A macho discourse

I still remember the odor of the gas masks we wore, running to the shelter in military practice during primary school.  My classmates and I came to fear that one day we’d take shelter in the basement of some building, while outside the bombs fell.  Today, the city shows the traces of a constant attack, but it has only been the projectiles of mismanagement and the bullets of a centralized economy that have shaped this landscape.  In all that time, preparing for a battle that never came, we overlooked that the main confrontation occurred among ourselves.  A prolonged battle between those of us fed up with bellicose language, and, the other side, those who need “a place under siege, where dissent is treason.”

Surrounded by billboards that warn us of a possible invasion from the north, several generations of Cubans have come of age.  Vigorous calls to resist, though nobody really knows exactly whom or what, make up the background chorus.  Like a soldier who sleeps with one eye open, ready to jump up at the trumpet’s call, so should we be always on edge.  In contrast, indifference won the key battle, and most of my childhood pals ended up going into exile rather than into the trenches.

After decades of hearing the same thing, I’m tired of macho wrapped in its olive green uniform; of the adjective “virile” associated with bravery; of hairs on the chest determining more than hands in the sink. All my progesterone waits, because of this rugged paraphernalia, to switch to words like: prosperity, reconciliation, harmony, coexistence.

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45 thoughts on “A macho discourse

  1. Directly from the horses mouth.

    OFFICIAL NOTE FROM THE COUNCIL OF STATE
    Agrees on movement of cadres and reorganization of agencies

    IN accordance with proposals by the President of the Councils of State and Ministers, General of the Army Raúl Castro Ruz, in the constitutional session of the 8th Legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power on February 24, 2008, regarding the fact that “a more compact and functional structure is required today, with fewer agencies under the Central State Administration and a better distribution of their duties,” the Council of State, on the proposal of its president, after consulting with the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Party, agreed in a meeting today to make the following movements of cadres and to reorganize a number of agencies under the Central State Administration:

    To release José Luis Rodríguez García from the posts of vice president of the Council of Ministers and minister of economy and planning.

    To appoint Marino Murillo Jorge to the posts of vice president of the Council of Ministers and minister of economy and planning and to release him from his responsibilities as head of the Ministry of Domestic Trade.

    To release Otto Rivero Torres from his responsibilities as vice president of the Council of Ministers, taking into account that the transfer of programs he attended to the respective investment agencies has concluded. The vice president of government, Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, will be in charge of their coordination and control.

    To merge the Ministry of Foreign Trade and the Ministry of Foreign Investment and Economic Cooperation, and to appoint Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz as head of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, a designation that includes the country’s economic cooperation activities.

    To release Raúl de la Nuez Ramírez from his responsibilities as minister of foreign trade.

    To merge the Ministry of the Food Industry and the Ministry of the Fishing Industry and to appoint María del Carmen Concepción González, who previously had been released from her post as member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Party, as head of the Ministry of the Food Industry, a designation that includes the activities of the fishing industry.

    To release Alejandro Roca Iglesias and Alfredo López Valdés from their posts as ministers of the food industry and minister of the fishing industry, respectively.

    To release Felipe Pérez Roque from his responsibilities as minister of foreign affairs and to promote the current first deputy minister, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, to occupy that post.

    To release Georgina Barreiro Fajardo from the post of minister of finances and prices and to appoint in her stead Lina Pedraza Rodríguez, also released from her post as member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of PCC, in which she attended the overall agencies of the economy.

    To release Fernando Acosta Santana from his post as minister of the iron, steel and heavy machinery industry and promote in his stead Major General Salvador Pardo Cruz, who occupied the post of general director of the Union of Military Industry.

    To promote Jacinto Angulo Pardo from first deputy minister to minister of the Ministry of Domestic Trade.

    To release Alfredo Morales Cartaya from the post of minister of labor and social security and to promote in his stead Margarita Marlene González Fernández, currently first deputy minister of that ministry.

