Authoritarianism is a form of social organization that is characterized by total submission to authority. Political authoritarianism is a situation whereby political authority is centralized and prioritized by a small group of leaders. It is usually opposed to libertarianism and individualism. Cuba is a perfect example of political authoritarianism whereby its political institutions describe a totalitarian state. Expectations were high in 2008, as people thought that, if Fidel Castro could relinquish power, democracy could be realized, but citing the condition under Raul’s rule, democracy is far from being realized. Democracy ensures that citizens in a given country have an equal opportunity to express their opinion and will as well as the right to together determine the laws and actions of the state. No state can be described as an ideal democracy, but in practice, states are described democratic depending on the extent its leadership allows a certain approximation to ideal democracy.
The communist party is the only legal political party recognized by the constitution up to date and it is the only recognized superior leading force of the state and the general society. Even after Fidel Castro relinquished power to his brother Raul in 2008, he remained the first secretary of the party, meaning that he was still in control of the government. In the legislative elections held that year were not free and fair as indicated by the fact that security forces reported directly to civilian authorities instead of being independent. The government denied citizens the right to bring the political change in their nation. The human rights watch reports several cases of violation of human rights like beating, harassment, and threats against political opponents by government-funded mobs. The state security forces acted with impunity and favoritism, arresting and torturing opposition sympathizers. The government interfered with the privacy of its citizens and intercepted private communications. Measures to limit the freedom of speech and press were put in place, constraining the peaceful assembly and association, including regulation on engagement in religious activities. The government declined to recognize independent human rights terming their activities illegal. The death of a 31-year-old dissident on January 19, 2012 due to a 50-day-old hunger strike explains the ongoing repression and human rights violation which are still going on in Cuba.
The Cuban government is accused of violation of human rights including unfair trials, arbitrary imprisonment, torture and extra judicial executions. The current law limits the freedom of expression, assembly, association, movement and press. The Cuban constitution stipulates that freedom of speech can only be allowed if it satisfies the objectives of the socialist society and that the artistic creation is only allowed as long as its contents are not contrary to the revolution. Although there have been recent changes in law that indicate the government tolerates the freedom of religious expression by Cubans, it still maintains a tight grip on religious institutions, individual believers and affiliated groups. The world handbook of political and social indicators ascertained that there have been more than 500 political executions carried out under the Castro regime and the trend is expected to continue so long as the system of communism is in place. The claim by the US government that Cuban refugees are still flocking in America is a proof enough that the political status has not changed. The government agreed to release political prisoners in 2008 on condition they will leave the country after the Catholic Church spearheaded a public demonstration to force the government release them. The testimonies of most of these former detainees confirmed that they were subjected to violent interrogations, extremely unsanitary conditions, beatings and biological experiments on diet restrictions. They claimed to have been sentenced by martial courts without public audience or defense and the arrests of children less than nine years. The freedom house classifies Cuba as being “not free…” and notes that “Cuba is the only country in Americas that consistently makes freedom house’s list of the worst from the worst.
For instance, the world’s most repressive societies for widespread abuses of human rights and civil liberties…” permission from the government is required when moving to another home due to lack of rights related to private property, as the state owns all the property of its citizens. Jobs are also the subject of the state control. People’s occupations are handpicked by the mighty depending on the reputation of the person. Official permission is also required for abroad travels with those citizens engaged with authorized travels being barred from taking their children with them overseas to ensure they come back. Cuban constitution states that the culture and education is based on Marxist ideology. The code for children, youth and family states that any parent accused of teaching ideas contrary to communism to their children is liable to three-year jail term. The Cuban national health system is a government-controlled regime and no private alternative to the health system is allowed. The five most important issues to be addressed for Cuba to transform democratically are ideology, economic war, intelligence, military, and cyber war.
=Electoral Authoritarian in Zimbabwe
Electoral authoritarian regimes are identified by their behavior of preaching peace, but practice dictatorship. They also tend to provoke intense debate within other countries about the true nature of their political systems. The incumbent governments preach and internationally publicize their authority as democratic, while the opposition and human rights campaigners denounce it and term it dictatorial. They even fight thumb and nail to retain their leadership positions and cling to power no matter what it takes especially, by oppressing and discriminating opposition sympathizers. Considering the above explanation, Zimbabwe qualifies to be an electoral authoritarian. Being led by a personality dictator who has remained in power since 1980 to date after the country emerged out of the British colony; the country has experienced cases of changing political drama perpetuated by power greedy personalities. The government of Zimbabwe maintains close friendship with questionable nations like North Korea and Yugoslavia. The president even accorded asylum to Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, after he was evicted his country indicating that the leadership sympathized with dictatorship.
The leadership had earlier presided over economic growth and relative political stability immediately after assuming power from colonialists. This did not last long, since he and his ruling party consolidated power and used violence and electoral manipulation up to date. The regime’s mismanagement of the country’s economy aggravated a staggering collapse of the country’s economy in 2000, leaving the country destitute and impoverished. The governance in Zimbabwe is currently in flux, because of the disputed 2008 presidential election. In the first round of the election, the opposition defeated the incumbent, but the ruling party claimed that the opposition failed to win the majority and forcefully demanded for a runoff. The government machinery perpetrated widespread violence against the opposition on the eve of the runoff election forcing the opposition candidate to quit. They even used famine as a weapon whereby opposition supporters were denied food. However, following the widespread violence from opposition supporters and international outcry on the election results, the warring factions negotiated and came to a consensus of forming a coalition government. Despite this agreement, the opposition still accuses their partner of failing to honor the terms of power sharing agreement.
The Foreign Policy Magazine listed Zimbabwe second in the list of failed states following the government’s failure to provide key services to the citizens and general economic collapse. The government maintains a strong control over the citizenry through the security forces. Freedom House, in the 2009 “Freedom in the World” index classifies Zimbabwe as “not free” with a score of seven out of seven for politics rights (the score representing the lowest level of freedom) and a six out of seven for civil liberties. The freedom of expression in Zimbabwe is limited with the opposition groups being subjected to violent reprisals. The state controls media activities, making it difficult for foreign journalists to access information in the country. The judiciary is not independent from the ruling party and the legal system fails to guarantee basic rights to the defendants. For example, the government’s idea of reforming land laws by redistributing it to its citizens from white settlers who owned large tracts, was opposed by the judiciary citing favoritism and corruption in the process, but the government went on implemented it. After being elected democratically, the current president centralized power and established a one party system after abolishing the rival party in a state sponsored massacre to its supporters in 1982. The ruling party has also enacted eighteen amendments to the constitution to suit its political desires enabling the leader to survive opposition through fraudulent arrests and violence for 29 years.
Ownership of Zimbabwe’s assets resides mainly with the ruling party officials and party loyalists. Elites in the government have accumulated vast wealth acquired through corruption abuse of authority. They have reaped huge financial benefits from the mining industry and used their influence to get involved in the plunder of oil resources associated with military intervention in the democratic republic of Congo. If such political and legal environment is allowed to persist in Zimbabwe, then it will be impossible for the country to experience democratic elections in the near future. Thus, democracy will only flourish in Zimbabwe if the current ruling party steps down.