“El periódico ha de estar siempre como los correos antiguos, con el caballo enjaezado, la fusta en la mano y la espuela en el tacón.  Debe desobedecer los apetitos del bien personal y atender imparcialmente al bien público”.
José Martí

People’s Power on a Popular Cuban Comedy Show


The comedy show on Cuban TV “Vivir del cuento” dived right into poking fun at the National Assembly of People’s Power bureaucratic faults. This is the government system that goes from neighborhood representatives to the 600+ lawmakers in Cuba’s Parliament.

The pensioner, Panfilo, the show’s protagonist, is named the People’s Power representative for his neighborhood but he is warned about how he should act so as to avoid conflict. He must never say that neighbors have problems just that “they are making points” and he shouldn’t promise solutions but “make arrangements.”

They explain to him that there are very useful phrases to help calm down his voters without having to get involved, such as “we are working on it” or “this point has already been taken up to a higher level.”

The show was a copy of an accountability meeting, the kind that takes place in every neighborhood.

However, after his appointment, Panfilo Epifanio gets right into solving his neighbors’ everyday problems: the quality of bread, the sale of building materials, creating a play area, lowering food prices at the agro-market, etc.

On his stroll through the neighborhood, the comedy show shows the corruption that exists in every commercial apparatus that surrounds ordinary Cubans, as well as the foolish explanations managers and directors give so that they can continue to steal from people and the State.

The success of Panfilo’s term as representative improves the quality of life of his neighbors and people applaud him for it. However, it creates a lot of uneasiness in the People’s Power’s chain of command because he is acting directly, without using the “corresponding channels” or waiting for “the right time.”

In spite of having his neighbors’ support who praise him for having solved the age-old problems that used to affect the neighborhood, he ends up being dismissed by the People’s Power leaders, who reinstate the former delegate to this post, the one who “takes up points”, even though this never fixes anything.

It really was an X-ray of how the People’s Power works at a grassroots level, of its faults, of bureaucratization, of sayings that don’t do anything and of the relegation of natural leaders in favor of more obedient ones.

Translation: Havana Times

About Fernando Ravsberg

Nacido en Uruguay, corresponsal de Público en Cuba y profesor del post grado de “Información internacional y países del Sur” de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Fue periodista de BBC Mundo, Telemundo de EEUU, Radio Nacional de Suecia y TV Azteca de México. Autor de 3 libros, El Rompecabezas Cubano, Reportajes de Guerra y Retratos.


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