Elections in Matanzas had a distinctive note to them, as residents remembered the presence of Fidel that June 30, of 1974 in the province to attend the first People’s Power elections, before the process was extended throughout the country.
Actions to commemorate that important chapter in the life of locals were particularly moving in polling station number one, of constituency 46, and two of constituency 25, visited by the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution at that time.
At both locations, Teresa Rojas Monzón, first Party secretary in the province, presented a photo of Fidel at the polling stations.
It’s something you can never to forget, stated Heriberto Sosa Casanova, president of station number two, in constituency 25. It was about 11:40am when he arrived. Loads of residents came out to see him, and he greeted them warmly, recalls Casanova.
“After greeting everyone at the polling station he turned to me and asked me a lot of questions. Although we hadn’t expected it to be, the station was very well organized. He asked about the number of voters and how many had already cast their ballots. He emphasized the importance of the process for the future of the country.
“Later, at about 10pm, he returned to the polling station and accompanied us to the ballot boxes. He made the most of his visit to learn about the main events of the day and offered very valid thoughts on the electoral system that was being implemented in Matanzas.
“If I were asked to describe the similarities between the 1974 elections, which were a kind of trial run, I would say that they feature the same sense of joy, although today the people are more conscious of the importance of voting. Just like then, this is another victory for the Cuban people, this time for Cuba and for Fidel,” stated Sosa Casanova.
WORTHY OF THE COMANDANTE EN JEFE
In Altos de Mompié, the sun shines brightly as it rises from behind the mountains. Located at 1,090 meters, the highest point in this remote settlement in the Sierra Maestra, Altos de Mompié is home to 117 people, almost 70 of whom were eligible to vote on November 26.
The area also occupies a special place in Cuban history, because it was here in a small hut, carefully preserved to this very day by residents, where Fidel Castro was named Comandante en Jefe of the revolutionary armed forces, on May 3, 1958.
This was also the reason that two thirds of voters gathered at the doors of the polling station, in the early hours before dawn.
“That many had already voted in the first two hours, while the rest have the remainder of the day, because there are people who live farther away and its difficult to get here,” stated Yanelis Ruiz speaking to Granma.
The young polling station president noted that several residents arrived before she did, “It looked like they were standing guard, like they had spent the night here after the tribute we paid to Fidel the day before.
“We organized a beautiful little ceremony in the small house where the transcendental event occurred, where Fidel received the title that stayed with him forever. We recited poems, sang songs, people brought flowers and photos, reminisced about the Comandante and talked about what each one of us can do to preserve his legacy.
“I made the most of the opportunity and said that the first thing we could actively do to demonstrate what we had talked about was to arrive early, vote with our hearts, for him, for Cuba, for this democracy that Fidel founded… and well, it seems like the people slept here all night…”
A NEW VICTORY ASSURED
Hurricane Irma swept away many things in Isabela de Sagua; homes, equipment, roofs, schools, businesses… But one thing it couldn’t take away was the people’s faith and confidence that they would recover.
With this same spirit, residents awoke early November 26, to vote for candidates to municipal assemblies of People’s Power, certain that those chosen will know how to continue recovery efforts in this People’s Council.
Pedro Eloy Delgado exercised his right to vote at polling station one in constituency 71 of People’s Council Nueva Isabela, a community founded by Fidel. Speaking to the press after voting, Delgado noted that participating in elections, as well as a civic duty and right, is also an obligation, because only a Revolution such as this one can take care of victims they way they have been cared for here.
The hurricane of 1933 also caused a lot of destruction, but the attitude of the government at that time was very different, thinking only about money, leaving the poorest and most humble completely abandoned. Today, however, help arrived immediately, and many residents have already received materials or repaired their homes. That’s why people are coming out early to vote today, stated Pedro Eloy.
And just like in Isabela, El Santo, Nazabal, La Panchita, Caibarién, Remedios and Camajuaní, some of the most severely affected areas in Villa Clara, elections went ahead with transparency and efficiency, in a demonstration of respect for Fidel, according to Julio Lima Corzo, president of the Provincial Defense Council.
SANCTI SPÍRITUS DOESN’T BELIEVE IN HURRICANES
There were just two things in the neighborhood ofSansariq, in Yaguajay, that were able to withstand the force of Hurricane Irma: the mythical Ceiba tree adored by locals that stands taller and leafier than ever on the road toward Mayajigua; and the resilience of locals.
