Cuba Lays Out Rules Governing Surveillance, Informants 1

FILE – In this Nov. 14, 2019 file photo, Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel, center, visits with residents after arriving in Caimanera, Cuba. A new decree approved by Diaz-Canel Oct. 8 and made public Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, says prosecutors can approve eavesdropping and surveillance of any form of communication, without consulting a judge as required in many other Latin American countries. ISMAEL FRANCISCO, FILE AP PHOTO

By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ, Associated Press

Cuba has publicly laid out the rules governing the extensive, longstanding surveillance and undercover investigation of the island’s 11 million people.

A new decree approved by President Miguel Díaz-Canel on Oct. 8 and made public this week says prosecutors can approve eavesdropping and surveillance of any form of communication, without consulting a judge as required in many other Latin American countries. The law also creates official legal roles for informants, undercover investigators and sting operations.

The decree is intended to “raise the effectiveness of the prevention of and fight against crime,” according to the declaration in Cuba’s register of new laws and regulations.

The country’s powerful intelligence and security agencies have for decades maintained widespread surveillance of Cuban society through eavesdropping of all types and networks of informants and undercover agents, but their role has never been so publicly codified.

The decree describes a variety of roles: agents of the Interior Ministry authorized to carry out undercover investigations, cooperating witnesses who provide information in exchange for lenient treatment and sting operations in which illegal goods are allowed to move under police surveillance.

The law allows interception of telephone calls, direct recording of voices, shadowing and video recording of suspects and covert access to computer systems.

Unlike Cuba, many countries including Mexico, Argentina, Guatemala, Chile and Bolivia require a judge to approve surveillance operations.

How Informers Prolong Agony Under The Cuban Dictatorship 1

The communist dictatorship is still in power in Cuba thanks, in large part, to the informer system. (Facebook)

7.6 million of the 12 million Cubans are members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. The regime rewards them or exposing its opponents.

By Mamela Fiallo Flor, PanAm Post

The longest dictatorship on the American continent is still in control after 60 years, thanks mainly to its job of infiltration in civil society that “purges” the streets of dissidents.

Its latest target was a 77-year-old woman who sells peanuts in the streets out of necessity, thus dismantling the propaganda of a welfare state that supposedly guarantees the care of all its inhabitants.

The visibly malnourished state of the lady, as well as her testimony, makes it clear that Cuba is not the utopia that its defenders claim.

The informers serving the regime, or “chivatones” as the opposition refers to them, reported this “counter-revolutionary” to the police because she exposes to the tourists the fact that the Cubans are suffering without necessities.

Two women, who claimed to work in the education sector, rebuked the older woman for not asking the government for help and instead receiving clothes and money from tourists. They screamed at her, saying that 5% of their salary went to the service of older people like her and questioned her for speaking ill about the government.

The allocation of funds that the regime steals from state employees is not public information because publishing official statistics is a mandate of the dictatorship.

The old lady had hand-wrapped peanut packages. She testified before cameras that she had been selling them for 30 years. She maintains that she does not harm anyone. Apparently, she is damaging the image of the regime, and her action was reason enough to be reported to the police.

According to the logic of state employees, it was reprehensible for a woman to work autonomously, rather than being dependent on the state and therefore on the taxpayer. Meanwhile, they think it is respectable to live at the expense of others, as they do working for the regime.

Feature continues here: Snitch-Nation


Under A Watchful Eye: Cyber Surveillance in Cuba 1

In Cuba the possibility of state surveillance is never far away. (Photo: IWPR)

Public access to the internet has increased, but the state remains vigilant.
By Yoe Suárez, Institute For War & Peace Reporting

Álvaro felt like a spy during his four years working as a network administrator at the state news agency Prensa Latina (PL).

“Part of my work was maintaining computers,” he explained. “But sometimes my boss ordered me to monitor what a reporter or worker was Googling or looking at.”

Although this was not among the duties that he had signed up for when he joined the country’s most important news agency, Álvaro never questioned his superior’s orders.

