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
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”
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” –