Sunday, April 12, 2009


Since January 1st, 1959 and for the past 50 years Cuba has had the longest lasting totalitarian regime in the history of the 20th century. Whereas the revolution came to power with the ideal of liberty and to rid the nation from tyranny, within months the revolutionaries turned into censors and jailers. By April of 1961, Fidel Castro had turn Cuba into a totalitarian state with socialized access to health care and education and egalitarianism but accompanied with the systematic repression of dissidents, cancellation of all civil liberties such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to organize political parties, freedom to travel and invest. The two main elements of a totalitarian state were therefore born: propaganda and repression.

Graphic Images and icons that represent totalitarianism in Cuba.

The Committees for the Defense of the Revolution with a message to stop "counterrevolutionary" rumours or bolas. The CDR is an unpopular organization among Cubans as they are the ones in charge of daily snitching, including checking background identifications for all those leaving the country or even for revolutionaries going abroad to an internationalist mission. It says: "rumor is provocation."

Political Advertisement from the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). It says: "Your duty is to maintain every blcok clean."

In violation of Article 13 of the Declaration of Human Rights which grants all citizens the right to free travel, the Cuban government imposes permissions to tis own citizens (reglardless of whether they were granted a visa abroad or not) through bureaucratic 'forms' like this one. A totalitarian mechanism for the state to control citizens as if they were slaves.

The third form shows how the Cuban regime has denied "permission" to leave the country on two occasions the Cuban blogger Yoanis Sanchez. This form is evidence of such official prohibition.

ALMEST a subsidiary of the Armed Forces of Cuba (FAR) ordering the eviction of a Cuban family. According the official discourse of the Cuban government the revolution did not "evict" any of its citizens. Here there is evidence that points otherwise.

This reads: "Fidel truly carries forward Christ's principles. Save us Fidel from the false priests..."

"We will be like Che/Seremos como el Che" It is the slogan pioneers in Cuba shout every day from kindergarten to 9th grade. He is praised by many around the world, but not all those who wear his picture in their T-shirt know who he really was. do you really want to be like Che? Lets history speak for itself: Here is a look at the victims

Each student in Cuba from the first grade to university carries a 'File/Expediente Acumulativo Escolar' in which school officials write about the students's acacemic performance but most significantly about ideological integration, participation in political activities, and all "qualities" related to militants. If information in this file is not satisfactory from the ideological stand point then the student is rejected acceptance at the university or college. A student can be scholarly ahead but if is not fully integrated into the system, then it is not accepted into university. In Cuba the educational system is conditioned on loyalty to the state and ideological conformity. The resulting product of the educational system is a not a student who think on his/her own, but one trained in the art of double morale, critical for surviving in Cuba.

This is a notification for every pioneer watch over his/her neighborhood every April, 4th on the anniversary of the establishment of the Pioneer's Union. Even pioneers follow on the footsteps of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR's)

Fidel Castro included in Eastern European and Asian posters linking his regime with the socialist camp.

Betwen 1965 and the 1970s the province of Camaguey acquired a draconian significance tens of thousands of Cubans were sent there to work in agriculture and compensate for the demographic imbalance. It is in this province where most of the infamous UMAP camps (forced labor camps) were established between 1965 and 1968. This poster is from 1971 and was designed by Rene Mederos.

Cuban Posters on Internatinal Themes

The newspaper '
Granma' Official Organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. In Cuba all mediums of communication belong to the state and the Communist Party. The press in a totalitarian society such as Cuba is not a means to inform nor criticize those in power, but an instrument of the state to justify its actions. Apology and triumphalism has characterized Granma since it was first published in October of 1965. An edited version of Cuba rather than helping the nation identify its true problems free from dogmatism and censorship disinform the people and does not allow Cubans to become aware of their own nation. Without criticism there is no progress.

The black market is an essential part of a totalitarian society such as Cuba where the state controls all the means of production and the economy. In Cuba everything is sold through complex networks that operate through the black market. Corruption is so wide spread that even the PNR (Revolutionary National Police) takes part.

This is the business card from an "illegal" peddler by the name of Andy. He is close to being 40 years of age and belongs to a generation of Cubans that in the midst of poverty and lack of opportunities do anything to survive, considering that in Cuba all forms of entrepreneurship by native Cubans are forbidden and negatively depicted in the official press. Andy purchased his own apartment (even when Cubans are now allowed to do so). He took advantage of legal loopholes in the old 'Ley de la Vivienda'/Housing Law' was in place. He offers merchandise from the state stores, he rents movies, and soap operas which he records from his clandestine satellite system hidden inside a water tank. He is a well rounded businessman,who either sales mattresses, toasters, living rooms and air conditioned or fulfills demands from customers who want action films with lots of sex and little politics. He warns that he only provide what the state does not offer or sales at high prices.

This card was handed by Andy to Yoanis Sanchez outside a store in Havana.

