The World Today for March 23, 2023


Voting With Feet


Almost 23 years ago, heavily armed federal agents wearing body armor seized five-year-old Elián González from his relatives’ home in Miami and returned him to his father, ultimately to be taken back to Cuba. The photo of the incident was a painful reminder of the fraught relationship between the United States and the communist-run island to the south.

Fisherman found González floating in the Caribbean, clutching an inner tube from his sunk boat, the last survivor of a desperate attempt by his mother and other Cubans to escape their communist island and start new lives in the US. After a public debate about whether the child should be returned to his father in an authoritarian state or permitted to live in the land of the free, the US Supreme Court ruled that his father was his rightful custodian.

Today, National Public Radio explained, González is expected to win a seat in the National Assembly when Cuban voters go to the polls on March 26. Once a close friend of Cuba’s late dictator and revolutionary founding father, Fidel Castro, González now says he disagrees with his mother’s attempt to flee. Cuba must remain socialist, he maintains, in order to stay independent from the capitalist American empire to the north.

González’s ideology is his prerogative, of course. His beliefs don’t change the fact that many Cubans are hungry, however. Inflation stands at 40 percent for the year, reported the Associated Press. Food prices have skyrocketed amid government controls on commerce. A pound of pork leg in the capital of Havana, for instance, now sells for $2.60, almost a tenth of the island’s average monthly state income of $29.

That’s one reason why so many Cubans want to leave Cuba. Last year, two percent of Cuba’s population, more than 220,000 people, were caught crossing the US-Mexico border, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported. Boats of Cuban migrants regularly land on Florida’s shores. Recently, two boats of 48 migrants landed in the Florida Keys, the Miami Herald wrote.

Cubans are also fleeing the island because of corruption and repression. US federal courts, for example, have declared Cuban officials liable for torture and extrajudicial killings against dissidents and others under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which allows victims to sue foreign sponsors of terrorism in American courts, wrote Colorado Politics.

A columnist in Prensa Latina, a Cuban state-owned, English-language news outlet, argued that the upcoming elections demonstrated how the Cuban people want to remain independent and resist American capitalistic influences. As the Peoples Dispatch wrote, the Cuban Communist Party doesn’t dictate who can run for the National Assembly per se. Instead, only candidates vetted by local committees of communist officials have a chance to appear on the ballot.

No matter the system, many Cubans are obviously voting with their feet.

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