Opposite the tree cherished by all, members of constituency number seven arrived early on November 26 to the Camilo Cienfuegos Polytechnic Institute – serving that Sunday as polling station number one – to choose local representatives to the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power.
The economics school, as it is known by almost all residents, was one of the hundreds of institutions in the municipality that have already had their roofs repaired after the hurricane’s winds swept across north-central Cuba, last September 9, turning Yaguajay into a whirlpool for over 12 hours.
Everyone in Sansariq has a story to tell about the hurricane, according to Emilio López, a security guard for the Various Products Manufacturing Enterprise, whose house was demolished by the strong winds: “I fixed it up as best I could, I made a roof out of what I could salvage and am voting early before I go to work,” said the young man, who is also President of his local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR).
Then there’s Teresa Fernández, land registrar with the Municipal Agriculture Department, who is currently fixing up her own house and noted, “The hurricane couldn’t take away my roofing, so it damaged the walls. I don’t even want think about it, but luckily I now have the materials and am sorting things out.”
Meanwhile, Domingo González, president of the Defense Zone, doesn’t need to read a piece of paper to know what the hurricane meant for the neighborhood: more than 860 of the 2,486 homes in the People’s Council suffered some level of damage, including 64 which were totally destroyed and 93 which partially collapsed, a reality which considering the turnout on Sunday, November 26, didn’t dampen the innate resolve of residents of Sansariq.
A CELEBREATION OF DEMOCRACY
With the second highest number of voters in the country, over 775,300, elections in Holguín were a celebration of democracy, according to political officials, government authorities, and residents alike.
After exercising his right to vote, Luis Antonio Torres Iribar, a member of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) Central Committee and first Party secretary in the province, recalled that the true representatives of the people are being chosen this November 26, in what is also a tribute to the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz.
And it was indeed the people who were the protagonists on Election Day, not only because of the massive voter turnout, but also due to the hard work of electoral authorities, such as Lídice Irasema Cruz Figueredo who, together with Lilianne González Ríos and Lilian Méndez Herrera, managed the polling at station number three in constituency 34, in the provincial capital.
“I have always accepted this responsibility because it shows that we Cuban women have the full right to vote and participate in the organization and running of elections,” stated Lídice.
“I also regard it as my duty as a young mother. I have an eight year old daughter and believe that I am showing her an important example. My father, who passed away, was very patriotic and encouraged us to always support the Revolution. I remember that he came with me the first time I went to vote. He was very proud.”
Lídice, who is head of the Civil Registry Office at the Provincial Justice Bureau, stated that, when the time comes, she will do the same for her daughter.
SO MANY REASONS
Holding the hands of his grandchildren, the best support he could have, Pedro Pablo Gutiérrez arrived to his designated polling station in Artemisa province, on the morning of Sunday, November 26.
He was also accompanied by his daughter, and the strong desire which has motivated him for the past 85 years to get up early that Sunday morning, and go to give his vote of confidence, not only for the person that will represent him, but also “for the Revolution and for Fidel.”
“This is a very important moment for me, as ever since I was a young man I have fought for the ideas defended by our Comandante en Jefe, and coming out to vote today is a way of reaffirming the support of the entire population for the work that he created,” stated the combatant of the Cuban Revolution.
Listening closely is his 20 year old grandson, Raudel Rodríguez, currently in his third year of medical school, who noted that for him “it is an honor to be part of this experience, given that I have the opportunity to study thanks to everything that our homeland has achieved, and in the near future, through my work as a professional, I will be able to contribute to our future.”
Meanwhile, the presence of young people on one of the local electoral boards in the municipality of Mariel, attracts my attention; of the five members, four are students. “I had participated as a voter in the previous process, but this is my first time working on the elections. We have met and spoken with the people and are happy to see that we are contributing to this election process, which involves everyone,” stated university student, Daimé Rodríguez.
SANTIAGO: ETERNALLY LOYAL
Residents of Santiago de Cuba sent a message to the world of unity, support and love for Fidel,Raúl and the Revolution, when on November 26, they came out en mass to vote at the 2,598 polling stations across the province.
“That’s how it is in Chicharrones,” according to María Elena Kindelán Nápoles and Magalys Quiala Carbonell from the district’s Hoyo neighborhood, because during the war this was, and always will be, one of the most revolutionary neighborhoods in Santiago de Cuba, which was only given its dignity after the triumph of January 1, 1959.”