    To appoint as minister of science, technology and the environment, a ministry to which attention to the scientific complex is transferred, José M. Miyar Barrueco, who was released for that purpose from his post as secretary of the Council of State.

    To appoint on an interim basis, subject to ratification by the National Assembly of People’s Power in the upcoming ordinary session period, Deputy Homero Acosta Álvarez to the post of secretary of the Council of State, with the duty of assisting and aiding the president, the first vice president, the vice presidents and other members of the Council of State in fulfilling the attributions of that body as defined in articles 89, 90 and 93 of the Constitution of the Republic.

    The post of secretary of the Council of State is not in and of itself an authority with State decision-making powers nor does is it in any way play a central role in the leadership of the State.

    To release Carlos Lage Dávila from his post as secretary of the Council of Ministers and to appoint in that post the current head of the Secretariat of the Ministry of the FAR (Revolutionary Armed Forces), Major General José Amado Ricardo Guerra, with the duty of assisting and aiding the president of the Council of Ministers, the first vice president and the other members of its Executive Committee in its activities, in accordance with Article 97 of the Constitution of the Republic and current legislation, and therefore, that post does not legally constitute an authority with government decision-making powers, nor does it in any way play a central role in the leadership of the government.

    In the framework of these decisions, the Political Bureau and the Council of State ratified the validity of the statements of Raúl Castro on February 24, 2008 when he said, “…Institutionalism is one of the pillars of the Revolution’s invulnerability in political terms, which is why we must work to constantly perfect it. We should never believe that what we have made is perfect.”

    In accordance with the above, it was agreed that it is necessary to continue studying the government’s current structure with the objective of gradually reducing its magnitude and increasing its effectiveness.

    Translated by Granma International

  2. Here is the latest from The Miami Herald.

    Cuban government undergoes massive restructuring

    BY FRANCES ROBLES
    FROBLES@MIAMIHERALD.COM
    Cuban President Raúl Castro on Monday gave his cabinet an unprecedented, wide-sweeping shake-up that experts say shows he’s moving toward doing things his way — efficiently, and surrounded by the military brass he trusts.
    Among those who lost key posts were longtime Fidel Castro loyalist Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque and Vice President Carlos Lage, the youngest and most visible members of Castro’s team.
    Although he will remain as vice president of the more important council of state, Lage was replaced as secretary of the council of ministers by a general who last served as Castro’s chief of staff at the defense ministry. A brigade general was also named minister of the Iron and Steel Industry.
    Lage’s departure from the council of ministers and the recent promotions of three others close to Raúl Castro leaves the cabinet leadership entirely in the hands of members of the armed forces and people in his closest confidence. Some Cuban exile leaders in Miami fear that the dozen personnel moves announced on Cuban television’s midday newscast after the sports and weather reports show Castro is closing ranks and consolidating power.
    His selection of a general underscores how Castro — Cuba’s longest serving defense minister — wants to be surrounded by members of the institution he knows and controls best: the armed forces. The Cuban American National Foundation said the moves were reminiscent of Russian Communist leader Joseph Stalin and are “demonstrative of the regime’s desire to place additional control of the government in the hands of the Cuban military.”
    ”I think this is Raúl definitely trying to put his own stamp on the government,” said Sandy Acosta Cox, a political analyst at ECHO-Cuba, a Miami nonprofit that offers aid to evangelical churches on the island. ‘I think this demonstrates that there were factions within the government: Fidelistas and Raúlistas. . . . Positioning key `Raúlistas’ in place, especially before the major announcement everyone is anticipating — Fidel’s death — ensures that there won’t be a power struggle between the two factions.”
    Raúl Castro took over from his brother in the summer of 2006 but was not officially named president until a year ago. He took office under the pledge of efficiency, and often used his rare moments on the public stage to blast the Cuban government’s notorious wastefulness.
    Several of Monday’s decisions appear in line with that vow to run a leaner government.
    He merged the ministries of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment and Economic Cooperation and also combined the ministries of the food and fishing industries.
    Several of the people named to top posts are unknown technocrats, which shows Castro is trying to streamline the country’s bureaucracy and put the best people forward, said Frank Mora, an expert on the Cuban military at the National War College in Washington.
    ”This is Raúlismo at its best,” Mora said. “I don’t see ideology. I don’t see power politics. I see Raúl being Raúl.”
    Case in point: Castro sacked a foreign minister known for being a political hack who got his job because he had been Fidel Castro’s personal assistant. At 43, Pérez Roque had already been in the job for a decade. When he was named to the job, the official announcement noted that “few people know Fidel’s thoughts better than him.”
    Pérez Roque was replaced by his deputy, Bruno Rodríguez, a career diplomat who once served as the ambassador to the United Nations. It was the first time the foreign minister’s job went to a career foreign service officer and not a political appointee, Mora said.
    It was unclear why Lage was removed from his job at the council of ministers while keeping his more important post.
    Lage, 57, a physician, is known as an economic reformer credited with helping Cuba survive the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was once considered an heir apparent in Cuba, and his name was even mentioned as a possible successor for the presidency when Fidel Castro resigned last year.
    He was replaced by Brigade Gen. José Amado Ricardo Guerra, current chief of the secretariat of the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.
    Also ”freed” from his post at the council of ministers was longtime communist youth leader Otto Rivero Torres, who had been in charge of Fidel Castro’s pet project, the ”Battle of Ideas” campaign. His duties will be assumed by Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, an old-time revolutionary stalwart and hardliner who was recently named vice president of the cabinet.

