WaPo Writer Waxes Poetic for Castro Regime Control Mechanism

October 30th, 2007 4:17 PM

Imagine the ire the media would have, rightfully so, if George W. Bush, Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney (and Sean Hannity and whatever other liberal bogeymen the ultra-left fear) could even dream of, much less institute, a block-by-block patriotism patrol answerable to the U.S. government.

Of course that would not and could not ever happen under our Constitution. But the same essential thing was a building block of Fidel Castro's Marxist regime in Cuba, and, surprise, surprise, a Washington Post staff writer devoted an A-section article to its waning influence and substitute dictator Raul Castro's hope of reviving it.

Here's how Manuel Roig-Franzia opened his October 30 story (emphases mine):

CAMAGUEY, Cuba -- Children swarmed the table outside Blanca Peleaz's concrete home in this central Cuban city. There were cakes and cookies, gooey frosting and candy speckles, rare abundance in a place where food shortages are the norm.

The sweets came with a history lesson on a recent muggy evening during a celebration of the Cuban Revolution. Peleaz and other neighborhood adults told the youngsters about the Moncada Barracks raid that started it all. They told the little ones that the Communist Party would lead the nation to glory.

Then they sang.

"Marching, we move toward an ideal," the grown-ups blared, urging the youngsters to join in. "Onward, Cubans. Cuba will reward our heroism."

For decades, Peleaz and her mother before her have been keepers of Fidel Castro's communist message, using their position as the head of the neighborhood's Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, or CDR, as an ideological wedge into the minds of their neighbors. Now, in the twilight of Castro's reign, the fate of the CDRs could provide a clue about Cuba's future.

Once, in a bygone era when revolutionary fervor was at its apex, they were muscular entities, dominating street life and cementing Castro's hold on power. But over the years they have atrophied, becoming more creaking relic than shining showpiece, victim of the waning enthusiasms of a population weary of economic deprivation.

Roig-Franzia's use of euphemism permeated the article. For example, these glorified block captains, though tools of Castro's regime, were "popularly elected" and the education and welfare of children were of paramount concern to these caring citizens:

Every Cuban is expected to join the local CDR and participate in committee activities whether or not they are Communist Party members. Each CDR has a popularly elected president and separate secretaries of security, volunteerism and education.

Some Cubans don't join or don't participate, but at great risk of being labeled an "enemy of the Revolution." CDR presidents can organize "acts of repudiation," in which neighbors stand outside the homes of those suspected of illegal activity and scream insults -- sometimes for days.

When a Cuban wants a job in the lucrative tourism industry -- where a worker can earn three or four times the usual state salary -- the CDR president's imprimatur is essential. Applicants labeled "anti-social," code for transgressions such as dissident activity or lack of interest in volunteer projects, are almost assured of being turned down.

If a child is born, active CDR presidents pay a visit to the parents.

"We start to attend to the political development of a child, in a gradual way, from the time they are born," said DeLeon, a veteran of the Revolution who has a photograph of Fidel Castro in his living room.

As the child grows, DeLeon is watching. He stops by to make sure children are attending classes, especially the courses on Cuban history that recount Castro's triumph.

"We're creating something," DeLeon said, "Something called a 'political conscience.' "

Wow, talk about it taking a village to raise a child!

Roig-Franzia went on to make one CDR president, Rafael Garcia, out to be amiable middle man who takes the heat from the real heavies, the police, although it appears the real issue is his charges are apathetic or demoralized and hence don't do anything worth reporting to Castro's regime:

Garcia chafes at police pressure to gather tidbits about his neighbors.

"They tell me, 'You have to be doing this,' " he said as he slowly wiped oil from his calloused hands with a red rag. "They say, 'You have to be watching.' "

More often than not, though, Garcia has nothing for the police dossiers.

The closest Roig-Franzia got to documenting a real political dissident came at the close of his article, citing a man who wished to remain anonymous because he owns an illegal business. Yet even that man was not fully opposed to the CDR system:

The man was unnerved, but conflicted. He had benefited greatly from the CDR system. The CDRs kept his neighborhood safe and made sure he got vaccinations as a child.