Everything Changes, So That Nothing Changes in the Cuban Armed Forces / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 14 December 2015 — For the Cuban government, December is a month of notable events and anniversaries. And, although  it tramples on the right of people to support Human Rights Day, it is worth repeating; it allows people to celebrate the anniversary of the landing of the yacht Granma, the Revolutionary Armed Forces’ birthday, the jubilee of the Battle of Ideas, the anniversary of the Battle of Alegria de Pio, and praising the fact that, since 1977, following a historic manoeuvre  of calculated ambiguity, it also permits the celebration of Christmas Eve and Christmas.

Strange, cruel, and unusual, because partying is what is important and because, as my grandmother, who didn’t need to study to gain wisdom, said, “All believers think that their religion is better than their neighbour’s one.”

Nevertheless, right now, when the phantasmagorical menace of an imperialist invasion has ceased to exist, when the fable which describes the subversive presence of the enemy in the north has lost all its efficacy, when it looks like Raúl’s reforms are going to last, and when we shouldn’t say that Cuba is a dictatorship, but an “authority” which, without doubt, continues to commit ignominious excesses in pursuit of the interests of the state, the Cuban idealogues should abandon the “poetry of ’59”, and work hard at developing an institutional make-up which crystallises, I am not saying makes transparent, Cuba’s vision to the world.

What I am talking about is, obviously, a psycho-political veneer. For example, the Union of Military Troops could change its name in order to change the facade, and in this way the new recruits to Military Service will emerge a little more agreeable than when they went in.

“To change everything so that nothing changes”; well-known paradox of the novel The Ocelot, by the Italian writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, is the sophistry of the Cuban government. What was once called the Rebel Army, and then the Ministry of Defence, and later MINFAR; can now be called PATRIGAL, which is a bit closer to the present-day business reality, which is a mix of “patrimony” and “national”, and which is led by a General.

The uniform and soldiers’ ranks, which still belong to the dead structure of the non-existent Warsaw Pact, could also be redesigned. Get rid of the uncomfortable, ghastly and rather undignified and hot olive-green uniform, and turn to a more symbolic, indigenous and airy one, like the ones used by the Mambisas in the struggle for liberty. The difficult bit will be in equalising the distinguished, cultured and recognised Camagueyan strategist, Major General Ignacio Agramonte y Loynaz with Brigadier General Lázaro Pichs Sobrino, Director of the Ministry of FAR, without adjectives to set them apart, and to know that the only war he has seen is Fast and Furious (Part II), on the small screen.

I am not suggesting the Adidas sweat-suit should be the national uniform, because that has become the preferred get-up of the ex-leader, and that would be a complication. Quite apart from the recent corruption scandal, of volcanic proportions, which involved a representative of the famous German company and unscrupulous directors of the Cuban sports industry.

Lastly, and only from eagerness to attract sympathy, as an additional measure, they could transform the military barracks into motels, just as they did one day with lodgings number 222, in order to convert it into the garrison which now includes Mr. President’s house.

To end now, as the Chinese proverb says about China, “BIG SOULS HAVE FREE WILL”

Translated by GH