In Cuba, elections are genuine demonstration of democracy, Castro government says

Municipal elections to be held Oct. 22

By Hatzel Vela - Reporter

HAVANA - Cubans will soon be heading to the polls to begin the process of determining a new leader.

The process which is already underway, could be historically significant as current Cuban President Raul Castro has vowed to step down from his post as president. 

According to the National Electoral Commission, on Oct. 22 Cubans will vote at the municipal level in their neighborhoods. Those elected will then vote for candidates who will represent them at the national assembly, which will then elect Cuba's top political leaders.

In a press conference Monday, Cuban officials assured the press any Cuban citizen can become president or vice president. 

But history tells a different story. Cuba has only had two presidents since the 1959 revolution: brothers Fidel and Raul Castro. 

There are no political parties in Cuba other than the Communist Party and candidates, by law, are not allowed to campaign.

During a news conference, a reporter asked the president of the National Electoral Commission if members of the opposition would be allowed to be candidates in the upcoming municipal elections.

"To me, it doesn't make a difference if you're minority," said Alina Balseiro, Cuban National Electoral Commission president. "I only want to know if you're Cuban and you meet the requirements."

Retired University of Miami professor Andy Gomez, an expert on Cuba, called the idea laughable. 

"Giving the impression that these people really have a chance -- we've seen that before. The likelihood is that's not going to happen," Gomez said. 

To be elected to any political post, candidates have to be Cuban, at least 16 years of age, have been living on the island for at least five years and cannot have a criminal past.

The press conference on Monday was framed around the slogan that in Cuba there is a genuine demonstration of democracy.

When Local 10 Cuba correspondent Hatzel Vela asked how the Cuban government can convince Americans that Cuba has free and fair elections, Balserio said there is a lack of knowledge and Americans do not have enough information about how Cuban elections take place.

She went on to say that the Cuban electoral system has greater strength and function and principles like no other, that allow for a total democracy.

Javier Lopez, a private taxi driver, said he doesn't care who is president. 

In Spanish, he said he just wants a normal life, in which he can work and make a decent living. 

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