The Future December 2006

Election Day 2008

A letter from Florida

Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum, but the special election to be held here next Tuesday has many people wondering if the laws of physics and politics have been temporarily conjoined. On Election Day, Florida’s Cuban Americans will go to the polls twice—once to vote for America’s next president, and again to determine Cuba’s.

The so-called elecciónextraordinaria y democracia in absentia is the brainchild of Jorge Menos Canosa, a prosperous leader of the Cuban expatriate community in Miami and, like most of his countrymen who arrived in Florida after the revolution, a fierce opponent of the Castro regime. He gained prominence in 1971 when he flew a blimp festooned with anti-Castro slogans over a soccer game outside Havana. He barely eluded the Cuban MiG fighters that were scrambled to shoot him down.

As he told TheMiami Herald last summer, the idea of holding Cuba’s first democratic election—in the United States—came to him “between three and four in the morning,” during a “very robust” night of celebrating following the death of Ramon Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, who succeeded Fidel after his recent death.

“We were sitting around discussing what should happen, when it came to us—why leave it to them?” Canosa told a visitor recently, while sitting on the deck of his expansive home overlooking the Everglades, chewing on an unlit (Dominican) Montecristo cigar. “To be candid: What do they know at this point? They’ve been living in a totalitarian dictatorship since 1959,” he said. “Here in Florida, we have abundant experience with democracy. We know how to run elections. Okay, in 2000, a Democrat almost won. But,” he added, lighting the cigar, “as you saw, we took care of that.”

Canosa, whose name appears on the ballot, discounts personal ambition. “I’m eighty-one,” he said. “I’m wealthy. I’m not so eager to live in some porque­ría—roughly, dump—“of a presidential ‘palace’ that hasn’t had new plumbing since the ’50s. But maybe it’s time to give something back. Like my American grandchildren would say, Whatever. Anyway, I’m on the ballot. But there are other candidates to choose from.”

Seventeen other candidates, to be precise. According to the latest poll, the front-runner is Jaime Perfecto Jiménez, a billionaire duty-free entrepreneur, who has vowed if elected to personally execute all associates of Fidel and Ramon Castro. (“With my own pistol.”)

At the other end of the spectrum is Fulminacio García y López, who has pledged to increase the daily minimum wage in Cuba to $1 a day, up from thirty cents. Doctors, engineers, and lawyers would get salary increases to $5 a day, and a chicken on religious feast days.

Exactly how the winner might actually take office is unclear. Jiménez, who on weekends conducts military-style maneuvers with a brigade of like-minded compatriots in the Everglades, says he has an army “equipped and ready to assert my presidency.” Canosa, for his part, has already been arrested and prosecuted several times for violating the Overthrow of Foreign Governments Act, but each time has been acquitted thanks to the ag‑ gressive tactics of his attorney, Roy Black, whose other clients have included William Kennedy Smith and Rush Limbaugh.

Presented by

Christopher Buckley’s new novel, Boomsday, will be published by Warner Twelve in the spring. He is the editor of ForbesLife magazine.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Global

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In