By Tania C. Mastrapa, Ph.D., in Babalu Blog:
Cuba's Piñata Party
The Communist leadership in Cuba must sense that the end is near. The proposed economic reforms include the right to buy and sell homes - the Piñata Party has begun. When the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua knew their era was coming to a close they quickly passed a series of laws that granted titles to beneficiaries of confiscated properties and the right to purchase "their" homes «para evitar la zozobra que un desalojo inminente pende sobre ellos» - to avoid the anxiety of the imminent eviction that hangs over them. These regimes pretend to protect the masses while favoring their elites.
The Nicaraguan ruse quickly revealed itself the same way it did in other formerly Communist countries. An estimated 500 officials purchased luxurious homes for a pittance: Minister of Interior Tomás Borge paid $1,800 for several homes, chief of the General Directorate for State Security Lenín Cerna acquired a lavish estate for only $4,800, and Minister of Agriculture Jaime Wheelock doled out to himself a 6,000 acre cattle ranch. Suddenly the Communists became advocates for private property rights - the rights to that which they had previously confiscated. Although over twenty years have passed since the fall of Communism the struggle continues for many former owners.
The Przedpelski family owned their home on 5 Ikara Street in Mokotów until the Polish Communist government nationalized it in 1971, purportedly to turn the property into a school. However, in 1972 Minister of Defense General Wojciech Jaruzelski moved in and never moved out. He purchased the home from the State in 1979 for less than the price of a Polski Fiat 126p. In Poland's Piñata many properties were also "legally purchased" by high-level Communist officials for virtually pennies.
Jaruzelski, like Fidel Castro, hails from a well-to-do family and received an elite Catholic education. As Minister of Defense he was responsible for Poland's participation in the violent 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, purged the military of Jews and their supporters, and in 1970 presided over the bloody suppression of shipyard protests in Gdansk, Gdynia and Szeczin. In 1981 as Prime Minister and First Secretary of the Polish Communist Party Jaruzelski imposed martial law and crushed Solidarity. The Institute of National Remembrance, which houses the country's State security files, took the general to trial for Communist crimes in 2008. A Przedpelski heir said it best, "...this is an oppressor living in the house of his victims."
Communist regimes typically rewarded confiscated homes to those who had proven their Party loyalty and revolutionary zeal. Recipients included, but were not limited to those who: re-educated enemies and homosexuals, executed counterrevolutionaries, beat and tortured dissidents,and engaged in high-level intelligence operations among other glorified activities. Cuban loyalists live in the country's best neighborhoods such as Flores, Kohly and Vedado. They are likely to "legally purchase" the homes they occupy in an attempt to ward off former owners. Regular Cubans will buy homes with money sent from their relatives abroad. The trite machination is intended to secure high-end properties for elites, obfuscate property titles and create an opportunity to disparage former owners on the island and abroad who seek to recover their properties as greedy and irrational.
Enter Stage Left - the exile collaborators. A certain variety of exile was notorious for jumping into bed with the Reds. When State Security files became accessible it was discovered that they had worked closely with the secret police. Exiles secured financial benefits for themselves in exchange for promoting regime "reforms." There can be no doubt that the possibility of opening Cuba's files will be loudly resisted by those who suspect that their collaboration has been recorded in detail. As the Polish saying goes - strike the table and the scissors will answer. The guilty are always the most vocal. The precarious Cuban regime needs exile help more than ever now that a cancer-stricken Hugo Chávez is shriveling. The money sure to pour into the regime's coffers due to exile efforts will compound the difficulties property claimants will face. The lesson to be learned from the experiences of former owners from Communist countries is that claimants must prepare to be relentless in the face of possible failure.
Tania C. Mastrapa specializes in post-Communist property restitution and related issues of transitional regimes. She received her Ph.D. in International Studies from the University of Miami, her M.A.L.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and her B.S. in Marketing from Boston College.
- ► 2013 (555)
- ► 2012 (1158)
08/14 - 08/21
- Repressive Benefits of People-to-People Travel
- Nearly 50 Ladies in White Violently Attacked
- Crushing Dissent in Cuba
- Ros-Lehtinen on State-Sponsor Designation
- Cuba Remains a State-Sponsor of Terrorism
- Obama: It's Time for Assad to Go
- Quote of the Week
- Enough is Enough
- The "Foreign Plots" of Dictators
- Still Searching for Humanitarian Travel
- In My Humble Opinion, Pt. 35
- Castro's Property Piñata
- Cell Phones Change How News is Gathered
- Celebrating Apartheid and Repression in DC
- The Reality of Foreign Travel to Cuba
- Letter From a Cuban Rafter
- Obama's Regs Empower Cuba's Emperor
- Castro's Cosmetic Economic Reforms
- Take Action on Human Rights for Cuba
- ▼ 08/14 - 08/21 (19)
- ► 2010 (1043)
- ► 2009 (933)