Before Fidel: The Cuba I Remember

By Francisco José Moreno | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER FOUR

The presidency of Carlos Prío Socarrás suffered all the ills of the previous Auténtico administration without retaining the few safeguards that had prevented the country from plunging into total chaos between 1944 and 1948. Now as the 1940s were approaching their end, Cuba seemed more like a large raft adrift at sea than a securely anchored piece of land, and there was no sense of political measure or proportion that anyone could discern. Street shootings increased in frequency and intensity, and official corruption reached heights never experienced before; the more outlandish and bizarre the act, the more likely it was to be committed. Politicians no longer bothered to go through the motions of disguising their actions, like the minister of the treasury who brought a truck around to pilfer the public vaults and who, without any bureaucratic circumvention or legal smoke screen, just took the cash home; or the mayor of Havana who carted away the City Hall furniture after running out of things to steal; or the ordinary policemen who supplemented their salaries by hitting on every merchant in the neighborhood for goods or cash or both. The president himself was believed to be on drugs because there was no rational explanation for his behavior and for his apparent total lack of control.

The few public figures who voiced outrage got nowhere in an atmosphere saturated with cynicism and apathy. Even the traditional guardians of public honor and idealism, university students, had fallen prey to thievery and assassination. The island resembled an asylum for the criminally insane where the inmates were free to go about as they pleased, while an orchestra played their trumpets and their maracas and their drums in a deafening raucousness of uncoordinated sounds that seemed to bother no one as it conjured an air of hysterical ebullience and glee.

-50-

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