In all the buses you could hear people talking about the same issue, likewise on any truck or in any food line.
Sancti Spiritus seemed different. The atmosphere was hot, I’d say.
The residents of my small hometown included in their conversations words like “party,” “secretary,” “government” and many more.
As for myself — someone who considers people from Sancti Spiritus Province to be contemplative and calm, with folks more concerned about emigrating than the revolution — I was surprised.
I threw up my hands in amazement when I discovered the newspaper discussing what had happened in town.
Yes, El Escambray (“the official organ of the Provincial Committee of the Communist Party in Sancti Spiritus”) was actually telling us something about what was going on.
Vice President Machado Ventura was calling on party members in the province to break with routine during the provincial assembly of the party, which centered on economic questions.
Local residents had hoped that the country’s president and the head of the party, Raul Castro, would also attend the assembly, but that didn’t happen.
The dissatisfaction could be noted in conversations, since this confirmed the feeling of Sancti Spiritus residents that they live in a city that’s left out in terms of support from the government.
In the assembly, party members discussed the decline in crop yields, advancing the province through tourism and the problems of adulterated milk supplied to the population.
In the street, people laid the blame for all the area’s wrongs squarely on the shoulders of party secretary who had managed Sancti Spiritus for almost eight consecutive years.
Abelardo Alvarez Gil (a member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Party and head of the Department of Politics of Cadre of the Central Committee of the Party, since 1990) said goodbye to Miguel Acebo Cortiñas (the outgoing Sancti Spiritus party chief) but making reference to the “modesty and dedication that characterized his work.”
The people accuse
Refusing to echo any of those words, people accused Alvarez Gil of everything from bad administration during the hurricane to allowing tons of shellfish to go bad in the town of Trinidad.
He was to blame for many families in the town of Casilda ending up in the street without water or shelter for more than a few days.
The fact that they have designated a new secretary is tremendous news. He is a 50-year-old member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC): Jose Ramon Monteagudo Ruiz.
People have already begun to grumble about his Cienfuegos Province origin (the problem is that people from Sancti Spiritus consider those from the neighboring province to be somewhat bigheaded).
But the main point of contention was something else. Comrade Gil himself recognized that the selection, leadership and control of work by party members has been inadequate.
He mentioned that severe disciplinary, policy and administrative measures had already been adopted.
The honey of power
These problems were the reason people from Sancti Spiritus had been practically foaming at the mouth: they’d been robbed blind of who knows how much for who knows how long.
Those responsible were a group of leaders at the first leadership level of the municipalities and the province who had been principally in charge of government activities.
People are still commenting indignantly about how many of them need to wind up in jail.
As can be expected, many residents are assuming postures of uncertainty and suspicion. No one can assure that something like that won’t happen again.
How can we prevent leaders from being tempted by the honey of power?
The revocability of their positions in any moment, short terms of office and periodic reporting to their constituencies would be valid and appropriate mechanisms of accountability and transparency.
But for this, the party elites must stop opting for the vertical appointment of leaders and start adhering to Article 41 of the Regulations on the Local Organizations of the Party. In this way the responsibility for choosing representatives would fall only on the working people of our province.