Cuba's educational system is closely link to indoctrination or political socialization. These cards evaluate primary and secondary schools for their participation in ideological activities and the fulfillment of 'emulation/la emulacion' meaning a form of socialist competition in which the winner is the most faithful follower of state directives.

Cartoons had been an instrument for propaganda in Cuba since the inception of the current regime. The examples are various.

Here I include pictures from Pedrito El Policia/Peter the Policeman. This was a cartoon from Hungary during the socialist period. The role model is Peter a policeman who is surrounded by TV sets. In the cartoon Peter kept a vigilant eye on everything that happened. When he spotted "trouble" he got there to solve it with its loyal dog. In each cartoon there was a kid who admired Pedrito and his police effectiveness. Trough Pedrito the infalible policeman he purpose was to inspire children to work for the police and particularly the state security

Guaso y Carburo was made in Cuba in the 1980s. In the cartoon the counter-revolutionaries were represented by two rats interested in destroying the Pioneer's garden. Then the two loyal dogs (named Guaso and Carburo, the loyal revolutionaries) mobilized to catch the counterrevolutionaries and threw them in prison. Enemies of the state are demonized as "lousy rats/ratas inmundas." Intolerant values were inculcated in children who were taught to hate those who were different and considered "enemies of the state."

After 2005 came 'Casos y Cosas del Cabo Cason'/Things from Cape Cason. The idea was to ridicule James Cason the Chief of the US Interest Section in Cuba. Each cartoon lasted for a few minutes. It presented the Cuban people with the official government version of what the island would be like in a democracy. By using Cuban style humor and satire the cartoon appealed to the people, particularly the younger generations. There were 9 episodes made of this Cartoon: 1- The Vaccine; 2- Human Rights; 3- Social Security; 4- Literacy; 5- Ghost Television; 6- Elections; 7- Housing; 8- Agriculture; 9- Peasantry.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Throughout the first decades of the twentieth century Latin America entered in a period called 'populism.' By this term history refers to a form of government particular to a specific time. Populists were those rulers who relied on a newly formed constituency of enfranchised workers to conquer political power. Populist’s politicians in Latin America throughout the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s were dictators, nationalists, fascists or military men in charge. As a style of rulership, politicians used the recently created radio to advertise their message and appealed to the common people for support.

Among the most iconic populists Latin American rulers of the time was was President Getulio Vargas of Brazil who ruled between 1930 and 1945 and later between 1951 and 1954. He conquered political power based on the support of the 'Integralists' an organization composed significantly by pro fascists who adapted the symbols of Nazism to the nationalist realities of Brazil, without the racial discrimination that characterized Nazi Germany. Vargas presided a quasi dictatorial state called the 'Estado Novo'because it shifted the balance of power from the countryside to the cities, from the coffee dominated Brazil to the urban industrial areas.

The Vargas regime had some benefits to the workers, but it came accompanied by a strong authoritarianism on behalf of the state with prohibition of independent unions and a very strong hand against opposition. Massive rallies, anticommunism, religion, nationalism, the use of systematic propaganda and indoctrination characterized the Vargas government.

Images from the Frente Integralista Brasileira or Integralist Front during the first government of Getulio Vargas' era in Brazil between 1930-1945:

The letter Sigma from the Greek Alphabet was used as a symbol in the Integralists' uniforms, and adaptatin of the Nazi Swastica.

Indoctrination of Children in Getulio Vargas' Brazil.

Brazilian native girls salute the Brazilian flag. Nationalism and cultural integration was part of the ideology of Integralism and the Estado Novo.

Women in the Integralist Movement.

Control over fashion is part of any form of totalitarianism. Here is a depiction of the authorized forms of clothes for the 'Integralist' women.

The native in the poster is a metaphoric representation of Brazil. The hand that stops communism is the green arm of the Integralist Front and the knife depicts communist treason as there were elements from the left who had also being part of the integralist movement before it divided in two factions.

The Fascist Aesthetic. Benito Mussolini saluting his followers in Naples. 1934

An imitation of the Fascist Aesthetic in Brazil. Plinio Salgado the Integralist leader saluting his followers in the city of Blumenau. 1935

Miguel Reale, one of the integralist leaders in a Mussolini like pose and with a similar fascist uniform.

A military parade with Plinio Salgado the leader of Integralists. People salute them as the y pass by, a reminder of Fascism in the 1930s

Integralists and the People in a massive rally.

God, fatherland and family. Religious nationalism was part of the propaganda presented by Integralists.

A religious images that attempts to relate Jesus Christ to Integralist nationalism. The legend that goes with it says "The Estado Novo is essentially a state inspired in Christ."

Integralists with Brazilian President Getulio Vargas.

Integralists on their way to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War

Graphic Sources:
1-Revista Brasileira de Historia. Vol. 24. No. 50. Sao Paulo. July/Dec, 2005
2- Frente Integralista Brasileira