  3. I would rather talk to a God than talk to a Devil. He is no longer a political figure, please leave him along, get over.

  4. I too have been reading all the websites… but adding your guys’s comments here… I think I have a better understanding of what I don’t understand!

    And that is — when these regimes that are basically run by psychopaths… do big things… we all sit around and try to “make sense” of it… what does it mean.

    I think you nailed it… it doesn’t mean ANYTHING in a logical, sane world.

    This is an illogical and insane world… we should look for illogical and insane (if sometimes “crazy like a fox”) motivations. We cannot understand how these people think because they are nuts. Evil and nuts.

    Like, excuse me folks, the most recent ex-president of the united states. A man both evil and nuts. Who knows what he was thinking… we only know he talked to God every morning and God told him what to do. God and Dick Cheney.

  5. John Two dice: 3 Marzo 2009 a las 05:29
    0000000000000000

    Dear John, Those changes you named are very different from the changes taking place today in Cuba. You are talking about successions…. a very different thing…… today in Cuba is no taking place a succession but a purge!!!
    A purge only affects to the power pyramid basement and the aspirants to be part of the power, a succession affects to the elite in first place and the rest of the pyramid eventually.

  6. Carbo, while it’s true that your analysis may be correct, my reading of the history of communist regimes is that sometimes changes are what you describe. Added to your list could be the change from Breshnev to Andropov to Chernenko in the old Soviet Union. However, we should bear in mind who succeeded Chernenko. That change was hardly cosmetic.

    Similarly in China, the change from Mao to Chou En Lai fits your pattern, but not the change to Deng Xiaoping who started the transition in China to capitalism, if not democracy.

  7. Good question patricio. After reading a bit more analysis from a variety of sources, the main theme thus far seems to be the replacement (or demotion) of Fidel loyalists with Raul loyalists. It’s hard to imagine that Fidel would be pleased, but I suppose it’s possible that little brother may be trying to assert that he’s the guy in charge after spending one full year in the big chair. Like the rest of us, he must be increasingly frustrated by Fidel’s unwillingness to kick the proverbial bucket, or at minimum, to stop meddling in the affairs of state.

    I read another article that said the real purpose of Hugo Chavez’s two recent meetings with Fidel Castro was to convince him not to make too big a fuss about the changes Raul Castro wanted to make.

