Guilty until Proven Innocent

Danae Suarez

Hotel Colina

Gabriela is 17.  In my opinion, she’s a simple, easy-going youth without a lot of pretenses.  She doesn’t go through life trying to take out advantage of every situation that presents itself; on the contrary, she’s studying electronic technology because she wants to be useful in the future.

However “Gaby,” as her friends call her, committed an error: she sat down in front of the Colina Hotel to wait for her boyfriend at the very moment a foreigner walked by.

The man came up to her to ask her for directions and minutes later a police patrol car pulled up.  Without asking for any explanation, they picked Gaby up and took her down to the station.

“I was caught on camera and they hauled me in,” Gabriela tried to explain to me later on. (It’s necessary to explain that in this area, like others in Havana, there are security cameras that supposedly “control” the situation on the street.)

She spent several hours at the station, where Gaby’s explanations served for nothing.  It didn’t matter that there was no concrete proof of her “guilt.”  Gaby was under arrest – period.

A while later — thanks to her having had her cell phone with her — her mother and boyfriend showed up and the police agreed to release her under one condition:

Hotel Colina

“Bring me six letters from your school, from your Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), and from other places explaining that you’re not a putica (“a little whore”),” an officer told her.

Gaby and her family were so afraid that they didn’t know what else to do.  Since they “didn’t want any problems,” they would get the letters and the case would be closed.

However I was filled with indignation when I heard the story.  I think the abuse meted out against Gaby showed a tremendous lack of respect for her human dignity.

Had I been the victim, I would have formally pressed charges against the official for libel.  Later, though, I remembered I wouldn’t have been aided by our laws because in this country — because to the astonishment of everyone — we’re “guilty until proven innocent.”

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Danae Suarez

Danae Suárez: I’ve always felt responsible for defending values that are eternal but unfortunately have been forgotten in a world that tends more towards the depersonalization of the human being. So what better place than my country to assume the task that each conscious citizen should assume: To work for a better society. I will never forget the famous phrase of Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “What we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But if that drop was not in the ocean, I think the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” I’m therefore committed to ensuring that my drop is not missing.

Danae Suarez has 26 posts and counting. See all posts by Danae Suarez

4 thoughts on “Guilty until Proven Innocent

  • Excellent article!
    An acquaintance of mine was arrested after a tourist asked her for directions. She spent four weeks at the Dragones police HQ in Havana and was only released after she paid 100 convertible pesos, which of course she had to borrow.
    In Western Europe, police officers with such a lack of understanding of gender issues would be sacked. In Cuba these rotten apples rule the streets and harass innocent Cubans.
    I went to a talk by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. A lady from the Federation of Cuban Women when asked about prostitution suggested the Cuban police would help these women. Perhaps the problem is, Cuban women do not have autonomous organisations to defend themselves.

  • John,
    you really have to learn a lot more about Cuba. You are such a misogynist. Are you really saying, it is the job of the Cuban police to think that any Cuban female that has contact with a male tourist is a prostitute. Btw, I have news for you, Cuban or other prostitutes are no criminals. Bent coppers are. Apologists for bent and bigoted coppers are doing the Cuban people a BIG disservice.. That copper should be sacked for gross misconduct.
    Or perhaps you prefer the Iranian revolutionary guards that arrest women they consider to be immoral to run training sessions for the Cuban coppers. After all they already share the same misogynism.

  • One must always remember that in any country that operates under the “civil code”, this sort of thing can, and does, happen. Under the civil code, guilt is presumed, and innocence must be proven, same as the traffic laws in Canada.

  • The Cuban authorities are caught between a rock and a hard place in regards to things like this.

    The anti-Cuban U.S. media is having a field day playing up the prostitution that has arisen around the tourist hotels as poor Cubans try to make some quick money. The U.S. media is using the fact of this rise in prostitution to denigrate the Cuban revolution and I have personally been in debates in which anti-Cubans have said that the government is promoting CHILD prostitution to make money such are the depths to which counter-revolutionaries will go to defame Cuba.
    I would agree that in this instance that the police acted in a manner that is high handed but imagine how many stories they have heard from women whom they have arrested who ARE prostitutes.

    We all know that back in the Batista days when the government worked hand in hand with the U.S Mafia that Cuba was referred to as “America’s (U.S.) Whorehouse” and that prostitution was rife and women degraded for the money they had no other way to earn.

    Cuba cannot go back to that sort of thing and cannot be seen or perceived as going back to that sort of thing.

    Gabriela was in the wrong place at the wrong time and what happened to her was unjust but again, what were the police to think other than what it is their job to think?

    And did they arrest the “customer” as well? If not, why not ?
    I guess we know the answer to that as well.
    It is specifically NOT their job to antagonize the tourists.

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