Mashenka’s Eyes

Irina Echarry

Havana domino game. Photo: Michael Roy

Previously it was the name of a Russian cartoon for children, but now the tender Mashenka (which has been set up to observe everything) has been transformed only into eyes and has acquired the gift of ubiquitousness.

Many of us in the capital have gotten ahold (through flash drives) of a video from a camera placed in front of the bus stop at the intersection of Jesús Peregrino and Belascoain streets; at this site is one of Mashenka’s eyes.

The video is not new, it’s more than a year old, but it could have been filmed yesterday.  These recordings are passed from hand to hand after being recorded on cameras that are constantly set up in different points of Havana.

Some more current than others allow one to discover two things: the first and most insulting is the violence committed by police against women and men all ages, and the second is that whoever decided to steal the recording seeks to dencounce such violence.

The video in question shows a group of guys sitting around drinking on the bench at the bus stop.  There are men without shirts on but who are carrying backpacks (I’m providing this information because on occasion the looks of police veer toward such points and at anyone who walks around carrying anything; the police typically will then stop them to check through what they have).

In the video, suddenly the camera zoom captures two women kissing and the seated men laughing at the pair.  Other pedestrians, sunk in the vortex of daily routines, don’t seem to notice the goings on.  Only Mashenka sees it and informs us that the police have been called in to immediately take care of the situation.

Filmed in real time, things get a little monotonous because it’s slow and there’s no audio.  However, we finally see the police show up and, after returning the ID cards to all those who were in the group, they only take away the two women.

One’s blood begins to boil

The law officers are able to talk one of the women into getting inside the police cruiser, but the other has to be “convinced” by force.  You then see five uniformed men pushing, pulling hair and generally abusing that one woman.  Eventually they’re able to get her in the car and they all leave.

The images are interrupted several times by traffic, like a P-6 bus that prevents us from seeing some of the details of the young woman’s entry into the car.

Those who up until that moment had been sharing the bottle of rum didn’t move; they didn’t open their mouths, not a word.  Their inaction in the face of violence was disgraceful.  But what was more shameful was that the acts of violence were committed by the very ones who are supposed to thwart them.  The aggressiveness was unnecessary.

I’m not a person to make judgments about things I don’t know about, but the video ignited rage in me, and I don’t feel that very often.  For that reason I need to speak out against the attitudes and actions of those who (we imagine) are supposed to protect us.

If anything good came from this, it’s that Machenka not only aims to see from above but it also looks within, and that there are people interested in revealing what it witnesses.

Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.

18 thoughts on “Mashenka’s Eyes

  • ‘So Luis you think you can learn nothing from the experience of Cuba?’
    ‘Do you wish for your country something like that?’
    ‘(..) do you think I do not have the same rights that you do just because I do not think like you?’

    Now you are putting words in my mouth and thoughts in my mind. Great. Just great.

    I said I was sorry to you but now I regret those words.
    It’s useless to even try to discuss anything with you.

  • So Luis you think you can learn nothing from the experience of Cuba?

    I hope if not you maybe others of your compatriots can. I know that many Cubans that supported the Cuban revolution from the beginning now are repenting. I do understand them since they never got what was promise!

    And when they try to change things was already to late. Some one in Cuba had grown so enamored with the Honey of Power that will do anything necessary to try to keep things that way.

    Do you wish for your country something like that?
    But no matter.
    Democracy will return to Cuba eventually that day is coming closer and closer.
    One day Cuba will not be anymore the personal property of a family clan.
    It will be the day when the streets of Cuba will be for Cubans nothing else and nothing more!

    On the other hand Luis I think you do have the right to express what you feel and what you think so tell me do you think I do not have the same rights that you do just because I do not think like you?

  • I’m sorry Julio, but you are making matters worse:

    “While the topic here is Cuba I also care for your dear Brazil I hope you guys will not do the same mistakes we Cubans did.”

    This kind of ‘good intentions’ was the ideological backup of the forces that provoked the 1964 coup d’état in my country, and many others on Latin America – with support from the Democracy Champions©, I must add. Including the last year’s coup in Honduras, only with Venezuela instead of Cuba playing the ‘Great Satan’.

  • Gee Yordanka, thanks. Sometimes I just ‘cross the line’… I’m a bit like Alfredo – 😉

    Sorry in advance Julio, I just got a little pissed off.

