Revolutionary carrots and sticks

By Julio de la Yncera

Harvard professor B. F. Skinner. He experimented with rats with his operant conditioning chamber. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES, Oct. 3 — Reading one of Erasmo Calzadilla’s recent posts about Cuba’s New Foxes I decided to write this commentary.

It is no secret that the Cuban government has harshly punished those people that oppose it; using violence in many cases and long prison terms against many dissenters.  On the other hand they motivate those that support their rule.

One can write two separate list of observations that detail the behavior of the Cuban government with regards to those that support them and another of observations regarding  those that oppose them.

List of enticements for those that are good supporters of the regime:

There are two enticements that are supposedly given to all citizens. 

Access to Education. But education is not for everyone in Cuba, The government openly admits that education is only for the revolutionaries.  

Access to Health care (but access to the best doctors is apparently reserved for those in better governmental positions.)

The possibility to acquire a new home or one confiscated from a family that goes into exiled.

They may have the opportunity to purchase a new car. (See new resolution about car purchasing)

They may be allowed to travel outside Cuba.

They may receive hard currency payments.

They may receive an allowance in food and soap and tooth paste.

List of discouragement to those that criticize, oppose or are considered dissidents

They cannot obtain education at universities.

Health Care is provided but they may not get the same level of care.

If they request permission to visit another country their exit permit may be denied.  Likewise for Cubans living abroad who want to visit their country.

They receive warnings and threats by State Security and family and friends of the victim can also be harassed.

They can lose their employment in the public sector.

They may be banned from participating in cultural activities.

Counter demonstrations can be organized against them.

Media campaigns can be used to try and demoralize them accusing them of being common criminals or selling out to a foreign power.

They may be detained temporarily or given long prison sentences.

Reading both lists reminds me of the experiments in behavioral psychology conducted by Harvard professor B. F. Skinner. He experimented with rats with his Operant conditioning chamber.

We can easily recognize the list of enticements and discouragement as positive and negative reinforcement.

The desired behavior pursued by the elite is:

For people to follow orders by the elite without question.

To not be critical of the elite.

To support the elite no matter what the proposal is.

To become a snitch, reporting on those that do not support the elite.

The discouragement list lead people to hide what they really think about the government.  It motivates a double standard. 

All these observations lead me to raise the following question:  Is the Cuban revolution a Skinner box experiment on a big scale on humans?