“Then, I’d see the people that I’d been monitoring in the lunchroom or on the street and I felt terrible,” he said. “I tried to act naturally but I couldn’t stop thinking about the personal things I knew about them.”

In an office behind closed doors, Álvaro accessed other people’s computers, taking screenshots that he then filed. Sometimes he accessed private emails or instant messages during the screening process. The assignments even included monitoring the private communications of journalists about to travel outside Cuba as PL correspondents.

“It was a way of making sure that they wouldn’t abandon the ‘mission’ or make contact with inappropriate people abroad,” he said.

Ahead of trips abroad, reporters had to go through a verification process that included interviews with the heads of whatever political organizations they belonged to, references from the leaders of their Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, and a final verification from the Ministry of the Interior (MININT). Once deemed trustworthy, the reporters still had to go through the final filter of cyber surveillance at their place of work.

“In political and social organisations, people are being constantly evaluating others and it’s taken into account for anything, from getting a university position to deciding if you can be trusted for a job,” said Jesús Adonis Martínez, the agency’s correspondent in Caracas for two years. “In a totalitarian country everyone’s tracks are filed away.”

“There is even more surveillance for journalists who have collaborated with foreign or independent media,” added Álvaro, who asked to remain anonymous even though he no longer works for the agency.

“What they made me do was wrong,” he concluded.

Article continues here: Cyber-spying 

Informers Approved by the Cuban Government Reply

CDR Billboard in every neighborhood: CDR 8th Congress - United, Vigilant & Fighting

CDR Billboard in every neighborhood: CDR 8th Congress – United, Vigilant & Fighting

By Ivan Garcia in Translating Cuba

Seven years ago, when the roar of the winds of a hurricane devastated Havana and the water filtered through the unglazed living room door of Lisvan, a private worker living in an apartment of blackened walls which urgently needed comprehensive repairs, his housing conditions did not interest the snitches on the block where he lives.

“When I began to be successful in my business and I could renovate the apartment, from doing the electrical system, plumbing, new flooring, painting the rooms to putting grills on the windows and the balcony, the complaints began. What is, in any other country, a source of pride that a citizen can leave his poverty behind and improve his quality of life, is, in Cuba, something that, for more than a few neighbours, arouses both resentment and envy so that it leads them to make anonymous denunciations”, says Lisvan.

So many years of social control by the regime has transformed some Cubans into hung-up people with double standards. “And shameless too,” adds Lisvan. And he tells me that “two years ago, when I was putting in a new floor, my wife brought me the ceramic tiles in a truck from her work, authorized by her boss. But a neighbor, now in a wheelchair and almost blind, called the DTI to denounce me, accusing me of trafficking in construction materials.”

Luckily, Lisvan had the documents for the tiles, bought in convertible pesos at a state “hard currency collection store” — as such establishments are formally called. But the complaint led to them taking away the car his wife was driving. In the last few days, while he was having railings put across his balcony, to guard against robberies, a neighbor called Servilio complained to the Housing Office that he was altering the façade of the building, and to the electric company for allegedly using the public electricity supply. Lisvan ended by telling me that “It all backfired on him, because everything was in order, and the inspectors involved gave me the phone number of the complainant, who, being a coward, had done it anonymously.”

According to Fernando, a police instructor, anonymous complaints are common in the investigation department where he works. “Thanks to these allegations we started to embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars in the United States.

“People report anything — a party that seems lavish, someone who bought beef on the black market or a person who drinks beer every day and doesn’t work. It’s crazy. Snitching in Cuba is sometimes taken to extremes.”

When you ask him what is behind the reports, he avoids the question.

“Because of envy or just a habit of denouncing. These people are almost always resentful and frustrated and tend to be hard up and short of lots of things. And not infrequently the complainant also commits illegal acts,” admits the police instructor.

