Jimmy Roque Martinez
HAVANA TIMES — On Tulipan Street in Havana’s Revolution Square municipality, just like in nearly every other neighborhood in the country, some people usually come out and sell their goods. Normally, these are industrial and/or handmade products, and the people who selling them are people aged 65 and older, many of them already retired.
I’ve seen police officers along with State inspectors fine these street sellers on many occasions, and there’s almost always one policeman in particular who stands with his chest pushed out and looks threatening.
On Tuesday August 2, I was witness to how this police officer, this time dressed as a civilian, along with two inspectors, fined an old woman. A few minutes later, they took all her goods to the police truck that was parked nearby.
That was when I went up to them and asked where they would take these products that they’d confiscated from the street sellers who they’d just fined.
Of course, the policeman dressed as a civilian asked me who I was, before answering that these products were stored in the inspectors’ warehouse (located in Mulgoba) and would then be restocked at State shops and markets, depending on the product in question.
I then asked whether it would be possible to verify that this mechanism works as it should, as its common knowledge that police and inspectors take a lot of confiscated goods for themselves a lot of the time.
The policeman dressed as a civilian told me that he didn’t have to give me any explanations, that he only has to answer to the Cuban Ministry of the Interior and to State Security, trying to void my right to question his authority.
During our conversation, the policeman showed me his identification to prove to me that he was indeed a policeman, while the women with him also identified themselves as inspectors.
Every public authority should have to give an explanation to any Cuban citizen when they ask for it; but we already know that talking about rights in Cuba is too suspicious.
If we were really living in a socialist country, and if our means of production really belonged to the Cuban people, then they would be forced to give explanations about their work; but because this isn’t the case, the only thing that’s being encouraged here is more widespread corruption.
It’s a well-known fact that salaries in Cuba don’t give us enough to live comfortably, and that pensions are miserable [the equivalent of $8 to 12 USD), while the cost of living increases day after day.
One of the causes for this (amongst many others) is that the State has to maintain an extremely large army and police force, without having a real job to do. They are used instead to confiscate matchboxes and cigarette packs off of old ladies in our city’s streets for lack of military manouevres.
We need to fight for our civil rights and for citizen control so that we can put a stop to the corruption and privilege of our military and Cuban political elite.