reports noted that, given tremendous government pressure and historical participation rates, government reports suggest low voter engagement.

The independent Cuban outlet 14 y Medio noted that, between 1976 and 2013, Cuban legislative “elections” maintained 90-percent participation rates. Most recently, in 2018, participation dropped to 85.65 percent, still about ten points higher than the official government participation rate this weekend.

14 y Medio also questioned, however, the authenticity of the official turnout statistics. The regime abruptly extended election times by two hours at the end of Sunday night, a sign that turnout may have needed a boost.

“The 14 y Medio team could confirm in various electoral centers in Havana that not many people approached to drop off their votes,” the outlet noted. “Collaborators of this outlet confirm the low turnout in various provinces and is also suggested by the coverage in official media, which has not shown lines of voters in its images.”

Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, has been down since voting stations closed on Sunday, the outlet noted. Breitbart News could not access the website at press time.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.



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