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    Esbirros (Goons – Thugs)

    Esbirros* / Fernando Damaso
    Posted on September 21, 2013

    A Castro goon harassing a group of Ladies in White holding posters of
    the former political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo who died in prison
    on a hunger strike.

    The word esbirro*, to designate someone who committed acts against human
    dignity, including torture and murder, sheltered by the impunity of
    service to the Government, began to be used in Cuba during the
    dictatorship of General Gerardo Machado, back in the 1930s. In the
    1950s, during the dictatorship of General Fulgencio Batista, it was
    taken up again.

    Duly constituted authorities are one thing, necessary in any social
    system to maintain citizen order and peaceful coexistence, acting in
    accordance with the laws, and it’s another thing to have people (men and
    women) who, sheltered by that same authorities, commit acts against
    people, whether physical, moral or psychological.

    On coming to power in 1959, it was declared that there would be no more
    “esbirros,” and that members of the armed bodies would act respectfully
    towards citizens, as they should. The majority of Cubans applauded this
    declaration. But with the passage of time, certain words and promises
    were forgotten: today, the “profession” is one again practiced.

    Those who exercise it today employ psychological torture and, often,
    “going in with hands and feet,” use physical aggression (what are they
    but the beatings of those who think differently, be they men or women,
    with contusions, broken heads and arms, loss of teeth, etc?). Not to
    mention economic harassment, abuse and humiliations. Numerous events,
    related by the victims themselves, confirm it, as do the numerous images
    captured by cellphones and put on the web. As you see, we have those who
    exercise the profession again, although they promised us it wouldn’t
    happen again.

    When a government has to go to these people to instill fear, it shows
    weakness and the inability to compete in the realm of ideas, although
    they organize and engage in prolonged “battles” for that purpose. In
    addition, whomever practices the profession and is used today, will be
    abandoned to his fate tomorrow, and will have to answer for his acts
    before the justice of a democratic society. Our history is rich in
    examples. It’s hard to know if our current “practitioners,” the active
    esbirros and the esbirros-in-training, have thought about that.

    There are “government esbirros,” who are paid monthly salaries for
    positions in the gang, and the “self-employed esbirros,” who, although
    not paid salaries, receive certain collateral benefits, such as to not
    be interfered with if they practice illegal economic activities,
    protected by the facade of “Revolutionaries,” according to the dogmatic
    content that the authorities give this word.

    These characters, to feel safer, only arrive on the scene by government
    call, making an appearance at times and places they indicate. They
    easily stand out as the most “enraged” among the “enraged people,” the
    official euphemism for the mobs mobilized against those who think
    differently and act accordingly. Among these “enraged,” their activism
    and violence are in direct relation to the amount of “dirty laundry”
    they treasure.

    This profession has always been reason for scorn, even by those who use
    them. It’s a shame to see how young people of both sexes, and people not
    so young, lend themselves to it, erroneously believing they are carrying
    out a patriotic task in defense of the nation. Sadly, it’s a mistake
    that will always weigh on their lives. More than hated, they should be
    pitied, because what they are doing is mortgaging their own futures as
    free citizens in a democratic society.

    By Fernando Dámaso

    *Translator’s note: Esbirro translates variously as goon, thug, henchman.

    From Diario de Cuba

    19 September 2013

    Source: “Esbirros* / Fernando Damaso | Translating Cuba” –

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