People’s Power on a Popular Cuban Comedy Show

August 29, 2017 | Print Print |

By Fernando Ravsberg

Vivir del Cuento. Panfilo (l)

HAVANA TIMES — 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.


What's your opinion?

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    If only Panfilo had been a member of the Party.

  • Nick

    If there are those reading this website that assume Cuba to be a totally controlled society where no critique is possible, then this article may be of interest.
    Unlike the image put forward by some of the notable doom and gloom merchants that comment here, there has always been a degree of criticism inherent within the arts and entertainment industry:
    From the great (and international award winning) movie director Tomas Guttierrez Alea to the (well known in Cuba) hilarious TV comedian, Panfilo.
    There is also a great deal of ‘commentary’ in literature, music and other art forms.
    Satire is certainly not as widespread as it is in many other countries but there are those that would like to portray Cuba as a place where zero critique is possible like North Korea (very bad dudes) or Saudi Arabia (bit weird, but fine coz they buy lots of weapons).

    That’s not actually the case with Cuba.

    I seem to recall President Obama making a very well received reference to Panfilo when he made his famous visit?

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      Critique by Panfilo yes, criticism of the regime by the citizenry – jail.
      Obama’s actual participation in the comedy (yes I saw it) can only serve as an additional protection for Panfilo.
      But I accept that Norh Korea an amigo to whom Cuba supplied weapons and Saudi Arabia to which Cuba is cosying up (wonder if its the money?) are suitable for comparison with Cuba Nick, also being dictatorships. Quite a club!

  • bjmack

    Good one, Fernando, watched a few clips of these two guys, brilliant! Gracias

  • Greg Klave

    Sounds like a spoof of the US Congress via Mr. Smith goes to Washington or Dennis Kusinich who was drummed out of politics by the Obama/Cliton neoliberal rulers. I’m with Nick. Panfilo can do that on Cuban TV but he wouldn’t stand a chance head to head with any Assembly or Municipal representative. If he believes what he acts than he should stand up and be counted. This was drama for comedy sake and TV audience and Cubans can poke fun at each other and do. somebody trying to bring in democratic socialist party tactics is only kidding themselves. It is an attempt to bring money into politics and we know where that takes you in the US. Total war against the world and working class and total corruption.

  • Moses Patterson

    “Court jester” humor is entertainment. It is no substitute for the right of free speech right to publicly oppose the Cuban government and individual government leaders.

    • Ken Hiebert

      While I must accept the point made by Moses and Carlyle that there is a real difference between this being said by a citizen in a meeting hall or in the street and it being said on a comedy show, I also wonder why it is being said on a TV comedy.
      Why is the government allowing such a harsh criticism? To “let off steam?” To arouse hope of reform within the system? To change the behaviour of bureaucrats?
      Whatever the motivation, one effect will be to let individuals know that their criticisms are widely shared.

      • Moses Patterson

        To let off steam is the correct answer.

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        Good point Ken.