  8. patricio dice: 3 Marzo 2009 a las 04:57

    Why now?……………. Purges has no time schedule, the elite make a purge when they see the favorable conditions are done
    How could Raul pull this off with Fidel………… Fidel-Raul are the same thing, they are the elite together with 4 or 5 close caporegimenes
    What is going on behind the scenes. Purge? ……………. Exactly, a purge is a very important event. It works as a very effective and lasting scape valve, massive exodus are powerful scape valves but no so powerful as a purge.
    So what’s up right now at this moment?…………….. Raul is getting initiate in surviving tactics and showing Fidel and the world he can do the same his brother did, Stalin did, Mao did, Jruschev did, Il Sung did, Honeker did, Breznev did, Chow Eng Lai did, etc etc.

  9. Let’s talk about the underlying reason for these changes. Why now? How could Raul pull this off with Fidel taking walks in the streets of Havana? What is going on behind the scenes. Purge? Check. I get that. But nothing has happened in 50 years without Fidel’s knowledge and concurrence. So what’s up right now at this moment?

  10. Andy dice: 3 Marzo 2009 a las 03:45

    #31 “That is HOPEFULLY only the beginning”

    00000000000000

    Does that mean you think these are better people? Some of the websites are saying it is worse… putting the army types in charge of everything — maybe even more crack downs.

    I don’t know a thing… can’t even begin to think what it means.
    0000000000000000000000

    Dear Andy, For us, the cuban people and everyone outside the power elite in Cuba this purge doesn’t mean absolutely nothing….. The elite will stay in charge doing what they know best: to keep the power. For the fired ones the purge means they will probably start to work at the tourism industry (remember the tourism job are for the loyal ones) or to the external service (embassies, commerce, Venezuela, etc) , some of them maybe will be locked, another will be forgotten…….

  11. Pérez Roque was a rubber stamp fellow under Fidel, no brain whatsoever, no personality. He probably will be replaced by another rubber stamp, this time by someone that Raúl can trust.

    I remember watching the video when the King of Spain got the ba–s to tell Chávez to shut up, Pérez Roque was in the middle of the discussion and the poor guy wanted the earth to swallow.

    Things will get worse wether they replace these two with someone from the army or not, makes no difference. The system does not work, only by intimidation and people are beginning to loose their fears.

  12. SilentVoice dice: 3 Marzo 2009 a las 02:07

    28# Andy
    Probably I am expecting more changes to come.
    That is hopefully only the beginning.
    We will see.
    I think Raul place people he trust in all the positions.
    0000000000000000000000000

    The cyclical Purges are designed as a domino effect….. you give a beautiful kick in the ass of the people in the pyramid top and automatically you will see rolling the heads of all subalterns of the kicked ones. That’s the idea…… to make a big change in the power structure composition from the top to the base and so on obtain a complete new lay of “victims”.
    The “changes will goes from the minister to the production managers of all factories passing through the factories directors, the regional managers, etc, etc.

  13. Andy dice: 2 Marzo 2009 a las 23:43

    So can someone fill us in on the big changes in the Cuban government today? What do they mean?
    000000000000000000000000000