Carlos, a sociologist, believes that large scale reporting, as has happened for decades in Cuba, is a good subject for specialist study. “But lately, with widespread apathy because of the inefficiency of the system, the long drawn-out economic crisis and the lack of economic and political freedoms, as compared to the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, informing has decreased.”

Article continues here (courtesy of Babalu Blog):  Informant State

Man Accuses Cuban Agents of Insidious, ‘Psychological’ Intimidation 1

Porno para Ricardo

Porno para Ricardo

A man who threw a party for a friend in a punk-rock band that has been critical of Fidel Castro says that he has been the target of a ‘psychological’ campaign of intimidation.

By Juan O. Tamayo,

Oscar Casanella, a 35-year old cancer researcher in Havana, says he just wanted to have a party for Ciro Díaz, a close friend who plays in a punk-rock band.

Problem is, Díaz is lead guitarist for Porno Para Ricardo, a band whose expletive-filled lyrics include attacks on Cuba’s former ruler, Fidel Castro: “The Comandante wants me to applaud after he’s spoken his delirious s—.”

So Casanella’s party turned into an example of how Cuba’s communist system tries to grind down the citizens it finds objectionable, starting out with low-level threats and ratcheting up the pressure if the targets refuse to change their behavior.

Cuban police and State Security agents can beat dissidents, arrest them for brief periods to harass or intimidate them, search their homes, seize their phones and computers, listen in on their conversations, and throw them out of school.

“But they also have psychological pressures, like anonymous phone calls in the middle of the night, a car that comes too close, an agent who stands there just to make sure you know he’s watching you,” dissident Guillermo Fariñas told a Miami audience last year.

Casanella said Díaz, a friend since high school, called him at the end of a trip to Europe to say that he was returning to Havana on Dec. 6, 2013, a Friday. Casanella promised him a welcome-back party at his own home that Saturday.

“That’s where the Kafka-esque machinery started,” wrote Lilian Ruiz, who first reported the case July 4 on Cubanet, a Miami-based portal for news on Cuba.

On the Thursday before the party, four elderly men and women he did not know approached him as he left his home in the Plaza neighborhood of Havana and threatened him, Casanella told el Nuevo Herald on Thursday.

“They said, ‘You cannot have any activities or parties these days,’ that other people could harm me, and they also could harm me,” he said. He asked what right they had to threaten him, but they refused to identify themselves and walked away.

Casanella said he presumed the four knew about the party from State Security monitors of Diaz’s telephone calls or perhaps his own. He has attended meetings of the dissident group Estado de SATS but said he does not consider himself to be a dissident.

Read more here:  State Security tactics


Porno para Ricardo

No One Walks Off The Island 3

Two years ago, Yasiel Puig fled Cuba in the hands of black-market smugglers. This is the story of how the cost of the defection journey – in money and human lives – shadows him still.

by Scott Eden, ESPN The Magazine

Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig watches from the dugout during a game against the San Francisco Giants. Photograph: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig watches from the dugout during a game against the San Francisco Giants. Photograph: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

Chapter 1

The Escape

Just before dawn one day in late April 2012, four young Cubans stood on an otherwise deserted beach, peering hard into the Caribbean darkness. They were trying to escape their native country, and they were waiting for the boat that would take them away. Thirty minutes passed, then 60. Still no boat. Three men and one woman, the group had arrived at the designated spot close to the appointed hour: 3.a.m. By design, the rendezvous point was located on one of the most isolated coastal stretches in a country famous for nothing if not isolation — so remote it could be reached only by foot.

They had spent the previous 30 hours hiking there, without sleep, and had reached varying levels of emotional distress; the stakes were high. Covert interests in Miami and Cancun had made the arrangements from afar. Their goal was to extract from Cuba a baseball player of extraordinary talent and propitious youth. Just 21 years old at the time, Yasiel Puig already was well-known to both Cuba’s millions of fervid baseball fans as well as officials high in the hierarchy of the Cuban state-security apparatus.

