Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Cuba Crime Report

A Cuba Crime Report
April 18, 2014
Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES — On the last Saturday of March, an official government
announcement took the habitual listeners of Havana's Radio Reloj radio
program by surprise. It was a petition by authorities asking the public
the help clear up a crime that had taken place in Old Havana two days

The next day, on Sunday, Havana woke up to hear the news that "a
multi-task force of the Ministry of the Interior, working with the
Forensics Institute and thanks to the decisive support of the people,
cleared up the facts and detained the perpetrator in a mere 24 hours."

A 23-year-old man (without a criminal record) had killed three people in
their sleep with a blunt object: a man (43), a woman (64) and a child (10).

It was strange to hear these announcements on Cuban news, as crime
reports disappeared from our newspapers and magazines many years ago. I
don't believe the media should publicize every murder, theft or assault
that happens in the course of a day. Far from giving the media more
transparency, this would give our boring press yet another dose of
monotony. What's more, reporting on such incidents repeatedly would make
them seem less important.

I also do not agree they should be kept from the public. The rising
insecurity of our streets is evident and we have the right to know what
dangers we are exposed to. It should be possible for us to consult
reports published by the National Statistics and Information Bureau
(ONEI) to see what the country's crime indices are (provided the
information is accurate, of course).

Getting past the surprise that the publication of the news caused, I
must say that the note had a completely misguided approach to the
incident. The Ministry of the Interior clarified that the murderer
"maintained close relations" with the victim and went on to stress that
"during interrogations, the perpetrator confessed he was driven by
passion in his actions."

In a male chauvinist and economically stifled society, where honest work
doesn't give people enough to live on, where young people are
increasingly alienated, apathetic and devoid of hope for the future,
such crimes are not uncommon.

In marginal neighborhoods, word-of-mouth news of deaths or serious
injuries resulting from arguments and quarrels are heard every day. I
can't think of a time I've visited Reparto Electrico, a neighborhood on
the outskirts of Havana, without having gotten wind of an assault or
vendetta. One finds the same situation in rough neighborhoods like La
Guinera, Mantilla, Parraga and San Miguel del Padron. Nearly any disco
or place of "entertainment" in Havana can become the site of someone's
violent end.

Not long ago, the images of the corpse of a young woman from Cuba's
province of Artemisa traveled around emails and USB memories. She had
been murdered by her ex-boyfriend – her body hanged from a fence near
the town church. I've known of three such cases in Alamar in less than a
year. One was a teenage girl who was stabbed to death by her boyfriend.
He had hidden the body in a building's water tank. The police made
inquiries around the neighborhood for several days and found the

The last Monday of March, also in Old Havana (at the intersection of
Compostela and Muralla streets, to be more specific), a woman was
murdered by a man. The same Sunday authorities announced the crime of
passion, another man stabbed a woman with a sharp object several times
near a store on Monte street.

The motives are generally always the same: jealousy or spite over being
left, in short, what's referred to as "crimes of passion." However, none
of these tragedies have been reported over the radio or published in
printed or digital newspapers – they're not even officially acknowledged
by the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) in their statistics.

Did they really need to mention such details? Bearing in mind we're not
talking about an episode of a soap opera, I don't think the motive was
important. I don't want to think that the fact a man maintains "close
relations" with another man is an aggravating circumstance for the
Ministry of the Interior.

The emphasis the official note placed on that detail and the concluding
phrase, telling us that "crimes like these will never go unpunished and
perpetrators shall be persecuted with the full force of revolutionary
law," have prompted homophobic and discriminatory statements, and, above
all, have made us think that Cuba's Military Units for Aid in Production
(UMAP), labor camps to which homosexuals were once sent, could come back
at any moment.

The Cuban people, whether we like to admit it or not, do not respect
diversity. It doesn't matter what our educational level or our social
milieu are: most people reject homosexuality and homosexuals suffer from
our intentional or unwitting attitude towards them. It is no secret
that, despite the fact the Cuba's LGBTI community has greater social
visibility, homosexuals continue to be the object of police repression,
social humiliation, mockery and rejection within the family.

What good, then, are our official or alternative campaigns against
homophobia, defending the right to have sex-change operations, launching
health campaigns that insist AIDS is not a "gay disease", securing
certain spaces such as the "tolerance zone" (Mi Cayito beach, the
Fraternidad park in Old Havana, the street across Havana's Capitolio,
and others), struggling with family and friends so they will not judge
people on the basis of their sexual orientation and treat them simply as
human beings?

We've worked so hard and then a simple piece of news associates violence
and crimes of passion with homosexuality, such that people begin to
express all manner of discriminatory things. Those few printed lines
took us back a number of years.

I am waiting anxiously for May 17, International Day against Homophobia,
to arrive. Cuba's National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) will
likely make a statement then. They have said nothing to date.

Source: A Cuba Crime Report - Havana -

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