    Today I have been reading news and seeing TV shows that has to do with the “changes” made in Cuba by Raul Castro and company. Without surprise I saw old and new “experts”, in the Cuba’s thing write thousands of words in the “Miami Herald” and “Diario de las Americas” and others “experts” talking in “Maria Elvira Show” and “Ninoska’s show: Last Word”, talking about these “changes” and delivering many opinions and prognostics about the “Whys” and “What for” these changes took place. Reading and listening all those “analysis” came to my head the words written by one of Yoani’s Blog commenter: “The most exile Cuban has been too long outside Cuba that’s why they don’t understand how the regimen works”. I happily would modify this sentence and affirm that: “The most cubans (Inside and outside Cuba) do not understand how the tyranny works and planes the long survival they has got”
    What’s happening today in Cuba has an old name: “Cyclical Purges “.
    You can find the same actions done in all communist regimens that existed. Don’t try to find complicated and occults trams hidden behind those “changes” in the same way the Press and TV “experts” tries to do. Cyclical Purges has only one explanation, a very simple one:
    The leftist dictatorship has a very simple power distribution. They are like a mafia organization with a pyramidal power distribution where the elite on the top of the pyramid decide the life and sorrows of the rest of the population. Like the pyramid in the American one dollar bill the elite is separated from the rest of the pyramid. In such way the elite can decide what to do with the pyramid base without being affected. Along the last 50 years the elite in the power has several times kicked the ass of the people in the base of the pyramid, I mean, the elite purges the base of the power pyramid… Why?….well, it’s true that sometimes you can find isolated unfriendly situations involved in the purges, there has been also isolated “ideological differences” and there has been rare circumstantial reasons like the so called “Trial # 1” that led the Generals Ochoa, De La Guardia and Abrahamtes as well as thousands of minor officials of the army and the secret service to the dead or ostracism. All those “causes” are no more than week justifications for disguising the truly reason of the purges:
    “To remove from the power pyramid basement all those people enough compromised with the regimen by being involved in crimes against the Cuban people in such way that it is impossible for them to do another thing but support the regimen with all theirs energies”.
    It’s well known that the person who pretend to belong to the power pyramid basement has to perform acts that shows its unconditional loyalty to the elite and it’s well know that such acts goes trough criminal acts against the Cuban people.
    Once the people in the power pyramid basement is enough involved in criminal acts the elite fire them in order of getting involved in crimes other group of aspirant that are waiting and “fighting” for being part of the power pyramid.
    This is one of the tactics the communist regimens use for maintain the “support” of the population….. They repeat the purge process as frequently as needed in order of getting the bigger amount of population involved in crimes.
    Don’t try to find sophisticated reasons in those purges, the only reason is to put aside those persons the elite used and will have as supporters for ever and bring closely another group of people to be used in same way… … that’s it!!!

  14. #31 “That is HOPEFULLY only the beginning”

    00000000000000

    Does that mean you think these are better people? Some of the websites are saying it is worse… putting the army types in charge of everything — maybe even more crack downs.

    I don’t know a thing… can’t even begin to think what it means.

  15. 28# Andy
    Probably I am expecting more changes to come.
    That is hopefully only the beginning.
    We will see.
    I think Raul place people he trust in all the positions.

  16. Here’s Phil Peter’s (Cuban Triangle) take:
    “the announcement seems to indicate that Raul is putting some of his own people into key positions, most notably with the replacement of foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque by his deputy, Bruno Rodriguez.

    Economics czar Carlos Lage is out of his post as secretary of the Council of Ministers but remains Vice President of the Council of State, which means that he keeps his more important job, the one that puts him in the line of succession.

    Beyond that, the terse announcement gives no indication of Lage’s future role. It does minimize the importance of the job Lage is leaving, noting that it has no “decisionmaking capacity in government matters, nor does it have any protagonism at all in the leadership of the government.”

  17. #28, Andy.

    Here’s Rob Sequin’s (Havana Journal) take on a couple of the changes:
    “I find it interesting that Perez Roque and Lage were fired or demoted. Lage is a practical economist and I have always found his words to be rational and generally free of the usual “blame the Embargo” type of talk. However, I did get the sense that he and Raul did not get along from Raul’s first days in office.

    With regards to Perez Roque… good riddance. He was also a Fidel propagandist and I’m happy to see him go. Of course his deputy might be even more of an sycophant that he was. Then again, in Cuba you go along to get along unfortunately.”

    Now my thoughts. Perez Roque is a hard line ideologue, despite being one of the youngest members of the ruling clique. Just goes to show that age alone does not make you a reformer.

    Hopefully, Yoani and her fellow bloggers will write about what the changes mean in the coming days. Assuming of course that the changes (which seem to be fairly major) aren’t a prelude to a political crackdown. Have to admit, the appointment of a senior military official to replace Lage is a bit worrisome.

