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PRESS RELEASE: CUBA'S UPCOMING ELECTIONS ARE NEITHER FREE NOR FAIR

PRESS RELEASE: CUBA'S UPCOMING ELECTIONS ARE NEITHER FREE NOR FAIR
2007-10-18.

People in Need
This Saturday, 21 October 2007, Cuba will begin municipal elections for
the first time since Fidel Castro handed over the power to his brother
Raúl in 2006. These elections are a first step towards the elections for
the National Assembly that will be held in the spring of 2008.

Delegates elected at the municipal level play a direct role in
determining who the candidates will be for the national elections next
year. However, these elections should not be considered free or fair by
any democratic standard.

People in Need, a Czech human rights and development NGO, calls upon the
media and policy makers not to confuse the elections in Cuba with what
are commonly called elections in democratic countries.

Cuba continues to be governed by a single party regime which imprisons
internal opposition and severely limits freedoms that are considered
sacred in all other democratic countries. There are basic ways in which
the Cuban people are not able to participate in these elections by their
own free will and which the selections of candidates are limited and unfair.

An enclosed legal and political analysis of the elections by René Gómez
Manzano, a prominent Cuban lawyer, argues that the municipal and
parliamentary elections are not free or fair because:
During the municipal elections, Cubans:

– cannot vote in secret ballots, candidates are chosen in public meetings

– cannot control the counting of ballots at all the levels of electoral
committees

During the Parliamentary elections, Cubans:

– have almost no real choice in who can be considered a candidate since
they have no right to propose independent candidates on a national level

– the number of candidates is equal to the number of people who are to
be elected

– candidates are chosen by six specific organizations under the direct
control of the communist party

– not affiliated with one of these six organizations have no means of
participating in the selection process.

– voters can be over-represented by serving on one or several of the
organizations
– voters can only select the approved candidates for the ballots to be
considered valid

– ballots with no candidate selected or with write-in or other
suggestions are invalid

Various members of the opposition have criticized the electoral system.
Owaldo Payá Sardiñas, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement,
called upon the government to change the law and allow real free and
fair elections. "In this moment in our history, Cuba needs transparency
and confidence and that only can be achieved by respecting the ideas and
rights of everyone, not imposing an electoral process … that for years
has impeded the people from freely expressing and deciding for itself,"
he wrote.

Martha Beatriz Roque, an economist and former political prisoner, said
that the elections are not secret, because candidates are selected only
in public reunions. "Imagine what support can an oppositon's cadidate
get in this public meeting in front of all these people from
government's apparatus. He will immediately has to think about his sons
and family, in fact that they can all loose a job or that he can even
become a prisoner," she wrote.

We ask the media and policy makers not to follow the Cuban regimes
propaganda and to learn more about the real working of this process. To
that end you can find bellow the two analysis by Rene Gomez Manzano.

For more information you can directly contact following people in Cuba:

• Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, leader of the Christian Movement Liberation
(Movimiento Cristiano Liberación – MCL) and author of the Varela
Project, which calls for a referendum on civil liberties. In 2002, the
Sakharov Prize was presented to Payá by the European Parliament, and he
has been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace several times. Phone:
+537 41 01 49 or +537 40 48 56.

• Martha Beatriz Roque, economist, and one of the two women arrested
during the crackdown in March 2003. Roque joined the opposition in the
end of 1990 and, in 1994, founded the Cuban Institute of Independent
Economists (Instituto Cubano de Economistas Independientes). She was
condemned to three years in prison in 1997. In 2002, Martha Beatriz
founded the Asamblea para Promover la Sociedad Civil, a coalition of
more than 300 democratic organizations on the island. Phone: +53-7-946821

• Oscar Espinosa Chepe, one of the 14 journalists set free, for health
reasons, from the so- called Group of 75, formed by the dissidents
imprisoned in March 2003. Since his liberation, Espinosa has become one
of the main sources of information for those who want to know more about
the situation in Cuba. He continues to send his articles and analyses
abroad. His wife, Miriam Leiva, is a well known member of the Cuban
opposition, as well. Phone: +537 209 4645

• Laura Poyán, wife of independent journalist Carlos Maseda, arrested in
March 2003 and condemned to twenty years in prison. Poyán is a founding
member of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) movement, which received
the Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament in 2005. Phone: 53-7-873-4165

To learn more about the issue or obtain the materials in Spanish, you
can contact

Nikola Horejs
Senior Program Officer
People in Need
nikola.horejs@peopleinneed.cz
+420 226 200 461

People in Need is a Czech human rights and development non-profit
organization. In its Cuba programme, it has been helping political
prisoners, emerging civil society and independent journalists since
1997. Please find more at www.peopleinneed.cz and www.icdcprague.org .

http://www.miscelaneasdecuba.net/web/article.asp?artID=12208

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