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Yoani Sanchez Headshot

Fidel Castro: "Elections? Why?" The Cuban People: "Vote? Why bother?"

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What a long road it was that led me from little pioneer guarding the ballot boxes, to the adult with several years of abstentions on her record. In our school uniforms, my sister and I went on suffrage Sundays to perform our martial salutes every time someone put their ballot in the slot. I remember at least three reasons for participating in those elections: We still believed in the power of the people; It was impossible to say no when the teacher -- with all her authority -- summoned us; and, in those days, they distributed very tasty bread and cheese. No wait, to be honest I forgot one, because they also gave us fruit juice in wax containers, which was otherwise impossible to get in the midst of so much rationing.

With the coming of the nineties, many of those children who had been guardians of the elections evolved into young people who annulled their ballots with statements in between exclamation marks. I remember the first time I entered the wooden booth and was ready to deface the piece of paper where they had put a "vote for all." A neighbor warned me not to even think about writing a slogan in place of the docile X next to the names, because each ballot had an identification number. "They will know it was you," he warned me, and related stories of people reprimanded for having done something similar. But there are certain moments in life when any scolding or punishment doesn't matter.

Later, on reviewing the number of friends and family who had invalidated their ballots, it didn't correspond proportionally to the figures given on TV. Either those who claimed to have marked graffiti instead of giving consent lied, or it was the official statistic that didn't match reality. Thus, I went from the second phase, boredom, to the position of those who have completely lost confidence in the process of selecting a candidate for the People's Power. So now I stay home every election Sunday. I don't know if they still distribute bread and cheese to the children who guard the ballot boxes, but they are still sending them to knock on the doors of the defaulters, to ask them to go to the polling station. Perhaps, all things being equal, some of them will turn 16 and take the red pen to scribble on their ballot, or adopt - as I have - abstention as a form of protest.

"Elections? What for?" -- Slogan expressed by Fidel Castro during the first year of the Revolution in response to those calling for presidential elections in the country.

Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.