Cuba: A UMAP for ‘Social Transformation’ of People Who Do Not Study or Work?

A contemporaneous article about the UMAP force labor camps in Cuba. “A brilliant initiative of military cadres.”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 27 October 2022 — A brief note in Cuba’s officials state newspaper Granma has set off the alarm. It’s getting ugly. During the council of ministers, which met yesterday, October 25th, they presented general directives for preventing and confronting crime, corruption, illegalities and lack of discipline. It was about time, but now the regime is willing to put an end to any behavior deemed illegal. No matter that, thanks to these activities, many Cuban families are able to put food on the table, after searching unsuccessfully in the state-owned bodegas.  The note in Granma states that one of the ten points taken up during the council of ministers was directed at “combatting excessive prices and the resale of essential products.” To that end, they drafted a request to regime and party leaders at all levels, but especially in local government, “to not waiver in these situations, and not allow space for theft and diversion of resources.”

What does this mean? Well, nothing other than, as of now it will be more difficult to find food, and the weight of the repression will be unlimited against people who offer these services to their fellow citizens.

But the repressive actions, in fact, have already begun in some agricultural markets in the capital. Authorities issued fines to vendors who were reported for abusive price fixing and other illegalities. Specifically, last weekend operatives of the Municipal Inspection Directorate (DIM) in Playa, Havana, imposed fines of up to 8,000 pesos to six vendors in the supply and demand agricultural market at 19th and 42nd for price violations and other illegalities.

Two of those sanctioned were fined for abusively fixing the price of tomatoes, bell peppers, and carrots at 300 pesos per pound as well as limes (200 pesos per lb.), and pineapples (100 pesos per unit). Two others were fined 5,000 pesos for not including in their lists the product price or for “finding 999 nylon bags without a receipt, for which the responsible party was fined 1,500 pesos and the merchandise confiscated.” continue reading

These infractions are included in Decree Law 30 of 2021 which establishes the personal infractions, sanctions, measures and procedures to apply to violations of the norms dictated in the price and tariff policy. In summary, the repressive apparatus is already functional and investigations will continue, especially after those latest instructions of the council of ministers.

Leaders want to identify the sources of these products as well as the houses converted warehouses for sale on the illegal market, so that they can confront the illegalities and lack of social discipline. This will be followed by a crackdown against the sale of foodstuffs, hoarding, theft of merchandise from state-owned stores and abusive prices.

It’s the same old, same old. If instead of concentrating their effort on unproductive activities such as surveillance, snitching, inspections, and repression, the authorities would dedicate themselves to produce more, so an increase in supply would flood the market and contain prices, it would be another story. It is obvious that they are not going to do this, or worse, from a communist ideological perspective, repression is the motivator.

What the regime describes as “illegalities” is so astonishing and extensive that someone should begin to worry about those anomalies that only exist in Cuba. Not even in impoverished Haiti is it so easy to find such illegalities, for example the sale of propane tanks at bakeries and other stores, where Cuban communists confirm that there is “probable complicity of some employees in the theft of more than 1,000 tanks.”

Another, with respect to the sale of fuel at service centers, where the deficit or the delay in service is due to “problems in shipping, an increase in demand, and an increase in the time required for the purchase transaction at these establishments.” To say nothing of the electricity, less than 20% of the lights have come back on in the capital city, which remains dark. With housing, another, homes affected by the hurricane remain in the same situation (of 1,176 affected only 166 have been repaired). Another record.

But what truly worries authorities are the prices. Authorities want prices to adjust to the costs and reject the laws of the market, in both the state and non-state sectors. And, especially, they do not want to produce wealth, which is what sets apart the economic actors of the state political power. Bankruptcies and closures will follow. People can’t sell at a loss. There is no making heads or tails of this.

Conclusion. The regime takes the Doberman of fear out for a walk, and prepares for the worst. This time, as if a novelty, in the council of ministers they announced the traditional “strategies for the social transformation of people who neither study nor work, so they may contribute to society.” Social transformation? What the devil is that? Perhaps a new UMAP* is coming in the 21st century? Will the world remain impassive in the face of these communist practices in Cuba?

In the same ministerial meeting, Gil informed on the country’s economic performance as of the end of September this year, but nothing has changed. Perhaps he did this to justify the spending on that survey which claims to measure consumer satisfaction among Cubans. An absurdity. Granma says nothing in regard to this, only that during the council, the following matters will be discussed: the portfolio of opportunities for foreign investment (a failure from the start), the national hydraulic plan (impossible to implement without investment in hotels), the decree law on conflict mediation (after the family code, anything is possible), and the expected assignments for the 2023 graduates of higher education and mid-level technical schools (employment for all, even if they’re worthless). All very interesting, right now.

