Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cuba: War Against Corruption and Settling the Score at the Same Time? / Iván García

Cuba: War Against Corruption and Settling the Score at the Same Time? /
Iván García
Iván García, Translator: Regina Anavy

The political and fiscal plot against corruption has obvious political
overtones. Many are asking if Raul Castro is playing hard ball or
leaving the road to his political and economic adversaries.

Let's wait and see. Meanwhile, the mystery continues on the island.
Detentions after detentions. Surprise audits of Gladys Bejerano's
accounts. And the Chinese padlocks on the prison cells open to welcome
new groups of guests.

In their crusade against corruption and crime, for the last year almost
a hundred officers of all ranks have been sleeping in triple bunk beds.
From those who are on the top of the pyramid, like Alejandro Roca, to
the nurses and doctors who emulated the Nazis in the way they mistreated
and killed patients in a psychiatric hospital.

Now, on the threshold of autumn, Havana is not setting off firecrackers.
The opposition becomes ​​increasingly bold every day and loses its fear
of blows and insults.

The police know that any street protest, even a small one, can cause a
spark. And they suffocate it with violence. Alarms go off everywhere.
Palma Soriano, Guantánamo, or a plaza in Havana where a group of women
shout for freedom and political change.

The fear of any event outside the official program is palpable. Go down
Infanta Street, at the corner of Santa Marta, Centro Habana, where you
find the Assemblies of God Pentecostal church. A month ago, 61
parishioners decided to lock themselves in for a spiritual retreat.

And faced with doubt and the novelty of the event, just in case, the
police blocked the streets around the temple. When they saw that the
"enlightened" pastor Braulio Herrera and his followers were not
newly-minted dissenters, they yielded.

You can now pass through the neighboring streets. But a large number of
civilian police and special services prowl the area. In addition to
certain social tensions, there is the widespread discontent of the
people, tired of the old government and its economic inefficiency.

Cuba is now a tinderbox. The slightest touch of a match could ignite it.
If there haven't been street explosions of any magnitude it's because
the political map of the island is so strange.

You could say that 15% of the public supports the Castro brothers.
Another 15% is affiliated with the opposition. While the rest, 70%, is
fearful and indifferent. They are simply spectators.

To add insult to injury we have the pitched battle, without much
informative fanfare, unleashed by General Raúl Castro against
corruption. The main enemy of the revolution, he said. It's a war of
survival. And the clans. The winner will have free rein to design the
political road map for Cuba in the coming years.

If you analyze the chess moves of that eternal conspirator named Raúl
Castro, you can deduce that, despite denying the supposed differences of
opinion with his brother Fidel, in practice he has been dismantling,
patiently, all the framework erected by the historic leader of the
Revolution over five decades.

From grandiose mandates like the "Battle of Ideas," schools in the
countryside, the excessive use of television as a teaching method in
primary and secondary schools. And, of course, he has removed almost all
the men loyal to Fidel.

He has made a vast change in the furniture. From the fidelistas, there
are only three important figures left: Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, 79 years
old, José Ramón Machado Ventura, 80, and Esteban Lazo Hernández, 67.

Lazo is the classic loyalist. If he accepts the new direction, he will
continue as vice president of the Council of State. It's true that he
won't liven things up, but he will be guaranteed his foreign trips and
the amenities that belonging to the Politburo confers. For now he's not
a threat to Raul Castro's crusade.

With Machado something else is happening. The General wants to keep him
close. Ramiro is the dangerous type. Because of his history and the
influences created in his years as the Minister of the Interior and the
head of special services.

The blows against the Canadian businessmen of Armenian origin, Sarkis
Yacubian and Cy Tokmakjian, could be interpreted as a warning message to

It's a match between two big-headed men. In my opinion, Raúl Castro and
Ramiro Valdés are the most important and the most powerful men in Cuba
of the 21st century. Some believe that the crusade against corruption is
one of Raúl's strategies to dethrone Valdés.

It seems to me that the upcoming party conference in January 2012 will
be a reckoning. Only one of the two will remain.

Translated by Regina Anavy

September 18 2011"


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