  18. So can someone fill us in on the big changes in the Cuban government today? What do they mean?

  19. They are allowed in the Hotels but they can’t afford them unless they work in the tourist sector or hustle on the side. But if they hustle they get harassed by the police. Seems like a loose loose situation. When I was there people I knew talked quite a bit about their country and what they would like to change about it…in bars, in their homes, on the bus. I think your exaggerating the fear level. There are many problems there, but its a mistake to use the same rhetoric of fear as those in power. The power of the people is truth. In the US and elsewhere even people who live a so called “honest life” are targeted by the police simply because of where they live, their economic position or race. Also, just like in Cuba, many people are forced to make money on the side because of their economic position. Tell the honest hard working immigrant that they shouldn’t fear La Migra.

  20. In CUBA only recently are cubans allowed into Hotels on the island, again ONLY RECENTLY. IN CUBA people are scared to speak inside there own homes. I live in the USA and I am not scared of the police, I like most others live an honest life. Thanks Yoani for your courage to post from within the island.

  21. And if it’s the cop who is guilty of the killing…they walk. Agreed, getting a new master doesn’t change the system…its still all masters and slaves….Presidents or Commandantes..same shit.

  22. walking while black, racial profiling, etc, etc. Same old shyt. Here in Canada there is an operation to push all the black families to certain areas in the suburbs, away from downtown toronto. This will make the police job easier to patrol and respond (they are 10x slower gettnig to these areas). If a black person gets killed, they rarely find who did it. But as soon as another race get capped, they haul ass and make arrests.

    If if cuba got free, it would make no difference to us blacks, so who cares who’s runnign that place.

  23. #21 I’m quite familiar with “walking while black” as half my family is black — and you’re right… it creates a feeling of permanent stress…

  24. There is an increase in thefts because there is an increase in tourism. An increased police presence will never change that. The only thing that could *maybe* level the playing field and *possibly* reduce petty crime would be getting rid of the dual currency system. But the crime rate in Cuba is sooo minimal in comparison to other countries, are petty hustlers and prostitutes really such a threat ? Its all about control. People distrust the police, and they should, just like in the United States, the police primarily serve to control the population…not to protect us. Not to mention, why would a young Cuban join the police only to be forced to profile and harass his/her neighborhood and friends for $20.00 per month. Most of the cops are from the country, desperate to live in Havana.

    To some of the other posters, it must be nice to live in a place in the US where you are free from police stops and searches. But that isn’t the reality for many people. For example, Philadelphia just enacted “stop and frisk” laws that allow the police to stop and search anyone on the street simply based on suspicion. People have been calling it “walking while black”. My friends in Havana are “suspicious” (young afro-cubans) and get stopped and searched by the cops all the time there…..same here…blah blah blah…

    Yes, one of the characteristics of a military dictatorship is paranoia. That one certainly sounds familiar to this American. Yea….red..orange…teal…terror cells..ruthless killers who move and plot in shadows..etc etc…don’t be afraid little children, just run into the arms of the military industrial complex. Mama’s gonna keep you safe and warm.

  25. CUBA WAS BETTER OFF 60 years ago…than it is today. Fidel la cago. punto y aparte

  26. With all the pot holes and lack of trafic signs through out all of Cuba. The Cuban infrastructure is failing but the CASTRO FAMILY lives rather well. GOVERNMENT SUCKS AND HAS DONE LITTLE FOR THE PEOPLE. CUBAN SCHOOLS ARE A JOKE and only for the elite. Cuban Hospitals are also very sad and in much need.

  27. IN THE USA we find plenty to eat and it is not a crime to eat beef. After all the crap the Cuban GoV. talks about the people of South Florida, those same people from South Florida collected tones of Hurricane relief goods and sent them to the island. Millions travel trough the US every year and yes some have come to our country to cause harm. I hope one day the people of Cuba will have more rights and be FREE to travel the world and read news papers from some other source than just the BS GOVERNMENT. ITS TIME FOR CHANGE. PA LA CALLE MI GENTE.

