CUBANS URGED TO DEFEND THE REVOLUTION
By ANITA SNOW, Associated Press Writer August 5, 2006
HAVANA - With Fidel Castro
still nowhere to be seen, military reservists, retired officers and decommissioned soldiers are under orders to check in daily
at military posts.
Burly men who appear to
be plainclothes security agents are stationed along a stretch of waterfront that saw rare anti-government riots in 1994. There
are more police and army reservists throughout the capital, and dissidents said the military was telling citizens in eastern
provinces that they could use force against those criticizing the government.
Repelling an invasion from
the United States has been a constant
theme in state media since Castro announced Tuesday that he undergoing intestinal surgery and temporarily handing power to
his brother Raul.
But Cuba's efforts appear designed as much to prevent internal
unrest as to defend the communist island from the Yanquis.
"We are defending ourselves
from the whole world, especially from the Americans," 43-year-old electrician Ignacio Gonzalez said as he sat in the entryway
of his dilapidated building in Old Havana. "Even from ourselves."
In Havana neighborhoods, there has been a perceptible increase in the number of officers wearing
the dark-blue uniforms of the National Revolutionary Police.
Unarmed reservists in new
olive-green fatigues — some wearing white tennis shoes instead of black military boots — walk through the narrow
cobblestone streets of Old Havana's tourist district.
Cubans said that their friends
and relatives who are decommissioned or retired military officers are being ordered to report their whereabouts daily and
be reachable at all times.
Civilian Rapid Response
Brigades have been activated at government offices, with each worker assigned a separate task for any military emergency.
Members of neighborhood watch groups called upon to perform extra night patrols.
Area residents say they
believe concerns about possible violence among Cubans prompted the postponement of a sun-baked, beer and rum-soaked annual
carnival that was supposed to open Friday.
And in Cuba's eastern provinces, dissidents said the military was
increasing its presence on the streets.
Eliecer Consuegra Rivas,
33, said that neighbors had told him that government officials had been meeting with neighborhood watch groups and telling
him they had permission to respond with force against anyone criticizing the government.
Two other eastern Cuban
dissidents interviewed by The Associated Press in Miami made
the same charge.
The interviews were arranged
by a Miami-based nonprofit that receives funding from the U.S.
government through the International Republican Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy.
In Havana, carnival bleachers and food booths were disassembled outside the Deauville Hotel,
where rioters smashed windows with rocks and sticks on Aug. 5, 1994 in a rare show of political unrest.
Set off by a string of ferry
boat hijackings by people trying to get to the United States,
angry government supporters clashed with people chanting anti-government slogans.
After Castro said those
Cubans who no longer wanted to live on the island could leave, an estimated 30,000 people set sail for the United States, created a social-service crisis in South Florida.
There appeared to be an
effort this week not to make a show of stepped-up defense efforts along the Malecon seawall where the rioting occurred.
Many of the uniformed police
officers patrolling the seawall in recent days had been replaced Saturday with dozens of men wearing street clothes, several
of them carrying backpacks. It was unclear if the men were undercover officers or civilian militiamen.
In Old Havana's Plaza Vieja
area, a sign erected before Castro's illness wished him well for his 80th birthday on Aug. 13: "Long Live Fidel 80 Years More."
"We have to be ready for
the enemy, in case the Americans try to take advantage of the situation," said Luis Granado, a 46-year-old civilian who oversees
security in the neighborhood. "Anyone who tries to do anything here will be immediately inviting combat."