Cuba elects new national, local parliaments

February 5, 2013

Africa, International

Cuba elects new national, local parliaments

Former Cuban leader Castro casts his ballot at a polling station in Havana

Xinhua

HAVANA– Over 8.5 million Cubans on Sunday started to cast their votes for the picking of nearly 1,900 members of the country’s new national and provincial legislatures.

They are expected to elect 612 National Assembly members from an equal number of candidates, and select nearly 1,270 delegates to the 15 provincial people’s power assemblies, or the local legislatures, for a five-year term.

A total of 29,942 polling stations were set up across the island nation and are running from 7 a.m. (1200 GMT) to 6 p.m. ( 2300 GMT) Sunday. The elections involve 14,737 electoral commissions of various constituencies and over 225,000 election officials, with some 150,000 working in the polling stations.

According to Alina Balseiro, president of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), voters have received necessary training to ensure a smooth voting process, and the voting system was fully tested in a trial run conducted last Sunday.

Official statistics showed that some 67 percent of the new National Assembly’s members are expected to be new faces, and nearly half of its members will be female.

Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro and director of the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX), is running for the first time for the national legislature.

According to the Cuban constitution, candidates for the national and provincial legislatures must gain more than 50 percent of all valid votes to get elected.

Cuba’s Electoral Act also stipulates that within 45 days after the National Assembly election, the new Assembly should hold an inaugural meeting and appoint a 31-member Council of State, including its president, for a term of five years.

Incumbent President Raul Castro is expected to secure a second term at the upcoming meeting. But it would also be his last due to a 10-year limit for anyone to hold government offices introduced in 2011 by the ruling Cuban Communist Party.

Raul Castro, 81, is running for the new National Assembly as a candidate representing the municipality of “Second Front” in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba. His elder brother and former president Fidel Castro, now 86 and retired since 2006, represents the district of Santiago de Cuba city.

Fidel Castro cast his vote in 2013

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Video: Cubans vote in parliamentary election

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Video: Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela

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Video: Cuba and the their help to end apartheid

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Video: Racism in Cuba, a controversial issue

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Video: A Symposium on Race & Racism in Cuba
Held at The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz – Memorial and Educational Center

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Video: Blacks in Cuba: The Next Revolution

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Where did all the black Cubans go?

The CIA World Factbook once showed that Cuba had a 62% black/mulatto population

Cuba Population Change 1

Currently Cuba is listed as being 65.1% white and suddenly 24.8% mulatto and mestizo and only 10.1% black

Cuba -Demographics

Mulatto is a term used to refer to a person of mixed heritage of black African and white European descent. In the United States they are classified as Black.

Mestizo is a term used to refer to a person of mixed heritage of white European and Amerindian descent. In the United States they are classified as American Indian/Native American.

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Cuba’s native and African populations

After Christopher Columbus arrived for the first time on Guanahani (San Salvador) in Cuba on October 12, 1492 Christopher Columbus landed in Cuba on October 27 of 28 on the northeastern coast near what is now Bariay, Holguin province. Columbus would claim the land for the Kingdom of Spain. The name Isla Juana was given to the area. The Spanish established a settlement at Baracoa in 1511.  Within 100 years later the indigenous population were virtually all gone.

The first record of slavery in Cuba was 1513. In 1517 more enslaved Africans arrived.  The first larger group of enslaved Africans (around 300) arrive in Cuba in 1520.

On October 7 1886, slavery was finally abolished in Cuba by a royal decree.

Proclamation of equal civil status for blacks and whites was given in 1893.

Spain and the United States declared war on each other in late April, 1898.

The United States signed the Treaty of Paris (1898), by which Spain ceded Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam to the United States for the sum of $20 million.

Racial segregation came to Cuba in 1898 with the occupying (and segregated) armed forces of the United States.

The Platt Amendment of 1901 ensured U.S. involvement in Cuban affairs and gave legal standing to United States claims to certain territories on the island including Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

Cuba gained formal independence from the United States on May 20, 1902, as the Republic of Cuba. The United States retained the right to intervene in Cuban affairs and to supervise its finances and foreign relations.

During this time all the way up to the 1950s Cuba had an apartheid system of government. The  island’s private clubs and beaches were segregated.