  28. Strange. Doesn’t Yoani’s article sound like america and their “terror alerts”. Today we are green, tomorrow we are red. LOL Bin Laden is coming, Bin Laden is coming.

    Ahhh the evil empire. Can’t you smell the sulfur.

  29. I would end up in prison in Cuba as I would simply tell the cops to f&^% off if they demanded to see a receipt of goods I was carrying in a bag. How do you think that would go over? Not very well, I suppose.

  30. #13 — I know there are an infinite number of things going on in the world that are worse that being asked for a receipt for two bottles of oil… there are an infinite number of things going on in Cuba… going in Havana… that are worse than this…

    But somehow… this very small thing is almost worse than all the rest. Instead of comparing this to, “Well do you know how bad things are in Haiti?!?!?!” as people like to do… instead of that irrelevant and absurd comparison….

    … I try to imagine myself walking home from the store, as I do nearly every other day, sometimes more than once a day. And first I try to imagine there are all these cops wandering around my neighborhood on foot, not to protect me (which we could use a little of here… several people have been murdered in my neighborhood recently — including one just walking home from the grocery store)… not to protect me but to WATCH me.

    And then I imagine one of these cops stopping me and demanding to see inside my bag of groceries. And questioning me about what I bought, and demanding to see the receipt.

    I swear to god, the thought of living this way, day in day out… the streets full of people in uniform whose job is to harass me… it’s really too horrible for me even to conceive of.

  31. Those communist sympathizers, who thought that Raul will be a more benevolent dictator, should read The Herald.
    Not happy with all existing restrictions, the Cuban dictatorship is looking for ways to tighten the screws even more.

    Havana crime rise sparks police training drive
    BY WILFREDO CANCIO ISLA
    El Nuevo Herald
    Cuban leader Raúl Castro is pushing an ambitious program to increase the numbers and training of police units as a way of countering the proliferation of crime and other negative social activities, sources in Havana say.

    The new program, under the direct supervision of Interior Minister Abelardo Colomé Ibarra and Gen. Pascual Rodríguez Braza, head of the National Revolutionary Police (NRP), calls for training thousands of police agents and attracting better-educated candidates to turn them into officers through intensive courses.

    According to official figures and information obtained from inside Cuba, more than 1,000 agents who graduated in January from the NRP’s academy in Havana were assigned to work in the capital, where more than 70 percent of crimes reported across the nation are committed.

    Havana residents say the police presence in neighborhoods and commercial establishments has increased visibly since the middle of last year, after authorities complained of the growing crime. Just in Havana, police reported breaking up 260 illegal operations, mostly in the black market, in the second half of 2008.

    Lt. Col. Rafael Pérez, deputy chief of training for the NRP, told the official media this month that the recent graduates ”can educate the new generations” and will focus their work on preventing crime and fighting crime outside Havana’s center.

    Attracting young men and women to the ranks of the NRP has become a priority task for the Cuban government’s mass organizations, including the neighborhood Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, with the backing of the Interior Ministry and the overall government.

    ”Strengthening the police has become a priority task,” said a former NRP officer who spoke to El Nuevo Herald by telephone. “After the crisis created by the hurricanes [this summer] and the disruptions with the transportation of food and goods, the government knows that without police control there is no country.”

    Amid his declared battle against all types of illegal activities, corruption and crime since he assumed power in 2006, Raúl Castro last year noted the need to resolve ”the problem of the police” in Havana, patrolled by thousands of agents brought in from other parts of the nation.

    The influx of out-of-town police, especially those from the eastern provinces, has generated frictions with residents who sneeringly call them ”Palestinians” — for their lack of a home — and accuse them of excessive use of force, corruption and lack of education.

