The Mosquito and the Democratization of the Cuban Political System / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Sign warning of fumigation. “Neighbors! For 5 consecutive Fridays the FAR (Revolutionary Armed Forces) Brigade will be fumigating. Help fuigate your apartment! CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution) Executive (14ymedio)
Sign warning of fumigation. “Neighbors! For 5 consecutive Fridays the FAR (Revolutionary Armed Forces) Brigade will be fumigating. Help fumigate your apartment! CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution) Executive (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 10 March 2016 – You don’t have to be a doctor or an epidemiologist to realize that mosquitoes are not defeated by occasional fumigation battles and the collection of debris and trash, much less with military interventions that both kill mosquitos and violate basic human rights “because nobody can prevent the fumigation.”

Threats of the use of violence against people are a part of the military campaign against the mosquito: “If you aren’t there when we come to fumigate, we break down the door,” “You have to leave the key with a neighbor,” “If we can’t fumigate we will fine you,” “They will go to court,” “Stop going to work to be able to fumigate”… The armed forces majors themselves leading the campaign have acknowledged some of the blunders.

All this has come out in one way or another in the official press, in citizens’ complaints. The soldiers are trying to carry out what has been put in their hands with the methods of command and control, but that does not solve social, political, economic and health problems.

Behind the mosquito is a serious health problem, which the state that prides itself on having the best public health system in the world does not find it convenient to recognize.

Health is not only having doctors, hospitals and the ability to offer medical care. The basic problem resides in the general sanitary conditions where people live. And this is not resolved by military campaigns against the mosquito.

Traditionally, the state campaigns, both by the Ministry of Health (MINSAT) and the Army, are concentrated on homes. But the most serious and largest breeding areas are in the piles of trash, the lack of hygiene due to lack of running water, and above all that the countless leaks in the clean water pipes and the sewers that flood the streets, potholes, drains and vacant lots and whatever pit they find on their way, are not solved with some campaign, just like agricultural production isn’t increased by harangues, but by engaging those directly affected.

Everything is always directed from above, where the municipalities and the communities are “objects” of the campaign, not active “subjects” in them. The reason has to do with the current political system, which concentrates power at the central level, it does not provide space for citizens’ democratic participation and ignores self-government and the autonomy of the municipalities. The bureaucracy flees, like the devil, from self-management.

The mosquito’s defeat would be permanently guaranteed if the municipalities could have adequate budgets to systematically address the problems of health as part of a systemic work, not from a ministry or a campaign, but from the the Municipal People’s Power with full financial autonomy to confront the task and the local social mobilization.

That implies a change of conception about the current state. We should democratize it, decentralize everything related to the creation, discussion, approval and control of the budget and also income. Where should the taxes from the tourism companies in Varadero go? To the municipality, the province of Matanzas and finally the State or the Armed Forces?

The municipal mayors and provincial governors should be directly elected by secret ballot to respond to the interests of those who voted for them and not those who appointed them from above.

Those who prevent this being possible are those who do not want to “change everything that should be changed*.”

The persistence of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, despite all the permanent and temporary campaigns and the MINSAP campaign, and now the FAR’s campaign, is a demonstration of the failure of the concentration of power on the part of the populist paternalist state and “state socialism.”

*Translator’s note: A slogan of the Revolution in Cuba.