Cuba: Poor but Content / Iván García

Photo: Jan Sochor

In the neighborhood of Cayo Hueso, there are people who are viewed with disdain. Waldo is one such case, chief of surveillance for the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). A neighborhood full of prostitutes and marginal people who live from what “falls off” the truck.

Due to his intransigence and zeal to enforce the guidelines from the superstructures of power, Waldo has alienated people. According to gossip, he is also a full-time informant for Special Services.

A retired saddler, Waldo’s hobby is to spy from behind a wide iron window on the movements of people marked as suspicious or conflictive.

His number one objective is a pair of “notorious counterrevolutionary” residents on his block. He feels acknowledged when the tough guys from State Security rely on him to inform them about the activities of this couple.

Waldo has never wavered in his unreserved support for Fidel Castro. Not in the most difficult times of the Special Period, when he lost teeth due to lack of protein, 12-hour blackouts and an optic neuritis that left him almost blind.

Life has treated him harshly. One of his sons deserted the boat of the Revolution and now lives on the other side. His retirement pension is just about enough to pay the electric bill and buy food provided by the ration book. Little more. He eats and dresses badly. But he still worships the Castros.

Waldo belongs to that segment of the needy to which Raúl Castro referred in his report to the Sixth Party Congress. Citizens who despite being poor as church mice are stalwarts of the revolution.

Every day they are fewer. I present to you their profile. As a rule, they are over 60, are former military, low ranking political commissioners, or retirees who feel useful to the cause, spying on their “antisocial” neighbors or at the front of a CDR meeting to discuss the latest political speech.

There are also the young, opportunistic and climbers, who enroll in the Revolutionary process to try to get a slice of material goods. Like Vivian, a poor and clever girl, who ran and, without opposition, obtained the post of delegate to the Popular Power Assembly from her constituency, which allowed her to weave a web of influences and acquire building materials free of charge when her dilapidated housing needed tobe repaired.

Or ex-officers like Jesus, a fighter pilot who participated in Castro’s adventure in Angola, who is so strict in interpreting the Marxist theories that his own party colleagues start to tremble when they see him.

These comrades, stubborn, faithful, poor, but happy with their Revolution, form a core of Talibans with a bombproof faith in the Castro brothers. They have not received any material advantage from the Revolution. Nor foreign travel nor foreign currency to buy shoddy goods. They are pure types.

Some even feel betrayed by the Castros. Not because they stopped providing an additional quota of coffee or a Chinese 21-inch TV. No. Their distrust of the brothers is in the direction they are taking the Revolution.

Especially the permissiveness towards opponents and the weakness in fighting fight crooks and hookers. These steely communists have limited understanding, even with regards to what Comrade Fidel explains, why the ‘parasites and worms’ are greeted with a red carpet and allowed to bring their dollars to relatives in Cuba who live full speed ahead without working for the government.

Neither do these intransigents look kindly on their leaders wanting to have a dialog with the United States. They grew up hating the gringos and imperialism.

In the dead of the night, they assault ideological doubts. That vanish with the dawn. And they rise up humming “whatever it will be with Fidel, it will be.” Now they’ve changed the lyrics. Substituting Raul for Fidel. To keep up with the times.

April 28 2011