Havana Police and People with Money

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez

A painting by Victor Manuel

HAVANA TIMES April 13 — All of us had great expectations when we got the news that the recruitment of Havana police officers would start being done from here in the capital itself. When I say expectations, I mean that people thought there would be changes in the broadest sense of the word.

I don’t think anyone believed there would be improved treatment of the public or a significant reduction in corruption, but they still figured that this measure would have to bring some kind of change in policing here in the capital.

The objective of governmental decision-makers was to ensure that the body of officers in Havana was made up of more than 50 percent native Habaneros. The basic reason for this was the urgent need for greater efficiency in policing the capital’s population.

Officers recruited to the Havana Police Department from other provinces had ended up creating more problems than solutions. Therefore, this change in policy meant that the time had come for young Havana residents to have a crack at showing their stuff.

Back then I wrote a blog entry that discussed the situation. In that piece, I took a shot at making some long-term predictions concerning possible changes.

With some years having passed, I’m still surprised to discover that my forecasts have yet to be realized in a convincing manner. Nonetheless, I’m noticing some other effects that I failed to anticipate at that time.

One of them has to do with the differential treatment that some of the native police officers give to those in the capital who are better off, meaning individuals and families whose incomes are above the national average.

This is simply a personal “opinion” based on my experiences as a passerby and on the feelings of some friends.

En un concierto de Silvio Rodríguez en el barrio La Corbata.
At a concert of Silvio Rodriguez in the La Corbata neighborhood.

On visits to the neighborhood where I grew up, I’ve stumbled onto Havana beat cops and illegal taxi drivers “side by side” (meaning drinking, smoking and rocking to the beat of the drivers’ sound systems).

Personally I don’t see much problem with this, but I don’t want to get into judgments in this blog entry.

In any case — continuing the story — I’ve witnessed the police allowing the circulation of those unlicensed taxis within controlled areas that they control on certain nights.

Although corrupt relationships can’t be ruled out, I think there are also some other unexplained reasons that had nothing to do with moneymaking.

In this specific case that I’m raising, I should note than the police on duty had been high school classmates with some of these taxi drivers.

What was also significant was that they were all getting together that night — police and taxi drivers — and professing their Eurocentric tastes. They all loved soccer and electro music, and they all hated baseball (the national sport) and traditional Cuban music.

Those affinities pushed the social roles of controllers and the controlled to one side. This was an unknown and unprecedented situation for me. I don’t know how my fellow citizens feel about it.

In short, it’s a very complex case for such little space. I can only hope that it serves as an anecdote.



Yenisel Rodriguez

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez: I have lived in Cuba my entire life, except for several months in 2013 when I was in Miami with my father. Despite the 90 miles that separate Havana and Miami, I find profound reasons in both for political and community activism. My encounter with socio-cultural anthropology eight years ago prepared me for a commitment of love for cultural diversity.

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