Clinging to hope that Raul Castro's promise to step down in February will open the door to a political transition in Cuba, more than 100 dissidents launched an effort across the island to place themselves on the ballot of upcoming elections.
The Castro government response? Not happening.
Not one of the 175 independent candidates who were part of the #Otro18 campaign made it to onto the ballot in the Nov. 26 elections for municipal Peoples Power councils, the lowest level of government in Cuba.
Quick trials, arrests and intimidation were some of the strategies used by authorities to block dissidents from becoming candidates, several opposition activists have publicly stated.
The Cuban government and the police "violated election laws from one end to the other, in a thousand ways," said Manuel Cuesta Morua, coordinator of the #Otro18 campaign.
Officials interfered systematically with the "nominating assemblies," in which residents of electoral districts gather to approve the candidates who will be listed in the ballots, Cuesta Morua told el Nuevo Herald.
"In some cases they arrested would-be candidates on the day of the assemblies and took them to distant places, creating a climate of pressure and intimidation among voters," he said. "In other cases they disqualified candidates. They could not intimidate the community, so they invalidated their candidacies."
Cuba's electoral laws ban candidates with criminal records. At least four opposition hopefuls were convicted in "express trials" in order to disqualify them as candidates, Cuesta Morua added.
Jose Casares Soto was sentenced to five years on a charge of contempt that had been pending since 2012.
And Armando Abascal was convicted in a speedy trial on charges of "incitement to commit a crime" after he was identified as the leader of a September protest in the Southern Cuba town of Perico. Protesters were complaining about the slow restoration of electricity and water after Hurricane Irma. Many of Abascal's neighbors had promised to support his efforts to become a candidate, but Cuban authorities quickly arrested him.