Cuba Waiting Game after Legislative Elections
Cubans turned out en masse Sunday to vote for members of their nation’s parliament despite steady rainfall over the western part of the country. Preliminary returns released Monday afternoon showed a remarkable 96 percent of the 8.4 million registered voters having cast their ballots.
By law, the new 614-member legislature must convene within 45 days, but officials already announced that the date to seat the parliament will take place on February 24, well ahead of the deadline.
The key task for the lawmakers will be to elect a new 31-member Council of State and the nation’s president from within their ranks.
Speculation abounds on the island and abroad as to whether Fidel Castro will seek another term as president, and how his decision might affect the winds of change blowing through the country. He retained his seat in the legislature, a requirement to belong to the Council of State or hold the presidency.
Ricardo Alarcon, the current leader of the Cuban parliament and reelected as a member on Sunday, noted Fidel’s steady recovery and said he expects him to be nominated for president on February 24.
Alarcon said he wouldn’t hesitate to vote for the man who has led the Cuban revolution from its onset, but acknowledged that it is Fidel’s decision whether to accept the nomination.
After 49 years, the revolution that sparks so much controversy in Washington and inspires so many Latin Americans appears at another crossroads.
From his polling place in Havana, First Vice President Raul Castro said the next legislature will have to make major decisions, albeit in a gradual manner. It wasn’t the first time the acting president had hinted at measures to come.
In a speech to the outgoing legislature on December 28, 2007, Raul said the country’s promising economic growth figures must translate into improved economies in Cuban homes. He called for greater efficiency in investments; more savings in the use of energy; accelerating land reform with the hope of decreasing food imports, and ending needless prohibitions that he said are causing more harm than good.
Raul Castro also said the “triumphalist” attitude of political leaders and government officials should be exchanged for more systematic information to the public stated with realism, clarity and a critical framework.
Meanwhile, the old guard Miami Cuban-American community, which continues to wield considerable influence in Washington, is not at all pleased with the changes on the horizon, designed to make the island’s socialist system work better, not destroy it.
For that crowd, the only solution to Cuba’s problems is to reverse the clock to the pre-revolution years, returning confiscated properties, and allowing the US to administer the island’s affairs.