Besieged (Not Only by Water)

The young man implored me not to disclose his name. He is scared. He believes that the Political Police has almost godlike powers. When he was interrogated, he realized that they knew his life in detail since the time he went to Primary School; they were even familiar with all his illnesses, his tastes and his phobias, they knew the names of his closest friends and had an extensive list of other intimate details.

This experience has taught him to speak in a hardly audible voice and look around all the time, as if he were haunted by an army of ghosts. He wonders how many people have been involved in revealing the facts of his life, which he himself calls a “wretched existence”. He is suspicious of everybody – even his closest relatives are on the list of potential informers. “We are besieged, and not just by water,” he says, struggling with fear and doubt at the same time. You can’t trust anybody. In his paranoia, he believes that he saw a small microphone attached to the light pole less than two meters above our heads where we stopped to talk.

by CubaRaw
by CubaRaw

It’s night time. We arranged our meeting a few days ago. Only then I learned the details, but that was of no surprise to me – it’s part of the scenario constructed by the regime, which has been brought to perfection to ensure its absolute power. According to estimates based on well-founded analyses, there could be around one hundred thousand secret agents, excluding collaborators. The services they provide strongly resemble those of the secret network known as Stasi, which was founded in 1950 in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Eric Honecker wouldn’t have been able to govern like a sultan up until the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 without the skills and unscrupulousness of the two successive heads of the German Ministry of State Security, Wilhelm Zaisser and Erich Mielke.

Partial disclosure of the contents of the files on the GDR side of the Iron Curtain far exceeded all expectations. They revealed a record number of informers in that period, apart from indiscriminate employment of methods and practices that caused irreparable damage to thousands of Germans.

Under the pressure of blackmailing, many citizens turned informants and were trapped in a chain of complicity, which was the perfect breeding ground for proliferation of suicidal behaviour and increase of homelessness due to lack of job security (as a consequence of ideological unsuitability). It was also common to lock people in mental hospitals on falsified medical reports unless they were driven crazy by psychological torture sessions.

My conversation partner wasn’t willing to listen to these historical facts, despite I was imparting them in a quiet voice. Quite suddenly and uncontrollably, he decided to leave. I’m afraid that his fears could drive him crazy or make him become informer in exchange for gaining a certain degree of freedom. He works on his own, without a license, and he told me that during the interrogation he was subjected to he was threatened that he could be taken to court.

He begged me to be as confident as possible if I wanted to write something on this matter. Our meeting was short. He left like a fireball, distrustful even of his own shadow.

Jorge Olivera Castillo

Olivera Castillo is a former political prisoner. He published number of books. He lives in the old part of Havana.