With Puig was Yunior Despaigne, then 24. A former national-level Cuban boxer and a friend of Puig’s from their teens, Despaigne had spent the previous year recruiting Puig to defect, under the direction of a Cuban-born resident of Miami named Raul Pacheco. If caught and found out as an aider and abettor, Despaigne would inevitably face serious prison time. He and Puig had together made four failed attempts to escape the island over the previous year. The authorities were almost certainly wise to their machinations. They needed this trip to work.

According to Despaigne, in the escape party were Puig’s girlfriend and a man who, Despaigne says, served as a padrino, or spirit guide, a kind of lower cleric in the Afro-Catholic religion of Santeria. Sometime before this latest escape attempt, Puig and his girlfriend had sought out the padrino; a vatic ritual had revealed that their voyage would end in good fortune, Despaigne says. The couple decided to take the padrino along so as to improve their chances for safe passage.

Feature continues here:  No One Walks Off The Island

Why Not Just Dissolve the CDR? 1

By Regina Coyula, Translating Cuba

Comments on the recent speech by General-President Raul Castro can be heard in a pharmacy line as well as in an almendrón.* People in general are pleased that the country’s top leadership is finally acknowledging the presence of the invasive social weed that until now seems to have been growing unnoticed. Cubans, with our ability to adapt and to forget, are happy that the government is now taking steps, as any recently elected government would, to address the problems inherited from its predecessors.

Many claim that the deterioration in our social values is no worse than in other countries, which probably is true. But they forget this laboratory was supposed to be the breeding ground for the “New Man” — someone who would be generous, honest and hard-working. By now, several generations should have given birth to this New Man, of whom so much was expected. But as in the Michael Keaton comedy Multiplicity, each new version was even worse than the last.

As we have seen, experimenting with cows can leave you without cattle, but when you experiment with instruction, the repercussions for society can be quite profound, as is evident today. The family itself has been a tragic protagonist in the Cuban social experiment as well. Nevertheless, neither official acknowledgement of the litany of social transgressions nor popular enthusiasm are enough to resolve a problem that has done nothing but grow.

More than fifty years ago a grassroots organization was created, which later evolved into a non-governmental organization (though we all know this distinction is merely one of semantics): the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution or CDR. Its nation-wide framework stretched across the island’s geographic confines. It was designed from the ground up to “deal with” issues that encompassed, among other things, healthcare, education, sanitation, beautification, raw materials and, most importantly, surveillance. Inevitably, one has to ask: Where were the activists of this enormous organization — one which just concluded a nation-wide conference whose conclusions were overwhelmingly positive — while the bad behavior and criminal activity recently outlined by General-President Castro were proliferating?

In spite of many years of efforts, the CDR guards, the “My Happy Pretty House” activities, the Parents for Education movement, the anti-malarial campaign, the Clic Patrol and the drives to collect raw material have not been successful at molding the social clay we needed to create the twenty-first century man.

An apt example of something where we are instructed but not educated is the party to celebrate the anniversary of this mass organization. On the eve of September 28, surrounded by smoke and rum, people set up makeshift wooden stoves in the street to cook a hodgepodge broth with a lot of ingredients but little substance (usually provided by a pig’s head) which is eaten at midnight from plastic cups. Shirtless men, their tongues loosened by the alcohol, listen to reggaeton music at full blast while people feel forced to socialize so as not to appear apathetic. This celebration of “popular support” offers an all too obvious example, which often ends with neighbors feeling disgusted.
To control social disorder the government is faced with a dilemma. It can enforce the law with strong disciplinary measures by extending its repression beyond dissidents, white-collar criminals and petty thieves caught in the act. Or it can leave it to others — to fate, the church or the family perhaps — to eventually restore lost values.

If we are to rescue good social conduct (as we should) and favor education and good behavior, erroneously deemed bourgeois rather than correct, there is no reason to keep the CDR alive. It has become synonymous with filth and environmental contamination, with theft and embezzlement, with illegal construction, with alarmingly high crime rates and other problems which I leave for the reader to recall.

