Elections in Cuba, Venezuela and the USA

Elections in Cuba, and the USA

September 18, 2012

Fernando Ravsberg*

HAVANA TIMES — Nominating is underway in Cuba for candidates who will

run in the general elections, which will end with the election of

parliament deputies and the of the republic. In this first

stage, grassroots assemblies are being organized in all neighborhoods,

and candidates are being chosen from among local residents.

More than half of these municipal offices will be filled with new

delegates, but no one expects any surprises at the national level. Most

Cubans are convinced that will be reelected, along with

almost all of the deputies being members of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC).

Much more attention is focused on the Venezuelan elections, because any

change there could dramatically affect the lives of Cubans. The main

source of income for the comes from the exchange with Caracas of

medical services for oil.

Similarly, the outcome of the US election could have a major impact on

the daily lives of people on the island, many of whom fear the return of

restrictions on Cuban-Americans and reductions in remittances.

Citizens' Concerns

Edel Rivero, a 25-year-old teacher, believes "the elections in Cuba are

symbolic because they're not going to produce change." He adds that

what's more important is "the election in Venezuela, because that

relationship is key to Cuba," along with "the US elections, because what

happens there always affects us."

"There will be no surprises in Cuba," said Miriam

Leiva, "the candidates nominated by the PCC will be elected, but we'll

have to wait and see what happens in the United States and Venezuela. If

loses or weakens, the Cuban economy will spin into crisis."

"The Cuban elections don't stir great expectations, but the ones in the

US do, because a Republican victory would mean cuts in remittances and

travel," says Enrique Lopez, a 70-year-old specialist in religions,

adding "if Chavez lost, the supply of oil would be cut and our economy

would collapse."

The Cuban media is also giving special attention to the electoral

processes in the US and Venezuela. This past Saturday, for example,

official television made these their principal topics on the news

program "La mesa redonda" (The Roundtable).

The value of

The services of Cuban doctors in Venezuela account for the bulk of the

country's foreign exchange earnings, around $5 billion (USD) annually.

According to Cuban economists, this surpasses the combined revenue

coming from , remittances, cigars, sugar and nickel.

Most of the labor of Cuba doctors, teachers and athletic coaches is paid

for in the form of oil, but some sources claim that the sale of those

services has reached such a level that Caracas is paying Havana an

excess amount of money to keep the relationship balanced.

Bilateral cooperation is key for the reelection of President Chavez, who

is running his campaign based on the social achievements of "missions"

such as his "Barrio Adentro" program, where Cubans provide professional

health care, and sports service to the poorest areas of Venezuela.

Although opposition candidate Henrique Capriles said he will not suspend

the agreement with Cuba, no one on the island believes that 35,000 Cuban

doctors will remain in Venezuela if the opposition beats Chavez.

Tourism based on exiles

The other electoral process being carefully followed by Cubans is the

one in the US. Most of them believe that if the Republicans manage to

unseat President Obama, there will be more difficulties ahead for family

relationships and therefore for their personal incomes.

Remittances from the US amount to around $1.2 billion (USD), equivalent

to a quarter of what Cuban doctors produce in Venezuela, but this has

great social significance because it's money that goes directly into the

people's pockets.

Yet many fear that a Republicans return will mean prohibitions on travel

to the island by Cuban-Americans, as occurred under President George W.

Bush. Obama lifted the restriction but Miami Republicans are calling for

its re-institution.

Since travel to Cuba was allowed, about 400,000 Cuban-Americans visit

the island every year. According to the Bureau of Statistics, they have

become the third largest tourist group staying in hotels – behind

Canadians and Cubans who live on the island.


(*) See Fernando Ravsberg's blog.


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