    ”It seems that among the Havana people, no one wants to be a policeman,” Castro told the legislative National Assembly in July. “We have to reach out to them. We have to start thinking. If the eastern policemen don’t come to take care of the Havana residents, there will be an increase in thefts.”

    Castro’s words led to urgent initiatives that were launched beginning in September, when the police academy opened its first Integrated Course of Police Officers, similar to the speeded-up programs to graduate teachers launched by Fidel Castro in 2000.

    The course began Sept. 17 with 300 high school graduates who will end their training in February 2010. As an incentive, the Interior Ministry will allow them to study a university specialty, such as legal sciences, after their graduation from the academy.

    The NRP academy this month also took in 500 Havana youths who will be trained in law enforcement. According to academy sources, most came from secondary and technical schools. Since 2004, the academy has graduated 3,500 police agents and officers.

    Cuba’s state media meanwhile has jumped on the campaign to lure youths into police ranks, repeatedly broadcasting recruiting messages on radio and television while newspapers regularly interviews recent recruits.

    A cops-and-robbers TV show, titled Patrol 444 and filmed with the support of the Interior Ministry, is now showing on prime time. The two youthful and charismatic policemen are played by actors Yadier Fernández y Leonardo Benítez.

    ”A police hysteria has been created in this city,” said Clara Iñiguez, a retired secretary. “They search you just because you’re carrying a plastic bag with a few things, and I’ve been asked for a receipt for two bottles of oil I bought.”

  32. Thanks for the new post Yoani, I look forward to someday visiting a free Cuba. Hopefully it will be soon.

  33. I agree with Yoani. The regime’s bellicose rhetoric is pretty appalling. Cuba is after all ruled by a military dictatorship. One of the characteristics of military dictatorships is paranoia.

  34. Concerning nuclear war and the 1962 missile crisis, Castro, Guevara and the rest were, from the earliest days of the revolution, determined to launch an attack on the United States. Guevara announced to an international youth rally in 1959 that the Cuban people would feel “happy and fulfilled” to vanish from the face of the earth because a nuclear war had been started in their name. I assume he must have held a Gallup poll. During an interview with the British Communist Party newspaper The Daily Worker (since relaunched as The Daily Star and, surprisingly, still publishing) a few weeks after the missile crisis, Guevara stated that if the missiles had been under Cuban control, they would have fired them. Sam Russell, the British correspondent who spoke to Guevara at the time, came away with “mixed feelings”, calling him “clearly a man of great intelligence”, but “crackers from the way he went on about the missiles.” Of course, the island would have been reduced to radioactive slag but, in the “looking-glass” world of the revolution, it would have been worthwhile. And today they consider the Americans have no justification for the embargo!

  35. Patrcio
    I do not think the problem is with people the problem is with the people in government.
    I agree with you Politics suck because most of them lie to us.
    They promised one thing and deliver another.

    Fidel Castro promised prosperity for all Cubans and deliver misery for all.

  36. I just noticed the date on that edicion of Granma – Tuesday, March 24th. That was Mardi Gras day here in New Orleans. Do you know what the headline was in the local newspaper – HAPPY MARDI GRAS! And then there was a picture of thousands celebrating carnival throughout the city.

    I am sorry you don’t have things like that there. I am sorry everything has to be political and ideological. I do somewhat know the feeling as I see people living like that in Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. Politics suck. I don’t know why people can’t just leave others alone. Kind of a live and let live way of life. That’s how we live in New Orleans. Suerte.

  37. Growing up in New Orleans, I remember hearing stories from those older than me about the constant preparations against a nuclear attack as a direct result of the Soviets placing missiles in Cuba (The Cuban Missile Crisis). So, we lived the same thing on our side of the Gulf. Kids were taught to hide under desks at school and prepare for an attack, etc. The city even built a bunker. Kind of a neat trick considering that the city is basically built on marsh. Today, all that has changed. The bunker is gone. A new housing developments sits upon the old site. We have been delivered from all that. I am sorry that you haven’t. So tiring.

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