This has led to a decline in its prestige, a lack of interest from citizens, and a sense of resignation with which the corralled members of the Juventud (the Youth) and the Party accept their appointments. It is the natural result of placing the interests of the government over those of society, rendering the CDR obsolete and burdening the state budget with a bloated bureaucracy which is only partially self-supporting.

Social organizations that arise in a natural way and with natural leaders respond to the interests of their environment, they are the ones who should address these problems. And above all (and when we say all we mean all) the law, with a Defender of the People and a Court of Constitutional Guarantees that citizens can turn to with the confidence of not finding themselves unprotected.

Regina Coyula | La Habana | 20 Jul 2013

*Translator’s note: Cuban slang for a type of large, antiquated American car used as a private taxi.

Translated from Diario de Cuba

Cuba’s Neighborhood Committees Lose Impetus 1

Nearly everyone is part of the communal surveillance network, but members admit that people don’t turn up for events any more.

By Alejandro Tur Valladares, Institute for War & Peace Reporting

As Cuba’s system of neighborhood committees celebrated its 52nd birthday, observers said public participation in it was dwindling. Annual celebrations of the anniversary of the nationwide Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, CDR, took place in Cienfuegos province in late September, for the fourth year running.

The CDR system was set up in 1960, a year after the Cuban revolution, as a network of neighborhood groups which would spy on residents and stamp out any subversive activity. As well as acting as the regime’s eyes and ears, CDRs coordinate community activities. In the last few years, they have also become involved in health and hygiene campaigns. Most Cubans formally register as members of their local CDR – official statistics show that 93 percent of people over the age of 14 are in the organization. Officials from the CDR National Directorate said they chose Cienfuegos to host this year’s celebrations because neighborhood surveillance there had helped reduce the crime rate, targets for blood donation quotas had been exceeded.

However, in an interview for the provincial newspaper “5 de Septiembre”, Martha Ojeda Sánchez, who is CDR coordinator for Cienfuegos and was in charge of the national celebrations, admitted that problems existed. “Of the 753 bases [in Cienfuegos], 58 aren’t functioning properly for various reasons – for example because unsuitable leaders were elected,” she said. “There are a significant number of CDRs which don’t even hold meetings or set objectives.” Despite this, Ojeda Sánchez pointed that 303,000 new members had been recruited to the province’s CDRs.

Cuban activist Clemente Álvarez Díaz believes Ojeda Sánchez was playing down the problems facing the CDR system. “The membership statistics are probably correct,” he said, noting that “people who come of age are put under immense pressure to join. Large-scale absenteeism [affects] CDR neighborhood watch groups. Many leaders lack community leadership skills, and some of them behave in a positively antisocial manner,” Álvarez Díaz said. He added that senior leaders appeared uninterested in trying to find out why the CDR network had lost its ability to really mobilize people over the last decade.

Official journalist Lisandra Marene interviewed a local CDR delegate, William López Mederos, for the “5 de Septiembre” newspaper. “It’s no secret that people don’t come along like they used to,” López Mederos said. “When I was a boy, there were masses of people – the venue would fill up.” Nowadays, he said, “out of a household of seven people, only two will go – sometimes no one. If you ask them to walk two or three blocks for a meeting, they won’t come.”

The anniversary celebrations begin the day before the date itself, September 28, with the preparation of a traditional “caldosa” stew of root vegetables and pork. For Rubén, a CDR member in the Juanita neighborhood, the anniversary meal and party are still “one of the only moments in the year that Cuban families get together and socialize”, although he noted that “the state is giving fewer and fewer provisions for it.” In Cienfuegos city, it was clear that some CDRs did not hold local parties at all on the day of the anniversary. When asked why this was, CDR member cited “a lack of resources and general apathy.” José Suárez, a resident of the city’s Tulipán neighborhood, said Cubans were “not in the mood for parties.” In former times, Suárez said, people went along “to fill their stomachs with a bit of caldosa or to have a beer.” These days, he claimed, “even that is too much effort.”

