Luis Felipe Rojas, 28 November 2016 — Who in Cuba has not been asked to speak a little more softly? Who has not lowered his or her voice while making a comment about Fidel Castro? This is the regime’s family treasure: a snitch on every corner.
When the triumphant son from the town of Birán — Fidel Castro’s birthplace — announced the creation of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution in 1961, he set in motion the well-oiled machinery of denunciation, of the little men who direct the pipeline of information between neighbors and the much-feared State Security (known as G2).
Every company, hospital, cultural institution, baseball stadium, fine collection office and shoe shop is “served” by one or more agents, the number based on the facility’s national importance or the sensitivity of the activities which take place inside.
Everyone knows them; many keep out of their way. These “officials” yield power with few restraints. If they tag you as being “hostile to the revolutionary process,” you will spend years trying to get your name removed from their list. They will then forget about you or look the other way when they see you, should that ever happen.
Within the provincial offices of State Security is the Department of Enemy Confrontation. This is the agency that deals with opponents, dissidents, writers and independent journalists, as well as those artists who once dared to use metaphor or irony in their work to portray the power or person of Fidel Castro.
At the bottom of the hierarchy are the confrontation officers, who have less visibility but more devious responsibilities. In the shantytowns, so-called honorary officers — often frustrated men and women who saw their Interior Ministry careers cut short — now find solace by keeping watch over an opponent’s house, snitching on a little old lady selling coffee beans or reporting a rapper who has just written a protest song.
I was detained on one occasion for five days and had to sleep the floor of a meeting room at a village police station. It was guarded in rotating shifts by almost a dozen young honorary officials who worked for G2.
Among them was “Pedrito,” an educator and active member of the Union of Young Communists. He had been accused of stealing televisions, then trying to sell them through a national Social Workers’ program. Pablo, an agronomist and former classmate, was unable to answer any of my questions about human rights in Cuba, explaining that conversing with detainees was forbidden.
I met others a little more despicable and despised. One was Maikel Rodríguez Alfajarrín, dubbed “Maikel the Spark.” A former bartender, student and civilian, he doled out punishments such evictions, fines and criminal prosecutions as a member of the Housing Intervention Brigades while also acting as an informant, or a chivato as Cubans in the 1930s called people like him.
There are others, many others. I cannot be the only Cuban to have had an experience with them.
The honorary officers carry an identification card displaying the State Security insignia, with the infamous acronym G2 stamped one corner.
One day in the town of San Germán in Holguín province, my wife was waiting in line to buy soap in store that only accepted payment in dollars. It was May and Mother’s Day was approaching. The line was very long. Women were talking or arguing when a seguroso, a State Security agent, arrived. The honorary official’s name was Luis Perez, commonly known as “Luis El Calvo” (Bald Luis). The store allowed only about twenty people inside at a time. Everyone else had to wait outside in the stifling heat. When the doorman looked up to let a few more people in, El Calvo demanded to speak with the manager: “Tell him there is a counterintelligence officer here who needs some nylon bags.”
Mumbles, furrowed brows, pursed lips and eyes moving wildly in their sockets were the reactions to the announcement by the honorary officer.
All honorary officers are affiliated with the Rapid Response Brigades — designed to come running at the least sign of protest — and even coordinate their surveillance, harassment and acts of repudiation. Many people fear them, many hate them, but few dare to challenge these evil Cubans who use their red pencils to turn you into a non-person.