To the south, on Centro Urbano Antonio Maceo Street, Yaumara Somber Núñez couldn’t contain her excitement that day: “It was my duty to bring my 16 year old daughter to vote for the first time. I was also the first to arrive at polling station number two, in constituency 116. They gave me this distinction and a little statue of the Comandante en Jefe.”
Just before you get to the end of Alameda Street, from where some of the most breathtaking views of the Sierra Maestra can be seen, Roberto Roll Vastay, with a cane in his right hand and being supported by a young man, firmly stated: “Now I’m blind, but I was able to see enough to be proud of my country, and rather than voting from home, I asked my 13 year old grandson to bring me to vote, so that he learns to defend the work of the Revolution.”
This sentiment was present from one end of Santiago to the other. According to information provided by the Provincial Electoral Council over 775,417 people came out to vote on November 26, an increase from previous years, because as First Party Secretary in the province Lázaro Expósito Canto said, after casting his vote, “It’s a day of great patriotism, of the defense of freedom, and a new victory for Fidel and Raúl.”
REAFFIRMING A COMMITMENT
For María Esther Remedios Collado, this is her fourth time serving as president of polling station number three of constituency 48, in zone 141 of the municipality of Ciego de Ávila.
Speaking to ACN she noted that the day has gone well every time she has been at the head of the board, with the broad participation of all age groups in this exercise of participatory democracy.
She stated that this experience has demonstrated the merits of the Cuban electoral process, where everything is done to facilitate the population exercising their right to vote, with total freedom and transparency.
Seventy year old homemaker Caridad Suárez Siria, voted for the first time from home, after a stroke left her unable to walk long distances.
Since the stroke, I stay at home and do easier tasks; I’m happy that they are bringing me the ballot, because I can’t go there, stated Caruca, as she is known in her neighborhood in the capital’s Reparto Ortiz district.
After exercising her right to vote, Noraida Navarro Borroto, also a homemaker, stated that she voted for the person that she believes will best represent her, and who will defend citizens and solve problems.
Cuban women have always been at the forefront of every battle waged in the country, and the women of Ciego de Ávila are proof of that, she noted. (ACN)
VOTING TO DEFEND ACHIEVEMENTS
On Sunday November 26, thousands of residents from the Isle of Youth made their way to the municipality's 154 polling stations to exercise their legal right to choose constituency delegates to the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power.
On this patriotic day, in which locals showed that the strength the people lies in their unity, as Fidel taught us, residents of the island, which became the site of some of the most noble revolutionary initiatives, dedicated their vote to the homeland, to socialism, and to peace.
Achievements like internationalist schools, agricultural and hydraulic initiatives, industrialization, road development, health care, and infrastructure, which is constantly being modernized, are just some of the gains enjoyed by residents, protagonists of a day which saw those willing to defend this social project reaffirm their patriotism and cubanía.
Ballot boxes, documents, trained personnel, and adherence to the law characterized polling stations, where elementary school students witnessed their parents and grandparents participate in this patriotic tradition as they passed down the teachings of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution from generation to generation.
THE FIRST VOTE
Cesia Gómez had already participated in other electoral processes, but always guarding the ballot boxes in her elementary school uniform.
On Sunday November 26 she voted for the first time. At 17 years of age, she states that “It’s the opportunity to choose the person that will represent our circumscription. But you have to choose wisely from among the candidates.”
Just like Cesia, over 3,800 young people from Pinar del Rio exercised their right to vote for the first time during these elections.
However, young people did more than just vote, Laura Elena Mesa, a student at the Federico Engels Vocational Pre-University Institute of Exact Sciences, for example, also helped to supervise the process in polling station number two, circumscription 29, in the municipality of Pinar del Río.
“In History class they explained that before the triumph of the Revolution elections were subject to fraud and votes were bought. However, today the reality is different.
“Before starting, the ballot box was sealed correctly. Each person freely marks the name of the individual they consider to be the best. Voting is also secret.”
Laura is barely 16 years old but speaks with the maturity of someone that knows that processes such as these are vital to the country’s future.
“Being able to choose the person you believe to be the most suitable is an honor and a duty. That’s why I’m here, to help ensure that everything is done correctly, and the will of the people is respected.”
