By Daisy Valera
One of the most popular places for young people to hang out in Havana is around the corner of 23rd and G Street. In addition to it being just off an elegant esplanade, there’s a cafe always packed with university students.
Every weekend this corner is thronging with a lot of youth who spend the late evening hours playing guitars, telling stories, laughing and even dancing to the sounds of just about any type of music (since nobody cares to take charge of structuring that particular alternative).
It would all be a dreamlike world if this were the only thing that happened around the G Street cafe, but that’s not the case.
For some time now, in addition to youth having a good time, the celebrated corner has become a place plagued with police.
It has become a common occurrence for these officers of the law to – for no reason – demand people’s ID cards, enter into arguments with youthful citizens, and on occasions even get into scuffles with them.
The National Revolutionary Police, in my opinion, is tarnishing the banner of socialism in our country. Instead of the armed citizenry being the sole force charged with maintaining order – as it is understood should be the case in our social system – the police are assuming that role, and turning into a body that is repressive in some ways.
Cuba is a country characterized by youth who are basically non-violent and uncontaminated by vice; therefore it doesn’t make sense for all the monitoring to which they are subjected.
The duty of the police should always be to protect people, not harass them.
It’s fine that they see to public order, but to me it’s stepping over the line when police continually demand ID cards for no reason.
On more than one occasion I’ve seen police officers, instead of inspiring respect, showing disrespect to every citizen who asks why they have to show their ID.
But things don’t stop here. While you would expect arguments and fights between citizens who’ve been drinking, on G it’s different: any violence that breaks out is almost always between a police officer and a private citizen, someone who a law enforcer has tried to treat like garbage.
And things are continuing to get ugly. For several months now almost all of the police officers have been deployed in luxurious Audis, out of which they enter the area as if they were the lead actors in some American movie. To make matters worse, now you can frequently see soldiers along with them.
The situation is becoming intolerable, unexplainable because Cuban youth are undoubtedly some of the least violent and most healthy young people in the world.
It makes me wonder what game these supposed defenders of law and order are playing?
If at the beginning of the Revolution the police were the people in arms, as it should be in any socialist country, now it is very far from being like that.
What comes to mind is a game we used to play when I was a little girl: whenever a police officer walked by a group of children, they would come running up and ask, “Mr. Police officer, are you my friend?” Of course the answer was always an affirmation, and we would all go scurrying away happy.
But I imagine that this game has disappeared. If it were a little girl, I would not even get close enough to ask the question, they might demand my ID and haul me off to jail for contempt of authority.