Sunday, February 23, 2014

Between the “Collectives” and the “Rapid Response Brigades”

Between the "Collectives" and the "Rapid Response Brigades" / Antonio G.
Posted on February 22, 2014

State violence has been the Cuban regime's principle recourse for
maintaining power for over 55 years. Beginning with the insurrection
against Fulgencio Batista, executions, as a method of punishment, were
used relentlessly. Anyone who wanted to show their loyalty had to
deliver the coup de grace and take part in executions. A mix of the
Communist brutality of Mao's China and Stalin's Soviet Union, with doses
of the Mexican Revolution.

Watching the revolutionary courts, the shouts of "to the wall," the
ruthless political imprisonment, and the continued executions ratified
and defended by Ernesto Guevara on the dais of the United Nations
itself, instilled a feeling of helplessness within a great part of Cuban

The so-called Cuban Revolution has a violent history that it will never
break free of because it is part of its nature. The infamous "acts of
repudiation" in the '80s led to the more frequent use of vigilante
groups, known as "rapid response brigades," who doled out beatings and
followed orders with the objective of instilling terror in citizens.

These rapid response brigades have been transformed in content and
action according to the circumstances and needs of the regime. In the
'80s they focused on those Cubans who wanted to leave the country;
starting in the '90s they used them against human rights defenders;
until finally coming to focus on any opponent or activist.

Today, these groups for the most part are made up by paid agents of the
Interior Ministry, working surgically to prevent the spread of outbreaks
of discontent or free thought within the Cuban population.

With the coming to power of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro's influence in
Venezuela became visible. After the failed coup d'etat against Chavez in
April 2002, the Havana regime increased its influence in issues of
security and its military presence became increasingly notable. Of
course the "rapid response brigades" were also exported from Cuba, now
called "Bolivarian militias" or "collectives." Since then, they have
concentrated on arming and preparing them to respond with violence and
terror in the face of possible democratic demands.

The reaction of these violent vigilante to the protests of recent days
has made clear that the "collectives," in coordination with the police
forces, have orders to stifle any protest through the excessive use of
violence. Terror must be part of the Venezuelan imagination for the full
functioning of the regime-under-construction.

The Chavista strategy has been to wrest away democratic spaces, fragment
them, and even to dismantle not only democratic institutions, but also
civil society organizations. Cuba's ruling elite knows that a change in
Venezuela implies enormous pressure on the island and the certain end of
the Castro regime. They know that ordering or driving indiscriminate
repression in Venezuela has no legal consequences for them, but rather
for the regime in Caracas. They would prefer a thousand times over to
cling to the oil no matter it costs, rather than coming to a massive
repressive crackdown on the island.

The Venezuelan military should know that Havana will lead them to the
brink without the slightest hesitation, but at the same time they should
understand that the Castro regime's codes are not those of the present
century — in this century they can often be counterproductive and
extremely dangerous.

What is happening in Venezuela should raise serious concerns on the
continent because it opens the door to a social dynamic with
unpredictable consequences. To create and institutionalize urban
vigilante groups, which, to sustain power enjoy perks and impunity,
creates an extremely complex scenario in a region where the Rule of Law
remains a dream yet to be achieved.

In a region where organized crime, marginalization and poverty are part
of the reality, the spread of Cuban methods of social control should set
off alarm bells. The violence and cynicism of the Castro regime can
still do a lot of damage in Latin America. The Cuban pattern is
disastrous. To spread it would undermine the still weak Latin American

It is essential, therefore, to offer major support and solidarity to the
efforts of Venezuelans. Not only is the return of democracy and
fundamental rights being decided there, but also being decided is
putting the breaks on the introduction of state violence through the use
of criminal gangs and urban vigilantes as a norm in the region. Those of
us who defend democracy, have a commitment today to Venezuela.

Antonio Rodiles, Havana, 22 February 2014

Source: Between the "Collectives" and the "Rapid Response Brigades" /
Antonio G. Rodiles | Translating Cuba -

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