A VOTE OF CONFIDENCE AND FAITH IN THE FUTURE
At 87 years of age, Isabel Avilés Mojena’s legs no longer work like they used to. Although she may have wanted to, Isabel was unable to go to her local polling station. However, this didn’t stop her from exercising the right granted to her under the Constitution and as a Cuban citizen, to vote.
“I’m happy that a young elementary school student and representatives from the polling station brought me my ballot. I’m a very revolutionary woman and felt the need to vote today, for Fidel, for his example, for the homeland. I think today is a beautiful day.”
Isabel’s experience was that of thousands of residents in Las Tunas, who came out to vote for their delegates on November 26, according to Cándido Rodríguez García, a polling station president, a position he has occupied on seven previous occasions.
“I think that what we have seen today is nothing more than a demonstration of the people’s confidence in our socialist system. We haven’t had to knock on a single door; everyone has come out to vote of their own accord, with organization and discipline. If I had to describe today in one word, I would say massive.”
I VOTED FOR FIDEL AND THE REVOLUTION
“Today has been an unforgettable day for me; I voted for the first time and dedicated my vote to Fidel, with whom I share the same birthday,” stated young cadet Inés Josefa Peña Fernández, moments after depositing her vote in the ballot box set up at special constituency 33 for the Antonio Maceo Order Border Brigade.
Eighteen-year-old Inés, who lives in the municipality of Julio Antonio Mella, in Santiago de Cuba, is doing her military service at the unit, before she goes on to study International Relations.
On Election Day, she had the privilege of being the first to vote from among the combatants of the Brigade, something that filled her with pride, given that “Voting in Cuba is an act of gratitude and an expression of commitment to the Revolution.”
A little over 360,000 voters were called on the participate in the first round of elections in this eastern province, home to 600 constituencies, including two special ones for the Revolutionary Armed Forces.
A SPECIAL DAY FOR A GRATEFUL PEOPLE
A fine rain which began early on the morning of November 26 and continued sporadically throughout the day, accompanied those who came out to vote at the 1,752 polling stations in Camagüey.
“Neither the rain or anything else could stop this from being a special day, because these aren’t just any elections,” stated Esther Varona Rodríguez, accompanied by her granddaughter, after depositing her slip in the ballot box.
“This is a vote,” she added “which symbolizes many things: it’s a reaffirmation of our decision to continue building a free and sovereign homeland, a dignified homeland, and to remain faithful to the legacy of those who gave everything so that we would never be ‘plunged into humiliation and shame.’
Eleuterio Francia Sánchez was also among the first to vote. “Today is a transcendental day for the Revolution, and it is our duty therefore to be here to defend its values and conquests, just as we have always done.”
This is the same duty and same commitment that motivated thousands of residents of Camagüey to go out on Sunday November 26 and choose 871 delegates to municipal assemblies of People’s Power from among 1,887 candidates.
VOTING ON THE COAST
The sea is an integral part of the lives of residents who exercised their right to vote on November 26 in the community of Castillo de Jagua-Perché, Cienfuegos, and whose traditions, customs and even the air they breathe is punctuated by the taste of the salty, foaming waves.
Speaking to ACN Maibel Fabelo Suárez, president of constituency 91 in the area, stated that polling stations one and two opened at 7am, where over 550 people voted, many of whom were fishers or boat owners, who get up early to go to work. There were others who fish at night, and came to vote after returning to shore in the morning.
To add another nautical touch to these elections, Fabelo Suárez noted that they were also responsible for organizing voting on Cayo Carena, one of three inhabited islets in Cienfuegos Bay.
A ballot box was taken to the key by an elementary school student and member of the constituency so that the eight eligible voters on the islet could exercise their right to vote. (ACN)
A DAY OF TRUE DEMOCRACY
With the sun shining brightly, residents of Mayabeque came out to vote, November 26, in the 723 polling stations across the province.
Víctor Manuel Ramírez García, combatant of the Ministry of the Interior, chose the person he believes will best represent him in the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power, at station number one of constituency 16 in the provincial capital. “It’s my right and I’m exercising it here today, along with other colleagues. Once we finish, we’ll get straight back to work.”
Rocío Milián Suárez, a nurse at the General Leopoldito Martínez Hospital, got up early November 26 to vote at her polling station in constituency 13. “I’m on vacation, but today I came to exercise my right to vote, after which I’ll go back to enjoying my break.”