Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Is Cuba really a Democracy?

Correspondence from Cuba, A first-hand education

By David Ryder
University of Washington
January 03, 2006

Ask yourself, what do you know about Cuba? Why does our country prohibit all trade and support for Cuba. Is it safe? Do Cubans like Americans?

Our ignorance is undeniable, and that is why one of the most common response that I heard from my friends and family before leaving for winter quarter abroad was: "Cuba huh. Well be careful!" But do any of my friends or family members even know what it is that is so dangerous? If we're not allowed to go to Cuba, there must be something our government is protecting us from, right...? Is it just that they're all gosh darn Commies? Is it the overbearing dictatorial rule of Fidel Castro that is so horrible?

Most Americans don't know that Cubans consider their political system to be a democracy, and Fidel Castro is their duly elected head of state of Cuba. General
elections are held throughout the country in every neighborhood. Each leader who is elected at this beginning level acts as a kind of city council member, each within their prospective neighborhood.

These leaders then meet to vote for a representative for the next level of government. The leaders of this level then vote again, and this process is continued all the way up to the election of president. This is the process which has produced Fidel Castro as Cuba's leader under regular, fair elections since the revolution in 1959.

Some might argue that this is not a true democracy, because the Cuban people do not directly vote for their upper level of leadership. However, the electoral college in the United States creates the same type of gap between the people and the election of the president. Our beloved current president lost the popular vote during the general elections of 2000, yet was still elected thanks to the electoral college. Bush lost by a large gap in the states that he lost the popular vote, while winning in enough states to earn the large amount of electoral votes that put him in the oval office.

Some Americans may also argue that since only one political party in Cuba exists, the Cuban Communist Party, the Cuban democratic system is fundamentally flawed. But when framing the American democracy within the greater context of global politics, one can see the differences between Republicans and Democrats are miniscule. And, effectively all other American political parties are negligible, leaving us in a very similar situation as Cuba. Also, there are many differences among Cuban communists, and there are Cubans who run for office that do not identify with the Cuban Communist Party.

I am not saying that the Cuban system is superior, nor am I saying that it is without any flaws. What is important to understand, however, is that Cubans do see themselves as having a fair democratic society, and through this system Castro has been elected repeatedly. He is not a dictator and is supported by most of the Cuban people. Our government has promoted the ignorant and negative beliefs of the American people because of a lingering fear of communism from the Cold War and the Cuban missile crisis.

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