*Translator’s note: UMAAP = “The notorious Military Units to Aid Production (in Spanish: Unidades Militares de Ayuda a la Producción), internment and forced labor camps where the Cuban government imprisoned homosexuals, the religious, intellectuals, dissidents and any other “suspicious elements” between November 1965 and July 1968.” Source: Ernesto Hernandez Busto

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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Truth and Memory Weekly Bulletin on UMAP / FELIX LUIS VIERA


I was the soldier UMAP 22 of the “Company” 1, the “Battalion” 23 of the Band 6, based at the Senado sugar mill, of the Military Staff of the UMAP, Military Unit 1015, with headquarters in the city of Camaguey.

The day after I turned 46 I met the Sergeant Major Hector Hernandez Hernandez, then a 28-year-old man from Central Havana, a good man — there will always be at least one good man wherever it may be — second chief of the “company,” who twice saved me.

A memory for him today.

And for Lucas, the clerk for the Libertad farm, from there, of La Anguilla, where he was in “Company” 1. Lucas once gave me 5 pesos.

For Osvaldo Correa, who had a convenience store in the village of the Lugareño sugar mill, who one more cafe me a cafe con leche.

For my brother Luis Becerra Prego, soldier of UMAP 25, who one night thought about suicide.

For the black UMAP soldier Al Capone, of Havana, who was barely visible in the cell where they locked him up and who asked me for pity’s sake to get him something contraband to eat.

For the black UMAP soldier Zulbiaur Angel, from Old Havana, a dawn run away with one of the civilian shirts that I had hidden. Hopefully you arrived at your destination.

For the UMAP soldier Armando Suárez del Villar, who behaved like a man among the many adversities that touched him there more than others, and who taught me not to be subjective.

Click image for link to book

For the UMAP soldier Luis Estrada Bello, Placetas, who wore a Cross, with a row of cane, too big, too long for his strength.

For the black UMAP soldiers Pinchaejubo and Bamban, of Encrucijada, who amid everything gave us courage and joy.

For the UMAP 28 soldier, Soriano, of Cienfuegos, who was able to survive with one lung.

For the UMAP soldier Bernia of Encrucijada and an evangelist, who did not surrender but never seemed to understand what was happening.

For the UMAP soldier Rodriguito, of Santa Clara, who counted the days and said “three years is not so much, I will work for them for three years.”

For the UMAP soldier Medina, of Cienfuegos, for its parody: The Anguilla, Paradise of Eden Lost / comes every 500 years / and the face of the earth / receives it with a terrible fright.

For the UMAP soldier Manuel, of Lisa, Havana, who evening shared the sweetness of guava.

For the UMAP soldier Pototo, of Havana, who never again heard of his girlfriend and sobbed without tears as he hummed the song do not leave me / after I have loved you so much …

To that girl in the office of the La Paz (peace) farm in the village of the Lugareño sugar mill, who was in solidarity with the 22, despite the blue uniform and yellow boots that she wore.

For The Teacher, UMAP soldier cook, of Santa Clara, for the times we were served a little more.

For the UMAP soldier Jorge Blondín Iparraguirre, of the Washington sugar mill, who was determined to overcome fear and did it.

For the UMAP soldier Manuel M. Rebollido, of Cienfuegos, who did not betray his art.

For the UMAP corporal Nilson Gonzalez, of Havana, a goodUMAP corporal.

For the UMAP soldier Osvaldo de León del Busto, of Sagua la Grande, for his stoicism.

For the UMAP soldier health worker Ricardo Martini, Sagua la Grande, for his love and tenderness to all his peers.

For the UMAP soldier Manolito Valle, of Encrucijada, for his courage.

For the UMAP soldier Rigo, who at age 40, was smiling.

For the UMAP soldier Guillermo Jimenez, of Ranchuelo for his guaguancós [a kind of Cuban rumba].

For the 13 Jehovah’s Witnesses UMAP soldiers, who were the bravest.

And to all others who were good, whose names or nicknames I do not remember, but now their faces are passing through my memory.

And for those mothers who, like mine, wept three days and three nights.

To those who still are, to the descendants of those who are gone, when the time comes, may we have, to those who deserve it, the pity they did not have on us.

As someone has asked me, I promise to keep writing on this subject later. Now I can not, now I am crying.

The Observatorio LGBT (LGBT Observatory), an independent LGBT rights organization, is preparing a weekly bulletin detailing Cubans’ memories of “la UMAP*.” This is the second memory from this first bulletin. Translating Cuba will continue to bring you these memories in translation.

Translator’s note:
*UMAP – “Military Units to Aid Production” — was a network of concentration camps for “counterrevolutionary elements,” including homosexuals, religious believers and others.

August 2012