Cuban Police Detain Two Members of New Left Group

Isbel Diaz Torres

Jimmy and Eduardo.

HAVANA TIMES — Early Saturday morning (June 9), Cuban law enforcement officers picked up two members of the Critical Observatory Network (OC) and drove them to the police station at Zapata and C Street of Havana’s Vedado district.

The experience was instructive in many ways, and one of them was that it allowed us to learn what’s frightening to law enforcement officials in this city.

The two OC members (Jimmy Roque Martinez and Eduardo A. Diaz Fernandez) were walking along the centrally located and well-lit G Street sometime after midnight when law enforcement officials asked them for their identification. In addition, right there in the street, the police searched a daypack that one of the two was carrying.

During this violation of their rights, the police discovered that the two men were in the possession of two cans of spray paint (red and black), which turned out to be sufficient grounds for the pair to be frisked, handcuffed, and taken to the jail at Zapata and C, where they had to remain for twelve hours without being charged.

Jimmy and Edward, both white, do not fit the racial profile typically used by the police in Havana, but it seems that seeing people carrying a daypack late at night was enough to trigger the police’s paranoia. That was all it took.

If the problem was carrying paint — “which can be used for anything,” as the suspicious police captain told me at the station — then everything is clear.

What’s curious is that this “life-threatening paint” is sold in state-run stores and has diverse uses. Should we imprison the managers of these stores for literally giving “ammunition to the enemy”?

The Police station at Zapata and C streets in Havana.

The truth is that their detention was extended more than usual. The reason? They had to wait for the CI (Counter Intelligence?) officers to get to work the next morning to evaluate the matter.

What’s for sure is that none of the people detained that night were released at dawn, nor did they know when they would be released. From what I was told, this included a black man whose sole crime had been walking in the relatively upscale Vedado neighborhood though having a past criminal record.

“How could you think you could wander around in Vedado with a record, looking like that and with that color?” was what Jimmy and Eduardo were able to hear. What was saddest was that the racist officer was himself black.

In today’s Cuba, it’s not necessary to have committed a crime or disturbed the public order to be arrested. The “preventive” nature of police authority seems to justify the daily occurrence of this violation, without the citizens having effective legal remedies to stop or redress this distortion of justice.

Jimmy and Edward, together with three other people, were crammed into a dirty cell designed for two individuals for twelve hours. Finally, at 1:00 pm, they were given an “official warning” (which they didn’t sign) and were released.

So far the OC had issued a complaint on Facebook, Twitter, and in the organization’s WordPress blog. Fortunately, new technologies are able to accelerate the process of justice a little, though not enough to transform such absurdities.

 

Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.


5 thoughts on “Cuban Police Detain Two Members of New Left Group

  • June 14, 2012 at 10:58 am
    Permalink

    Moses, good job buddy! I have watched closely few of your posts here on the blog, and I have to say that I wished some times to have the same approach to some of these topics. Im very sad as well to watch human rights violations despite which countries are involved. It’s kind of funny to read how citizens from other well established countries can express solidarity to goverments that oppress their people. It’s easier to dump the old saying ” you abandoned cuba” even when the fact is non of them actually have to live or grow up under those conditions.

  • June 14, 2012 at 9:21 am
    Permalink

    Thanks for your comments.
    Hans, I don`t need to wake up. I know you have similar problems there in USA. I even published a post about it a few months ago.
    You say you felt safe in Havana… well… Were you put in jail here? No, you weren`t. These guys felt safe too, until they were driven to the police station because of nothing. That’s all I’m saying.
    Is that justice?

  • June 11, 2012 at 5:17 pm
    Permalink

    Isbel wake up we have the same problems here in Florida, this is the reason I get mad when everybody trashes Cuba. I love Cuba Citizen and we all have problems, one way or an other, with our governments. That is a fact. I am a Naturalized US Citizen, Native Swiss and can not freely travel, what kind of scheet is that? I never had the feeling in Havana not to be safe, here in Florida this is a common problem. I am born and raised neutral, and because I have a second Passport I have to change my behavoir, no way Jose!! One way to get of the corruption is to put them in Jail, that would help, Stealing is an ethical issue and can be a starting point to solve that problem in the Cuba society. Will be back next months.

  • June 11, 2012 at 12:08 pm
    Permalink

    This is a terrible abuse. I live in New York City too and I just came across a group of Occupy Wall St activists on their way to court because they were arrested for exercising their right to free speech. The similarities between the police in this story and the NYPD are chilling. Solidarity to all independent thinkers.

    Uu

  • June 11, 2012 at 10:37 am
    Permalink

    Normally, my comments to a variety of posts to Havana Times are tinged if not wholly submerged in criticisms of the totalitarian repressive Cuban regime. This time, this post caused me to reflect on how sad it makes me when my own country’s police forces behave exactly the same way these Cuban authorities behave. You see, I expect this from Cuba. Freedom, democracy and human rights are in very short supply in Cuba. But when New York City police are no better, I am crushed with disappointment. The embargo, the travel restrictions and other seemingly ineffective measures used to foment regime change in Cuba should be maintained just a bit longer despite their poor results. If not, New York City cops will believe that what they are doing to our black and brown citizens is without consequence either. We have to show them that it will not succeed forever in Cuba and it will not succeed in New York either.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *