Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — Tuesday April 10th marked five months since my friend Jose Antonio Herrera and I had all of our digital communication and work devices seized. On that grey afternoon, on November 10th, they came and took everything they wanted to and put them in paper bags.
Jose, who was more affected than I was only being punished for being this independent journalist’s friend, had to put the brakes on his Weekly Package recording business for over 4 months. He’s only started up again, indebted to his relatives who have helped him out. The devices he works with are very expensive.
Thanks to donations from friends, colleagues and readers (which I am eternally grateful for), as well as my little income, I could reimburse his clients for their losses as they had USB pens in my home that day and they were also seized. Unfortunately, there was more at home that day than usual. An abuse that only adds to the derogatory and repressive treatment the private sector receives in this country by inspectors and the police.
The search warrant they had for me stated: “in search of subversive materials” and my friend’s search warrant said: “Possession of illegal items.” It’s interesting to highlight the Court’s collusion in this case, who authorized these search warrants and are supposed to demand some kind of proof. The fact that I am a freelance journalist might have served them well in this instance as it is considered a subversive and non-official activity. But, the proof they had against Jose had been invented 100% because they didn’t have anything to imply Jose was even considering to commit a crime.
They took everything they wanted to, by force. They overstepped the mark with my friend more than they did with me. State Security agents were interested in the computer that he copied USBs on and the phones (which they sort of told us afterwards), thinking that they might find some of my work on it or believing that he was collaborating with me as a journalist. But, that wasn’t was going on and there was nothing on the computer because we don’t have a working relationship, we are just friends. However, the ignorant officers took everything even the speakers.
It seems that the police and State Security’s investigation hasn’t discovered any kind of evidence of the crimes they were looking for in our devices (2 computers, 2 telephones, a tablet, three hard drives, many USB drives and Cards, earphones, all kinds of cables, adaptors, DVDs and other things, the majority of which belonged to Jose and his customers).
According to the District Attorney’s office, if there is no proof of the crime, seized belongings can’t be seized. And nobody has even summoned us for anything, let alone opened up a legal process. However, State Security continues to assure us that they won’t give anything back, that’s how they work.
If anyone takes something from someone else by force, without a legal right being taken into account and is only held onto by force, then we are facing a “dispossession”, which borders on “theft”. According to the District Attorney’s office, they don’t have the legal power to even put State Security’s actions into question. According to them, State Security are a kind of “clandestine” institution: they aren’t governed by any law, but their work is “necessary” in order to uphold the Revolution. That is to say, the Revolution would be in danger if it sticks to the law and therefore it needs to act outside of the law.
The Revolution was born by seizing other people’s property, not just from foreigners but from Cuban businesspeople too, who had made an honest living and worked hard to have what they had. Many traders, landowners and small businessmen who had supported or actively taken part in the Revolution, found themselves losing everything. Fidel’s Moncada Program said that embezzlers and thieves would be the only ones to be affected, not honest citizens. However he later changed his mind and nationalized virtually everything.
Then, when millions of fellow Cubans emigrated over the decades, the Government stripped them of their homes, cars, motorbikes, furniture and even their kitchenware. They couldn’t even leave these behind to their relatives in need. These were awful seizures, a grand heist! And, Raul Castro only put an end to it very recently as it went on for nearly half a century. It’s an awfully unethical thing to do, which hasn’t completely ended as seizures continue to happen in different ways and this business of taking away goods and working materials from the self-employed, independent journalists and dissidents, without any legal or ethical basis, is one of them.
We can’t hold onto the hope that they will return anything because we Cubans don’t have any rights that the “All-Mighty State” is forced to respect. They’ll only return it “if they want to”, as they are the owners of this country and we are a new kind of “serfs”, who are subject to the will and fancies of this new caste of feudal lords. Marti had an eye on them and warned us when he agreed with Herbert Spencer in his critical essay about the dangers of authoritarian socialism.
Even so, it’s our duty to denounce these crimes and make every injustice public knowledge. “Seeing a crime and keeping quiet is the same thing as committing that crime.”