By Pedro Pablo Morejón
HAVANA TIMES – Transport is awful. What I mean to say, is that it has always been dreadful, but it’s a lot worse now with COVID-19 restrictions. Buses and private trucks can’t be found anywhere. You have to depend upon somebody else’s good will and with the recent outbreak in Pinar del Rio, people are afraid of picking up strangers on the highway, which makes perfect sense.
My wife and I had to go to Entronque de San Diego, one morning. We were ready for an adventure into the unknown. How long would it take us to get there? Hopefully 30 minutes, but maybe in two or three hours, maybe in 6 hours, or the entire day. We had no idea.
However, as soon as we left the house, a private Ford truck stopped right out in front of us. A woman got out and that’s when I recognized Osniel. We got in and, luckily, he was going in the same direction.
Osniel is an admirable man. The kind of person who you can’t help but feel happy and inspired by when you see them. He is living proof that your circumstances don’t determine whether you can get ahead in life or not.
“It’s best you don’t come to my house. You’ll be disappointed if you see how I live.” He told me that this is what he said to his first girlfriend, many moons ago.
He used to live in Ruiz, a rural area in the far-south of the Consolacion municipality, a few kilometers away from the coast, without electricity, earthen floors and a very humble family.
But Osniel is intelligent and one of his bright ideas back then was to study a military career. He hope to graduate in Law from Ministry of Interior’s Superior Institute.
Later, I would run into him when I used to work as a lawyer. He was a police detective and we coincided on some of the same cases. That was when I got to know him. and we became friends.
He wasn’t your typical police officer that many lawyers have to deal with. He was rather a respectful individual, who did his job with the utmost professionalism. His cases were normally the best developed. He never refused or placed obstacles for lawyers when we proposed evidence if favor of the accused.
He didn’t abuse them, nor was there the faintest sign of arrogance in the way he worked, not even with the worst criminals.
But he got tired over time and managed to break away from the MININT. Although dragging behind him the mistrust that anyone who leaves its ranks normally does.
An entrepreneur with bright ideas, he set up his own business. He transported agricultural produce to Havana, in partnership with Pinar del Rio farmers. A perfectly decent business elsewhere in the world, except for in Cuba, because he wasn’t granted a license. So, he had to work taking the greatest precautions, but he still got arrested.
He spent over 90 days imprisoned at the famous prison at 100 and Aldabo streets jail. During all his interrogations, he never snitched on his partners.
“You have no idea what they did to me. More so than anyone else because they knew that I used to be a policeman. If I had snitched on my colleagues, they might have let me out on bail until the trial. However, I wouldn’t be able to look them in the face or sleep with a clean conscience at night,” he told me once.
Osniel served almost five years in prison. When he got out, he set up a legal pig-rearing business and a cafe. I didn’t see him for two years until I was surprised to find him in Puerta de Golpe one day, talking to two people. That was in 2015. His right foot had been amputated below the knee. He had been in an accident.
But none of this has held him back. He has a prosthetic and continues to hustle. Despite having a car, a truck and two businesses, the most striking thing about him is his modesty and his willingness to help others. This is why everybody loves him. During our entire journey he picked up anyone waiting on the side of the highway.
We spoke about social issues and agreed on many points, not so much on others. I am of the opinion that most of us Cubans deserve this reality because we contributed to this disaster in some way or another. But not him, not with this kindness that he has. He believes that the Cuban people have been victims of so much manipulation and indoctrination.
This country deserves to change, for people like him.