The Communist regime controlling Cuba announced on Thursday that it would delay both the departure of elderly tyrant Raúl Castro and his likely replacement with hand-picked successor First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel in “elections” to be held next year.
In a typically lengthy speech, Castro blamed the need to postpone both his departure and the election—in which no opposition candidates will be allowed to participate—on Hurricane Irma, which devastated the island and triggered protests against the regime for failing to help those affected in a prompt manner.
“Due to the grave effects caused by Hurricane Irma, in the middle of the direct nomination process of candidates to representative posts, we see ourselves forced to modify the scheduled dates for elections,” Castro announced. In addition to replacing him, the “elections” would also allow candidates to elect representatives to Cuba’s legislature, where only the Communist Party is allowed seats. Castro referred to Hurricane Irma as “the most powerful and violent meteorological event in the history of the Atlantic.”
Cubans took to the streets to protest the lack of electricity, food, and government work to remove stagnant water in the aftermath of the hurricane in October. This month, Cuban state media was forced to admit that the capital, Havana, was suffering a significant toilet paper shortage, blaming it on the aftereffects of Irma.
Castro also announced that he would stay in power until April 19, not February 24 as previously scheduled. April 19 is the anniversary of the mass murder of Cuban exiles at Bay of Pigs, following the decision by Democratic President John F. Kennedy not to support the pro-democracy Cubans’ mission to overthrow Castro.
Castro also warned Cuban citizens that 2018 “will be a complicated year for the external finances of the nation” and berated the United States for its ongoing refusal to engage in full trade relations with Cuba due to its abysmal human rights record and open alliances with rogue states like North Korea and Iran. The warning may alarm some Cubans who remember the “special period” of the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Cuba’s economy tanked having lost its principal financier.
Today, Cuba depends heavily on Venezuela, China, and Russia to keep its communist experiment barely afloat. Russian tourism has been one of the Communist Party’s most dependable sources of income in 2017.
The Castro regime began its “election” process in November, holding an election where opposition candidates were banned from the ballots or physically intimidated out of campaigning at all. While Reuters reported that the candidates simply “failed” to get on the ballot, the initial announcement that elections would occur triggered an unprecedented interest from pro-democracy advocates who wanted to run in their local races. Opposition leaders complained that those seeking to be on the ballot faced arbitrary arrests, police intimidation, and warnings to stay out of politics for their own safety.
In February, Díaz-Canel, the vice president seen as the likeliest to win the “presidential election,” said on video that the government was “taking all steps to discredit” any opposition. Any victory by anyone not affiliated with the Communist Party “would be a way to legitimize the ‘counter-revolution’ within our civil society,” he explained.