  • Thank Yordanka!
    Luis is not my intention and that you have to believe because I have no other way to proof to you. To insult your intelligence.
    It’s natural for all rational humans to draw inferences and to see patterns, we can see patterns even on the clouds in the sky why not on the earthly things that concern you and me?
    I do care for my brothers and sisters back in Cuba and that is why I am here and in many other places as far as I can. I do it because I did not have the voice when I was there and nobody was at least openly expressing the same things I was thinking but was afraid to utter. So I do it for those that wish to do it and are afraid or that do not have the means back in Cuba. I am just one voice but you can believe there is many that think like me back in Cuba. My thoughts are not to distant from those of many of the posters here at Havana times.
    I will love to see the people of Cuba to be able to have a real democracy that represent them and not a regime that fakes representing them when in reality they are representing their own selves interests.

    While the topic here is Cuba I also care for your dear Brazil I hope you guys will not do the same mistakes we Cubans did. Most politicians lie to the people until they get full power. Once they do is hard for them to let go of that power. That’s what Fidel Castro himself has called the honey of power .

    We need to have our eyes open because there are many of the kind. Left and Right. Greed for power knows not boundary. I hope you agree with me on that.

  • dear Luiz enrique, why are so ofensive? why are you so insencible? , love for you, because you need it so much.

  • Julio,

    Yes, Lula comes from the left, but why should it matter? What “pattern” do you see? I’ll repeat – this is small potatoes. It’s your Orwellian cliches that are insulting my intelligence.

  • Luis, pardon my ignorance
    Is not Lula the president of Brazil a leftist?

    So it seems to me we are seen a common pattern here!
    While Brazil is very far from been a totalitarian state like Cuba we can see something in common.

    Luis, Where did I treat you as stupid?
    Those images we are now seen from the Cuban surveillance cameras serve probably now for a purpose that they were not intended. We all can see the police abuse and brutality perpetrated against Cuban citizens. It is wonderful that some good soul decided to risked and made them public! This are the kind of things that the people should know. So that they can demand from the government change.

    Does this happen in other countries? Yes, it does and each country should do the same we do. We need to bring the unacceptable behavior to light so everyone can help change it. Because this is not acceptable behavior by those that are supposed to uphold the law.

    Now becoming a surveillance state and a police state like Cuba and specially Havana are clear indications of the dislike of the people of a great majority for the current system in Cuba.
    Ask this people that write articles at Havana times and see if they can get statistics about how many policemen for example belong to the provinces specially from the Eastern part of Cuba and if they can explain why this is so? Why people from Havana do not want to be policemen?

  • Julio,

    You talk as if surveillance cameras and police forces only exist in Cuba.
    Please, don’t treat us as if we were stupid.

    And yes, the video is from the ‘free and democratic and respectful of human-rights’ Brazil. My beloved country. Where even buses are watched by surveillance cameras.

    But that’s not *that* bad, I suspect that we are all freer from Big Brother’s eyes than her Majesty’s subjects:

  • and if a country is truly socialist and democratic, what need is there, really, for surveillance cameras everywhere..?

    Grok I think the reason for surveillance is the same as for having a strong state security and police force.
    Those in power in Cuba are in power by force and not by the will of the people.
    They have been imposing their ideas into everyone else. Those that do not want to submit to their ideas are repressed, place in prison or exiled.

    That is the explanation for the Strong police force and the Security apparatus.

    Luis I will take a look again, you could be right! Is that in Brazil? I had the impression they were speaking portuguese.

  • Julio,

    Couldn’t you see the police officers *making* the kids dance to satisfy their own sadistic pleasure? “Where’s the smile?” says one of the grunts. Couldn’t you see the abuse of power, the humiliation?

    And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, I’ll tell you.

  • Wow, surveillance cameras in Havana.
    I thought that this were only necessary in big capitalist countries where crime, violence, drugs, prostitution and terrorism fills the newspapers pages.
    Since none of these capitalist vices are present in Havana, or at least we do not see them reported in the press, it seems to be that these cameras are an unnecessary expenditure for a country with more pressing needs.

  • Police are never a force for democracy anywhere — and, unfortunately, this includes all ‘actually-existing socialist countries’ most especially: the exact opposite of what is supposed to be. The stealing of the surveillance video, OTOH, was an act of democratic intent — and such acts should be encouraged to continue, as long as official state abuse continues (and if a country is truly socialist and democratic, what need is there, really, for surveillance cameras everywhere..?)

  • Luis I did not understand your comment and video maybe you place the wrong video link
    The video I am seen is of some kids dancing (Maybe from Brazil?) is that the video you wanted to post?

  • That’s small potatoes.

    Here’s an example when police harassment truly reveals its ugly face:

    And to make matters worse, you can see some ‘brilliant’ commentators saying those kids ‘deserved’ it.

  • To the editor
    Maybe you may want to grab the two url links or even include the other url that shows what Irina is talking about and insert them in the post so people can see with their own eyes.
    There is something great happening when people can see with their own eyes what is been described here.

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