During the Cuban revolution many wealth white Cubans and Jewish Cubans left Cuba for the United States. In 1959 about 70% of the Jewish residents of Cuba fled. Elite white Cubans would come to be considered the first of 4 waves of Cuban immigrants that would contribute greatly to the economy and culture of urban cities of the United States. In the early 1960’s until the mid 1970’s, many of their less wealthy white Cuban relatives came to join their families in the United States. Many fled to south Florida in the metropolitan Miami or to the greater New York City area.

Blacks and white Cubans were treated differently in the United States. For the most part Blacks had no reason to leave Cuba.

Taíno

If you have ever paddled a canoe, napped in a hammock, savored a barbecue, smoked tobacco or tracked a hurricane across Cuba, you have paid tribute to the Taíno, the Indians who invented those words long before they welcomed Christopher Columbus to the New World in 1492. Their world, which had its origins among the Arawak tribes of the Orinoco Delta, gradually spread from Venezuela across the Antilles in waves of voyaging and settlement begun around 400 B.C. Mingling with people already established in the Caribbean, they developed self-sufficient communities on the island of Hispaniola, in what is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic; in Jamaica and eastern Cuba; in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas.

They cultivated yuca, sweet potatoes, maize, beans and other crops as their culture flourished, reaching its peak by the time of European contact. Some scholars estimate the Taíno population may have reached more than three million on Hispaniola alone as the 15th century drew to a close, with smaller settlements elsewhere in the Caribbean. Whatever the number, the Taíno towns described by Spanish chroniclers were densely settled, well organized and widely dispersed.

The Indians (Amerindians) were inventive people who learned to strain cyanide from life-giving yuca, developed pepper gas for warfare, devised an extensive pharmacopeia from nature, built oceangoing canoes large enough for more than 100 paddlers and played games with a ball made of rubber, which fascinated Europeans seeing the material for the first time. Although the Taíno never developed a written language, they made exquisite pottery, wove intricate belts from dyed cotton and carved enigmatic images from wood, stone, shell and bone.

The Taíno impressed Columbus with their generosity, which may have contributed to their undoing. “They will give all that they do possess for anything that is given to them, exchanging things even for bits of broken crockery,” he noted upon meeting them in the Bahamas in 1492. “They were very well built, with very handsome bodies and very good faces….They do not carry arms or know them….They should be good servants.”

In short order, Columbus established the first American colony at La Isabela, on the north coast of Hispaniola (now home to Dominican Republic and Haiti), in 1494. After a brief period of coexistence, relations between the newcomers and natives deteriorated.

Spaniards removed men from villages to work in gold mines and colonial plantations. This kept the Taíno from planting the crops that had fed them for centuries. They began to starve; many thousands fell prey to smallpox, measles and other European diseases for which they had no immunity; some committed suicide to avoid subjugation; hundreds fell in fighting with the Spaniards, while untold numbers fled to remote regions beyond colonial control.

In time, many Taíno women married white Spanish conquistadors, combining the genes of the New World and Old World to create a new mestizo population, which took on Creole characteristics with the arrival of enslaved Africans  in the 16th century. By 1514, barely two decades after first contact, an official survey showed that 40 percent of Spanish men had taken Indian (Amerindian) wives. The unofficial number is undoubtedly higher. “Very few Indians were left after 50 years,” said Ricardo Alegría, a Puerto Rican historian and anthropologist I interviewed before his death this past July. He had combed through Spanish archives to track the eclipse of the Taíno. “Their culture was interrupted by disease, marriage with Spanish and Africans, and so forth, but the main reason the Indians were exterminated as a group was sickness,” he told me. He ran through the figures from his native island: “

By 1519, a third of the aboriginal population had died because of smallpox. You find documents very soon after that, in the 1530s, in which the question came from Spain to the governor. ‘How many Indians are there? Who are the chiefs?’ The answer was none. They are gone.” Alegría paused before adding: “Some remained probably…but it was not that many.” Possibly as many as 3 million souls—some 85 percent of the Taíno population—had vanished by the early 1500s, according to a controversial extrapolation from Spanish records. As the Indian (Amerindian) population faded, so did Taíno as a living language.

Source: Smithsonian

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