Hold-Ups in Havana

By Irina Pino

HAVANA TIMES – A city’s nature changes, it isn’t static, it reacts to external phenomena, if we can call it that. This is what is happening in Havana these days, where there’s been a wave of robberies. This is a sign of great economic crisis.

My friend Hanna is a freelancer, she runs several businesses with her two children: a gym and two cafes. Her weekends are very busy, as she normally goes out and spends quite a lot of money.

She lives near the Submarino Amarillo (rock bar) in Vedado, so she walks there and back. Nothing has ever happened to her on this journey, even when she’s left after midnight a few times.

However, she was held-up a few days ago near the Carlos III shopping mall, at 11 AM. A young man in his 20s threw her down to the ground and tried to grab the bag she was carrying on her shoulder.

But she was lucky, a car stopped to help her as she was struggling with the criminal. Although the kid ran off like Sonic and they weren’t able to catch him.

She told me that she had almost 3000 pesos and 100 USD more or less in her purse, which she was going to try and sell.

She was left with some cuts on both her knees from the fall, but she didn’t fracture anything.

A week later, her daughter-in-law was also attacked, as she was walking near La Quinta de los Molinos. It wasn’t even 7:30 AM, and two guys came up to her and pushed her up against a wall. One of them threatened her with a knife, and the other one snatched her backpack. The latter told her: give me the password and pin for your cellphone or my friend is going to cut you.

She was scared to death and is still frightened to go outside on her own.

The P5 bus in Havana

The P5 bus route is very long, and my cousin went to Vedado to sort out a few things. He got on this bus (which is always crammed with people), and somebody cut a hole into his backpack along the way and stole a few of his belongings and cellphone.

He filed a complaint with the police, as you’d imagine, as every cellphone has a code and if somebody uses it they can pick up the line. In a nutshell, cutting the story short, he received a call from the police station to tell him that there is a gang that runs this operation, robbing on the P5 bus that is, and that his cellphone might show up in a year, but they need to catch the entire gang, and then they’ll give him his cellphone back.

What does this mean? That they won’t return the different cellphones to their respective owners until they catch the entire gang of thieves?

Or that our police force is as efficient as those on that TV drama show Tras la huella and want to do a fabulous job?

There was a true movie hold-up just three blocks from my neighborhood. Some guys in a car with a MININT license plate pulled up and knocked on the door of the apartment of two elderly people. Their son had recently emigrated to the US.

The strangers were carrying a fake ID. They kindly asked for the young man’s information. His parents gave them what they wanted.

Two days later, they came back with the excuse that they needed some other details. They surprisingly took out some rope and gagged the couple. Then, they checked the entire house to take anything of value.

But they really got what was coming to them, the police managed to do their job and arrest them. The facial composite worked. One of these guys was the friend of the elderly couple’s son, and some neighbors identified him.

This reminds me of something that happened to my homosexual friend Pepito, in the middle of the Special Period. One night, when he was on his way home, he got the idea to run up the outdoor stairway of Havana University, and come out down a back street.

A couple of young people walking behind him, blocked him in the darkness. The bigger one put a knife to his throat and threatened to kill him, if he didn’t give them all his belongings.

He was left with nothing; they even took his leather shoes and wristwatch. He had to walk home in his underwear and barefoot all the way to his home on 25th and J Streets. It took him a long time to overcome his fear, he would usually go out in his worst clothes and always with somebody to keep him company.

Read more by Irina Pino here.



Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.

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One thought on “Hold-Ups in Havana

  • The police in Cuba are too busy persecuting and intimidating political dissidents and protecting the foreign tourists. Cubans are worth nothing to the dictatorship.

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