Alejandro Tur Valladares is an independent journalist in Cuba.

Fidel’s “Revolutionary Collective Surveillance” Neighborhood Spies Create Social Violence and Hatred 2

By Yoani Sanchez

Posted: 09/28/2012 2:52 am

The stew was cooked on firewood collected by some neighbors, the flags hung in the middle of the block and the shouts of Viva! went on past midnight. A ritual repeated with more or less enthusiasm every September 27 throughout the Island. The eve of the 52nd anniversary of the founding of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), the official media celebrate on its commemoration, a song intended to energize those who are a part of the organization with the most members in the entire country, and to dust off the old anecdotes of glory and power.

But beyond these formalities, which are repeated identically each year, we can perceive that the influence of the CDR in Cuban life is in a downward spiral. Gone are the days when we were all “CeDeRistas” and the acronym — with the figure of a man brandishing a machete — still shone brightly on the facades of some houses.

Amid the ongoing decline of its prominence, it’s worth asking if the committees have been a more of source of transmission of power to the citizenry, than a representation of us to the government. The facts leave little room for doubt. Since they were created in 1960, they have had an eminently ideological base, marked by informers. Fidel himself said it during the speech in which he announced their creation:

“We are going to implement, against imperialist campaigns of aggression, a Revolutionary system of collective surveillance where everybody will know who lives on their block and what relations they have with the tyranny; and what they devote themselves to; who they meet with; what activities they are involved in.”

These words from the Maximum Leader are now difficult to find reproduced in full on national websites and newspapers. In part because, despite the unconditional support for the Commander in Chief, the current editors of these spaces know very well that such language is totally out of sync with the 21st century.

Read the entire feature here:

Machado Ventura pide más delación a los CDR Reply

‘No se concibe que en un CDR no haya vigilancia, esa tarea no hay que discutirla’, afirma.

El primer vicepresidente cubano, José Ramón Machado Ventura, resaltó este viernes la importancia para el régimen de la “labor de vigilancia” de los Comités de Defensa de la Revolución (CDR), uno de los principales instrumentos de delación con que cuenta.

La vigilancia es todavía “una tarea permanente” de los CDR, dijo Machado Ventura al clausurar el VIII Pleno de la Dirección Nacional de la organización, informó EFE.

“No se concibe que en un CDR no haya vigilancia, esa tarea no hay que discutirla”, sentenció en declaraciones reproducidas por la televisión estatal.

Los CDR fueron creados por Fidel Castro el 28 de septiembre de 1960 como los “ojos y oídos” del régimen. Una de sus principales “tareas” continúa siendo la delación y el hostigamiento a los opositores.

“Tenemos la plena seguridad de que las tareas que tienen asignadas los Comités de Defensa de la Revolución, y las que quedan por enfrentar, van a tener el máximo de calidad y disposición, porque esas cosas son las que hacen que nuestros dirigentes y el Partido tengan el máximo de confianza en esta importante organización que nació con la Revolución y nació para quedarse”, dijo Machado Ventura, según citó el diario oficial Granma.

“Los nuevos cambios que se llevan a cabo no significan prescindir de aquello que, como los CDR hace más de medio siglo, ha aportado un historial en defensa de la Revolución”, añadió.

Calificó a los CDR de vitales “en la salvaguarda del socialismo cubano”; les pidió “un rol más activo” en la campaña contra el dengue y “la erradicación de las indisciplinas sociales”, según la estatal Agencia de Información Nacional (AIN).

El coordinador nacional de los CDR, Carlos Rafael Miranda, dijo en el mismo acto que entre los ejes actuales de la organización están “el aumento de la vigilancia revolucionaria, las donaciones de sangre y la incorporación de más jóvenes a actividades y cargos de dirección.”

Diario de Cuba