Yesterday there were general elections in Cuba. Even without knowing the outcome, I think there was something interesting in them that we should pay attention to and that indicates the erosion of Cuba’s totalitarian system. The Cuban political elite have always aspired to everything. “Within the revolution, everything; against the revolution, nothing,” goes their old slogan, still parroted by some hardliners. They aspired to complete control over the economy, culture, ideology and politics. They hoped to make their population march to the orders always invoked by the Comandante, and where children modeled themselves not after their parents, but after Che. They aspired not only to have no opposition, but to achieve complete alignment. They wanted not only bodies, but also souls. This is why they were totalitarian. They were able to do this, with some Cubans emigrating and others pretending to tow the line. In this, they counted on three factors: a decisive segment of the population that accepted subordination, a strong leadership that interpreted itself as having the correctness of thunder, and an undisputed monopoly on the economy, social mobility and ideological production.
Today none of that exists. This is why Raul Castro is launching every possible message about his more modest calling for domination. It’s no longer hoped that everyone will align, but as many people as possible. They’re no longer a calling for total loyalty, only what’s necessary, and in turn they’re warning everyone that now’s the time for each person to be accountable for their own life.
Only by voting “united,” they said, could one vote for “the nation, the revolution and socialism.” That was the aspiration for totalitarianism that left no hope for a simple citizen voting against a candidate simply because they didn’t like them. To do so would turn that voter into a “traitor,” a “counter-revolutionary” and an “anti-socialist.”
Raul remains a very authoritarian leader who doesn’t adhere to even basic democratic rituals; nevertheless, he’s becoming a less authoritarian political creature than his brother (who always was with his corrosive mixture of Latin American caudillismo, Leninism, Cosa Nostra and Jesuit charm).