December 13, 2005
Castro, the Mafia, the Polls
U.S. diplomat Robert Blau was met by a nauseating stench as he walked
into his residence in Havana. He soon learned that security agents
of the Cuban government had entered his home surreptitiously and
filled it with excrement.
for that repugnant attack had come from Felipe Pérez Roque,
the bellicose foreign minister, who was determined to punish the
American delegation on the island for the oddest type of crime:
allowing a handful of opposition democrats to gain access to the
Internet for half an hour, once a week.
the first time something like that had occurred. One of Blau's
colleagues found his mouthwash had been replaced with urine. Others
had their car tires slashed. Offenses and assorted types of harassment
are committed almost daily. Diplomats are deprived of electricity,
telephone or water at the authorities' whim.
actions are directed not only against the Americans. The Czechs,
Spaniards and Poles have been victims of similar acts. The objective
is simple: to mortify the diplomats until they are neutralized
and recommend to their governments a total complicity with Castro's
It's a technique
that the Mafia uses to gain control and that sometimes works.
Several European embassies in Cuba have begged their foreign ministries
to go along uncomplainingly with Havana's whims, just so the diplomats
accredited to the island can live in peace. It's a variation of
the Stockholm Syndrome.
has increased lately, and there's a reason that may explain it:
Fidel Castro suspects that some embassies collaborated with a
survey that was carried out clandestinely and that demonstrates
the unpopularity of his regime and the desire for change harbored
by the citizenry.
was conducted between Oct. 8 and Nov. 3. During that period, about
15 public-opinion researchers, who arrived from Spain in the guise
of tourists, interviewed 541 persons chosen at random, in almost
all provinces, posing questions from a questionnaire drafted with
the rigor demanded by the profession.
lines, the poll's results coincide with common sense. While half
of the Cubans surveyed believe that ''things are going very badly
or badly,'' barely 20 percent maintain that they ''are going very
well or well.'' While 50 percent adopt a very critical attitude
toward the economic model and point out that the country's principal
problems are the shortages, the cost of life, unemployment and
the meager supply of food, 25 percent blame the American ''blockade''
for the nation's ills.
the intensity of the discrepancy is markedly related to the age
of the respondents. More than half of Cubans 18 to 29 desire a
profound change that includes tolerance toward the opposition.
Among Cubans 60 and older, that rejection of the system is reduced:
about 35 percent of the elderly people don't want any kind of
change. It's a minority, but a significant one. Elderly people
fear change. Because they have no future and no illusions, they're
content with what little they get. In the former Eastern bloc,
exactly the same happened.
the failure of the Cuban government in material aspects is scandalous.
In almost 50 years of government, Castro has not managed to provide
Cubans with even half of their needs for electricity, telephone,
potable water, clothing, transportation, food or housing.
$10 a month
history, no other government has failed so grossly for so long.
Everything is rationed. Everything is scarce and of poor quality.
Society lives amid the worst discomforts and penuries. To buy
a simple light bulb, a thermometer or a pair of scissors is an
almost unbelievable feat. Every month, the supply of sanitary
napkins for women is enough for only 30 percent of the fertile
population. Families have to make do with wages equivalent to
$10 a month.
It is true
that 7 percent of the population have some college education,
but there is nothing sadder and more unfair than to see a professional
live under miserable conditions, without the slightest hope of
prospering, because half a century of practical experience has
taught him or her that tomorrow will always be the same as today,
or worse -- unless a raft comes to the rescue.
picture Castro is intent on hiding under a thick cloak of strident
propaganda. But sometimes the spectacle cannot be concealed. When
that happens, the government reacts with incredible vileness:
It soils with excrement the houses of foreign witnesses. It's
the Mafia's way.