Soup Under the Eclipse

Comités de Defensa de la Revolución (CDR). "Abajo el bloqueo". Boulevard de San Rafael, Centro Habana. (14ymedio)
Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). “Down with the blockade.” (small sign in the window) Boulevard de San Rafael, Central Havana. (14ymedio)

On the night of a red moon eclipse, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) celebrated the 55th anniversary of the founding of their organization. Updated reports state that more than 8,500,000 people (91% of the population over age 14) are enrolled in the CDRs, of which there are 136,000 registered throughout the country.

In a common pot the broth is cooking, with root vegetables, a pig’s head or some rib bones. There is music, rum and a statement is read at midnight. The youngest dance, while the oldest repeat the same jokes from the year before and there is always someone who asks about someone else to which the response is “they passed to a better life,” which means they left the country.

This organization, ubiquitous in the ‘60s and ‘70s, no longer represents the threat that terrorized so many people. It is strange, at least in Havana and other provincial capitals, that the CDR surveillance continues, a task that was presented as the original and main work of the committees. On the other hand, membership in the CDRs has become ever more formal and meaningless, as the only thing demanded from each member is that they pay the dues, which allows them to aspire to a job that requires them to be trustworthy, because they can identify themselves on the forms as a CDR member.

As a part of the attempts to “civilize” the tough forces of the CDR, political persecution is now disguised as “the fight against crime, illegalities and social indiscipline.”

One of the most common difficulties for the organization now is to complete all the assigned tasks. That is why at the beginning of the year a campaign was developed to attract young people to infuse fresh blood. According to official reports, currently 42% of the leadership positions are held by people under 35.

Another novelty is trying to revive the lost vigor of the CDRs by calling them non-governmental organizations, dedicated to acting on behalf of the community, with voluntary blood donations, organizing sporting activities and the beautification and cleaning of public areas.

In this regard, Carlos Rafael Miranda, National Coordinator of the CDRs, said in a recent interview in the national press, “We have to ensure that every CDR has its own content, that implies that its members become involved in the transformation of the community for the good of neighbors. The organization has to be useful for the neighborhood. And it is essential to our core mission, which is the unity of revolutionaries in defense of the Revolution.”

As a part of the attempts to “civilize” the tough forces of the CDR, political persecution is now disguised as “the fight against crime, illegalities and social indiscipline.” In this way they propose to give it a preventive character, even when it comes to such sensitive issues as trafficking in and using drugs. In this aspect great importance is given to the 308 “Detachments Watching the Sea,” which are dedicated to investigating and collecting drug caches that are thrown overboard along Cuba’s coasts by drug traffickers before they are captured.

All efforts to mask the repressive face of the institution become useless when the highest levels require the immediate mobilization of the “rapid action brigades” to confront any opposition demonstration. Then, the community’s guileless benefactors go from being willing to donate their own blood, to willingness to shed the blood of others, and the vocation to work together to improve the neighborhood becomes a fierce intolerance of divergent thinking.

The eclipse on this night of celebrations is not announcing anything good.

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