These are the women in charge of the Black Berets, the elite corps of the Cuban FAR

Political Commissar Idania Atala Noriega along with the leader of the communist youth, Aylín García Álvarez, are the key members of this force specialized in repression.

Trotsky created the figure of the political commissar in the Red Army during the Russian civil war of 1917, and it was professionalized during World War II. The revolutionary leader did not trust the Soviet armed forces of the time, which needed non-Bolshevik officers (Mensheviks and aristocrats) to function, and decided to place in the combat groups agents who controlled the military work of the officers and ensured the revolutionary training of the troops. Fidel and Raúl Castro copied to the letter the Soviet model for the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR).

In the Soviet Union of 1942 and in today's communist Cuba the political commissar is a military officer of officer rank whose actual position is equivalent to that of a unit commander and with the power to revoke the latter's orders. In the Black Berets, the elite forces of the FAR and the last resort of the Cuban communist dictatorship to repress the population and remain in power, this position is held by Lieutenant Colonel Idania Atala Noriega.

Very little is known about Idania Atala, lieutenant colonel and head of the Political Organism of the National Special Brigade (BEN, the Black Berets). Only a couple of references in official Cuban media to her speech in support of the BEN and the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, Army Corps General Alvaro Lopez Miera, after the sanctions imposed on them by the U.S. government for the harsh repression against the Cuban people who revolted on July 11, 2021.

"Nothing could be more ill-advised than to penalize the Minister of FAR and the members of our worthy brigade," Atala said on July 23 of that year before the troops dressed in black and wearing their berets. The lieutenant colonel ended her speech by assuring that the Cuban people were grateful for the presence of 'los gallos' (the symbol of the Black Berets is a rooster) for returning tranquility to the people. "With our foot in the stirrup, with mambisa and guerrilla blood, we responded to the homeland," she exclaimed.

On social media, her obsession with anonymity is atypical to say the least. With the few people with whom she communicates, she insists on always talking through other channels. Her profile picture is an emoticon with a caption: "What an enormous virtue it is to know how to be quiet. I do it occasionally." One of her rare conversations online is with a person very close to her, Onelia Danger Oliveros, and it was rather short: "Madrecita contigo tengo que hablar x otra vía" (Little mother, I have to talk to you in another way).

Voz Media has learned that the BEN's political commissar has a sister, Teresa, who currently resides in Mexico, like many Cubans, both supporters and disaffected. On Teresita Atala Noriega's Facebook account, there is a photo where she can be seen in the middle of a group of people wearing a blue dress, which she uploaded on her sister Idania's birthday. In the comments, a friend of the family congratulates Lieutenant Colonel Idania: "Idanita, happy birthday," said Mayrelis Figueroa. Is she perhaps referring to the woman posing on the left of the image? Is this woman the political commissar of the Black Berets? It is impossible to confirm because there is no public photo of Idania Atala Noriega.

Family photo of Teresa's birthday
Screenshot of Teresa Atala Noriega Facebook

Idania Atala can revoke any field order given by an officer, even if he is higher in the military ranks than she is. But there is another woman who does not belong to the Black Berets and yet she exerts an enormous influence on this troop. She attends numerous public events for the brigade and her opinions are always taken into account. That is Aylín Álvarez García, first secretary of the National Committee of the Young Communist League (UJC), member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and of the Council of State.

"Her moral and political authority over the Black Berets is indisputable. Aylín will never interfere in the military operations of the brigade, nor in the work of an officer like Idania Atala, but as head of the communist youth she is the one who supervises the ideological formation of the young people and, therefore, of those who become part of the brigade. Sources close to the Cuban Army explained to Voz Media, "she ultimately decides who is a good communist and who is not." And only good communists can become Black Berets.

On the left, a woman who could be Idania Atala Noriega. In the center, Aylín Álvarez.
On the left is a woman who could be Idania Atala Noriega. In the center is Aylín Álvarez / Voz Media

Born in Caimito 36 years ago, daughter of Rubén Pablo Álvarez, a retired FAR officer and PCC militant, Aylín Álvarez joined the local party organization at the age of 14, where she began working with disabled children and those with behavioral disorders. An art instructor by profession, her commitment and dedication to the communist cause made her rise quickly. Not even her role as a mother could keep her away from her political work for long. She traveled around Cuba to meet with youth groups in person and through social media. Surprisingly, in April 2021 she was appointed member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party when she was still second secretary of the National Committee of the UJC, in addition to being part of the State Council.

A decisive role in ending a historic rebellion

A few months later, an unusual event occurred in the history of communist Cuba: the great revolt of July 11, 2021, which began in the town of San Antonio de los Baños, near Havana, where the country's main air base is located. It is also the place where Aylín Álvarez studied and graduated, where she served as second secretary of the UJC and where she was on that July 11. "The protest caught the military at the air base by surprise, many of them with strong family and friendship ties to the citizens protesting in the streets. They did not want to intervene. It was not stopped in time and became unstoppable; it was all over social media, reached Havana and from there to the whole country," sources on the island explained to Voz Media. 

"Aylín Álvarez García was one of the people who played the most active role in putting down the revolt in San Antonio de los Baños. Her good relations in the Party and her ascendancy over the Black Berets achieved the rapid deployment of this troop and put an end to the protests in the streets," the same sources emphasized. Those events cost Diosvany Acosta Abrahante the position of first secretary of the Young Communist League and led to the appointment of Alvarez Garcia as first secretary. On August 4, 2021, President Díaz-Canel congratulated her and was photographed with the new leader of the Cuban Communist Youth.

"The girl who has just taken over as the first secretary of the Young Communist League is a sensitive art instructor, mother of two children and a very successful youth leader. This young and devoted woman is an example of our youth," Díaz-Canel posted that day on his social media accounts. The only thing known about the Diosvany Acosta Abrahante is what the official statement said: "His work results were recognized and he will go on to perform other tasks assigned by the Party leadership."