One of the aspects that Mr Trump has specifically pointed out in relation to Cuba, in order to improve relations between both countries, is that free elections are held in our country.
Obviously, the tenant of the White House and his followers consider that the current electoral system in Cuba does not have the characteristics to be able to determine that it offers equal possibilities to all citizens to be nominated to the different positions that will be elected and, above all, that citizens who have reached the corresponding age can exercise the right to vote.
What would happen if the United States had the opportunity to organize elections in Cuba?
In order to evaluate that possibility, we will go to the story, which Mr Trump totally ignores.
The first elections held in Cuba after the end of Spain’s dominion over the island were organized by the United States. Let’s see how everything was organized so that these elections had the requirements of a “free election” and that the president was a person that, without any doubt, would represent the feelings of the Cuban people.
This article from the Latvia Gaspe Álvarez, MSc, historian and specialist in the history of the municipalities of Cuba, author of the book “The Colony in the Foundations of the Republic 1899-1908“, shows us the roots of US style “free elections”.
A lesson in electoral democracy that the United States gave to Cuba
Latvia Gaspe Álvarez MSc
The United States since its first intervention in Cuba, in 1899, made evident the utilitarian and arbitrary nature that it grants to what they call “free elections”, the fundamental basis of the system that they also capriciously call “representative democracy”, which it preaches as an example for the world.
At the beginning of the 20th century, once they decided to try a new form of colonial domination in our territory, they carried out several municipal electoral processes that demonstrated the imperial will that only a small part of the country’s population participate in the selection process of the members of the neocolonial state and that the most important positions of this state, will be in the hands of the most conservative sectors of the Cuban bourgeoisie, which had supported their interference.
At a time when the country, militarily occupied by the foreign army, had no civil institutions to face the process of assembling the republican state, municipal elections became the primary link to articulate the political-electoral chain. They defined the first Cuban officials, called to preside, organize and ensure the proper development of the remaining elective processes envisaged in the period, such as: the selection of delegates who were to prepare the Constitution of 1901, define the relationships that they had to exist between Cuba and the United States and the direct or indirect election, once the Magna Carta was approved, by the authorities of the other government apparatuses, which included the President of the Republic himself.
That is why, in the two municipal electoral processes that took place in this period, it was where the US comptroller put into practice the legal mechanisms to restrict popular participation and guarantee the inclusion in the political life of the country of the conservative elements that had few possibilities of triumph and that officially distinguished with the qualifier of “minority”.
The first elections of municipal officials were held in June 1900 and were regulated by Military Order No.164 of April 18, 1900. A prestigious researcher of this period told that, although the military governor himself, Leonardo Wood, appointed a commission to establish the requirements of this electoral fair, in the final decisions he openly ignored the opinion of the majority of the commissioners who advocated that universal suffrage be put into practice in Cuba.
The requirements established by the US intervention to be able to vote in the first Cuban municipal elections were:
• Being a man, born in Cuba or born to a native of Cuba born during the temporary residence of his parents abroad, or Spanish, who had not declared his desire to remain so;
• Be at least 21 years old;
• Reside in the municipality where he was to vote, at least 30 consecutive days;
• Fulfill any of the following conditions: know how to read and write, or possess real and personal property worth 250 pesos of the United States, or have served in the Cuban Army prior to July 18, 1898, and have graduated “without an unfavorable note”;
These conditions denied the right to vote to a large part of the Cuban population, women in their entirety and men of the black race, who had not served in the Cuban Army, most of whom did not have a capital such as required, nor could they read and write.
If we take for certain the statistical data of those that in our country exercised the vote in those elections, a total of 110,816 men and that there were 777,416 people who were 21 years old and older, we conclude that the electoral restrictions determined that only 14% of the inhabitants of the country exercised the right to vote. This meant that the highest representative of American democracy, Leonardo Wood, marginalized 86% of the population living in the territory with the required age, within which were all women and 61% of men, especially those of the black race.
But, why did the US military government decide just one year later – 1901 – to carry out another municipal electoral process?
The restrictions on the vote did not conceal a reality. Even with 14% of the population, the result of these first elections showed the majority independence feeling, affirmed in a town that had emerged from an exalting process of struggles for its sovereignty. The majority of the mayors of the country were selected from the independence forces; it was therefore necessary to try new measures that would allow the results to be distorted.
Although at first sight, Military Order No. 91 of April 8, 1901, that regulated the second municipal electoral process, seems to be traced back to the previous one, the new provision showed a difference that guaranteed the entry of the elements society’s most conservative positions in the state. This order added to the previous one a paragraph so that “the minority” was guaranteed, at least, 40% of the political space in Cuba.
The foreign authorities then established a limited voting system, according to which, taking into account the number of councilors to be elected in a municipality, the electors only had the right to vote for part of them, leaving the rest to the excluded forces, the famous “minorities.
This section was kept alive and was perfected in the electoral laws that were followed in the first decades of the republic – in which the United States was always involved through the well-known official Enoch H. Crowder – and was also a valuable instrument to that the conservative “minority” clung to our country, to take over almost half of the political sphere of a society, which was always openly adverse to it.
An analysis of the lists of mayors elected in the electoral elections of 1900 and 1901 reveals that this requirement caused that in the second municipal elections a good amount of them be removed from their posts, according to the required percentage by the American law.
The manipulations that the US authorities did to the Cuban electoral processes of the stage did not remain in the legal sphere. To delve into the documents treasured by the National Archive of Cuba, especially in those related to the denunciations that were made of the elections of the stage, confirms that in these were common complaints about: the rejection of people that in spite of fulfilling the requirements demanded by the law, they were not allowed to register in the electoral register; the concealment of voter lists; the non-authorization of representatives of important political groupings of the localities to integrate the polling stations; the coercion to the voters in the voting; the denial to the veterans of the independence wars to participate despite presenting certificates signed by important figures and changing the names of the voters in the registration lists, among others.
As can be seen, the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century only allowed approximately 5% of the Cuban population to endorse the 1901 Constitution and directly or indirectly select the main authorities of the Republic, which it finally placed in the hands of its favorite presidential candidate: Tomás Estrada Palma.
Is this the democracy they want to impose again in Cuba?
I believe that this article by Latvia Gaspe allows us to know all the electoral frauds that the United States used to occupy the presidency of Cuba, Don Tomas Estrada Palma, the candidate they had already selected before the elections were held.
Participation in those elections, rigged by the United States and its followers, brings to mind the way in which elections are currently taking place in the United States. There is not much change, perhaps a bit of updating in the methods, but the same purposes are maintained, that the people have limitations to express their true wishes, for that reason neither those, nor those that are now taking place in American lands, can qualify as “free elections”, nor that they are the basis of a “representative democracy” that does not exist. What exists is a plutocracy.
Dr Néstor García Iturbe