In one of those confusions so common in children, I thought for years that the logo of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution was an enormous eye carrying a machete. As I was unaware of the origin of this aggressive iconography, I saw it as an indiscreet pupil, watching me on every block. Some time later, a friend clarified that what I saw as a cornea and an iris was just a sombrero seen from above. Despite his kind remark, I continued to feel the weight of that look every time I passed in front of a sign with the acronym CDR.
The seventh congress of this organization is now underway, with its more than seven million members, of whom a good number have not been consulted about joining its ranks. You are enrolled in the Committee completely automatically, the same way we women are included in the Federation of Cuban Women and the children are entered into the ranks of the Pioneers. Rarely does anyone publically refuse to be part of these groups which, in Cuba today, are more formal and bureaucratic than effective.
My confusion between an eye and a hat showed a touch of childish delirium, but also a strong nose for danger. I learned that within the doors bearing the alarming slogan, “Always Vigilant,” lived the most adroit editors of reports to denounce other neighbors. I also knew those who, because of a false report—a stroke of the pen from the committee president—lost a promotion, a trip, or the chance to have a new home. I even knew someone who wore the title, “Vice President of the CDR,” who was also the biggest criminal in the neighborhood.
In the Palace of Conventions, the pupil with the machete is holding a new conference. I sense that what was once a many-eyed Argus is today a Cyclops with cataracts, a vigilant body that can barely see all the mischief we get up to.
Cuba’s network of Committees for the Defense of the Revolution was formed in 1960. Out of a total population of about 11 million, its more than 7 million members represent the vast majority of Cuba’s adult population. The CDRs keep files on each resident of their respective blocks.