HAVANA TIMES — Express Detentions (ED) are one of the instruments of repression that the government currently uses against the most active political opponents. They’ll lock you up, put you in jail for a few days, and then let you go without any explanation or document to reflect the time you’ve spent behind bars.
ED has become famous because groups that openly confront the government usually enjoy high visibility in the international media. However, this method has existed for many years, it’s only that previously the name hadn’t become so chic.
Conventional wisdom had christened it with the word “loading” (e.g. “Yesterday they loaded up so-and-so”), perhaps because EDs seem more like the transfer of parcels rather than the arrest and detention of citizens with full rights.
Early in the night a truck full of police will park near the avenues where the night life of the city unfolds. After a while, the agents begin dispersing themselves along the busiest streets and, becoming bored, they’ll start asking to see people’s IDs and rummaging through the bags of those passersby who fit the profile of a criminal (which included transvestites).
Then, with the appearance of any “suspicious” detail (an ID in poor condition, someone having a criminal record, the “citizen” being unable to explain why they’re so far from home, or sometimes without any reason) they’ll “load” you into the truck and then take you off to the station.
I’m certain that EDs aren’t conducted with the purpose of maintaining the order. I think their objective is political.
From my point of view they’re seeking to perpetuate among Cubans that infantile sensation of fear, vulnerability and a lack of basic rights.
The proof is that these operations are carried out on the busiest and most well lit streets (where there’s also functioning a camera system), not in the most dangerous or troublesome areas.
For me, this is an outdoor show, a demonstration of force for the “enjoyment” of all.
In “Part Two” I’ll talk about my first express detention back in 1994.