Entertaining People with Popular Control: The Castro Regime Has No Remedy

State agricultural markets in Sancti Spíritus look almost empty. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 2 August 2022 — With all that is going wrong in Cuba, the state press doesn’t miss an opportunity to transmit a false sense of normality that, far from being confirmed, leads to thinking just the opposite.

Constantly in the Castro regime, there is talk of “people’s power” everywhere, without anyone knowing very well what it means. It’s not just any realization. There’s enough for a doctoral thesis, like that of Cuban President Díaz-Canel’s on science and innovation. For this reason, someone at the State newspaper Granma has wondered if popular control, that is, the power of the people, works as a direct expression of socialist democracy in Cuba. But what power of the people are they talking about?

They allude to the old constitutional pipe dream, which even has a law, Law No. 132/2019, on the organization and operation of the municipal assemblies of People’s Power and the people’s councils that establish how “the people can exercise control and build the country’s model.” Let’s see if we understand anything.

In the State newspaper Granma they want to answer a disturbing question: how can Cubans who don’t hold a political or governmental position, from the base, in the community, access and use their power to contribute to transforming reality? It’s difficult. See if you haven’t  the video that runs through social networks in which an angry [Prime Minister Manuel] Marrero* is observed before a violent outburst from a revolutionary grandfather, who could well be taking a nap, and who nevertheless lashes out at another communist militant who complains that in 35 years no one has done anything to solve a problem.

And, of course, like everything in Cuba, if you want to understand something, you have to go to the Law, which with its 210 articles and eight chapters establishes the structure, functions and prerogatives of each of the components of the so-called “people’s power,” which, as Granma points out, “is manifested daily in the actions of the delegates and voters as the foundation of the Cuban political system.”

Precisely, one of the most important changes to Law No. 132 was the right of members of the people’s councils to carry out controls on local production and service entities, as a “potential regulatory mechanism against illegalities and violations that usually occur in state and non-state institutions,” involving the citizen himself as an engine of the changes he needs around him.

Granma reviews the experiences on this topic: Are the controls effective? What results have they had? How can they improve?

Popular controls are welcomed by the communist organization as a tool to respond to the demands of the people, an idea that is here to stay. Delegates ensure the proper functioning of the entities that operate in their constituencies, but what Chapter VII of Law 132 proposes is to involve people more in transforming their environment.

So, although previously only delegates participated in the so-called control and audit, anyone who can contribute “to evaluate, show, suggest and thoroughly review the administrative work of public and private entities, even more so if they have been pointed out by the vox populi, are now invited.

Every month, three popular control exercises are carried out, which are approved at the end of the year so as not to leave any area or sector without going through the filter of citizens and analyzing topics such as water supply, the situation of schools, grocery stores and medical offices, the sale of liquefied gas, the production of bread, the marketing of agricultural products and the so-called colerosHey, did anyone hear blackouts? It’s incredible.

The communists are exultant. Every time a control is announced, service specialists, retirees, community leaders and anyone who wishes are incorporated into the group, forming a conga line with a complicated rhythm, which ends up being deadly for some state and non-state entities, when the report is prepared with positive and negative signs and a plan of measures is required in response. Those responsible, as one can imagine, have little desire to continue.

Therefore, when agencies fall behind with the requested response, and others don’t immediately adopt the suggested decisions, some other, tougher measures are taken. In some cases, the focus is on the workers of the institutions under control, in a clear exercise of bridging those responsible for them, which leads to a further deterioration of the situation. Popular controls add fire to conflicts where the problem could be fixed with a little good will. You can see the Castro inspiration behind all this.

What is the communist regime looking for with these controls? Perhaps that the grocery stores are painted, renovated; that the culture of commerce wins, as Granma says. Let’s see: if there is nothing to sell and the grocery stores are empty, all the rest remains. That’s where popular control should begin if it wants to be of any use. There is the impression that the regime wants to fuss over popular controls to keep people entertained, away from the main concerns about blackouts, inflation or lack of food. If this is the case, it’s not strange that they talk about achieving even greater systems of controls, because according to them, credibility can be lost, and in this case, there is even the authority to request support from the president of the Municipal Assembly.

One can now imagine that all this is another waste of time within the day-to-day life of Cubans. Granma recognizes the problems that these controllers of people’s power have when certain entities located in the municipal council cannot be controlled because the scope of their work is provincial, and, in these cases, alleged negligence cannot be punished. Or the need they say to review the communication mechanisms, because, although the opinion of the delegates is that most people know when, how and where the controls are carried out, practice shows that this is not the case.

That is why, to finish filling the agenda, the leaders say that it’s necessary to take more advantage of traditional socialization methods (meetings, offices with voters), or to create new ones (social media channels or groups, informal opinion leaders) so that more people know and participate in these demonstrations of popular power. They have no remedy.

*Translator’s note: Marrero blamed doctors and other healthcare workers in Cienfuegos for the handling of the pandemic (in 2021)

Translated by Regina Anavy


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