Cuban protesters can overwhelm regime targets with ‘people power’

Fernando Medina /
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The Cuban people can defeat the regime without outside help by directing their street protests at regime targets.

Yelling in the streets won’t do any good against an established secret police system like the one in Cuba.

The Cuban people have to direct their energies to attack the eyes, ears, and hands of the secret police. Being resourceful with few materials at hand, they can use the overwhelming energy and force of “people power.”

Here and there, it’s already happening with attacks on Communist Party offices. The attacks should be focused more directly on taking out the regime’s eyes, ears, and limbs.

This article doesn’t pretend to be an instruction manual. It’s presented as a way that ordinary Cuban citizens can improvise with what they have to turn the regime’s strengths into weaknesses, and choke it off.

A police state us like a machine. It is built of different moving parts. It depends on air and fuel. It is networked among nodes that are vulnerable to disruption. Repeated disruptions, begun suddenly and stretched out over time, can cause the entire mechanism to fail.

The regime’s apparent invincibility is really a network of vulnerabilities

More than six decades old, the Cuban control system is designed to preserve an established status quo. It is not well structured to resist determined masses of people power. It’s slow and creaky, corrupt, fearful of moving without orders from the top, and likely prone to overreacting to unexpected provocations.

Even so, it’s ruthless and deadly. But the growing counterrevolution means it’s no longer invincible.

Nobody knows the Cuban secret police better than the Cuban people themselves, so they will have the best ideas about what to do in every city, town, and neighborhood. They know the names and residences of the local leaders of the Committees in Defense of the Revolution or CDR’s – the Communist Party’s informants, snoops, local keepers of the files, and controllers of the food and healthcare rations.

The informant networks on every block know everything about everyone, which is great for a police state.

But in a situation like Cuba today, the reverse is true. All the people know the CDR presidents and snitches on their block, so they can collectively act against them.

Many CDRs have become decrepit and despised, and have weakened over the years as the population ages and the system has changed. They should be easy for younger Cubans to disrupt and even destroy.

The CDR networks are pyramidally structured. The 130,000 or so CDRs at the block level hold up the narrow pinnacle of the party’s central leadership. They provide the channels for the regime to give and take away from the people.

This is superb for an established dictatorship to maintain the status quo. It suddenly becomes a vulnerability when the creaky regime is divided and the people emboldened.

Start at the grassroots, spread laterally and then upward

The vulnerability lies in the fact that everybody on every block knows who the CDR people are and where they work and live. This means that small numbers of local citizens can overwhelm each individual CDR, cut off their communications, and take control of the food and health rations. Locals thus strip the regime of its power to give and to take away.

People across Cuba can isolate the CDRs laterally from the local instruments of force, and vertically from the central secret police that keeps the regime in power.

That central secret police, a state security apparatus modeled after the old Soviet KGB, depends on the CDRs, the revolutionary police, and the antiquated phone system for day-to-day political control.

The Communist Party’s control of telephones is a strength as long as the people leave the phone lines intact. The regime is already cutting off people’s phones.

People on the ground will know best what to do with traditional phone lines and cell towers, but the idea here is to show that they are easy regime targets to disrupt. Even so, they are vital for the people to communicate with the outside world and with one another.

Since the CDRs form Cuba’s civil defense system, a disabled CDR network won’t be able to mobilize to defend the national telephone line system. So a campaign of cutting the lines will force the police, secret police, and military to waste personnel to defend the phone network, freeing the people to move harder against the regime.

Of course, the dictatorship will defend itself with deadly force. The people can cripple the regime’s ability to project that force by moving laterally in their own neighborhoods and towns.

Overwhelm the instruments of force

It isn’t difficult for crowds to overwhelm the local stations and offices of the Revolutionary Police. Mostly it’s a matter of cutting electric power and telephone lines, shutting off water, and throwing up crude physical barriers to prevent regime forces from entering and leaving the premises. Occasionally the people might overrun a police station for weapons and ammunition for self-defense. Capturing police radios are important for creating an underground communications network.

Cuba’s police and military are mostly conscripts. That means the lower-ranking people in uniform may be more likely to identify with the people, especially if the people provide them a way out. Sometimes an entire unit might defect and join the people, providing knowledge, weapons, material, information, and tactical public relations victories.

As the people blind the regime’s eyes and ears by taking over the CDR networks that feed the Revolutionary Police, they can cut off the hands and feet with homemade caltrops, flipwires, and other improvised devices to halt the Revolutionary Police fleets of trucks, vans, motorcycles, and armored anti-personnel vehicles.

Simple street barricades work wonders. In a country like Cuba where most ordinary citizens have no vehicles, and where the core areas of most cities and towns are laid out in grids, throwing up quick barricades is easy to do with whatever concrete, metal, scrap, regime vehicles, or trees are on hand.

Barricades will slow down, and often immobilize, regime elements from responding to calls or executing orders, providing opportunities for the people to put the vehicles out of commission or commandeer them for proper use.

The problem with organizing anything against an institutionalized police state is that the regime’s CDR informant apparat was responsible for causing generations of citizens to suspect one another, a regime tool to break down trust among family members.

This, too, can be turned on its head. With mass mobilization in the streets against the regime, as people become more confident and courageous, those who refuse to join the resistance will be the ones under suspicion. So many of the reticent will find themselves compelled to join the counterrevolution, especially as momentum builds against the regime.

The changing correlation of forces present the CDRs with another vulnerability. Until now, the CDRs have been in control of the goodies to hand out to obedient proletarians. In today’s counterrevolutionary situation, the people can seize control of the food, medical supplies and facilities, and other crucial elements of life. This not only deprives the regime of another lever of social control, but it allows the people to ensure sustenance of those who support the counterrevolution.

That sustenance is vital. In any civil conflict, even short of civil war, civilians will suffer. The regime must be stripped of its powers to give and take away.

The bottom line: The Cuban regime is no longer invincible. Without depending on the whims and often misguided advice of other countries, Cuban citizens can free their own country with people power.

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