Will They Be from Havana or Santiago?

Yenisel Rodriguez

The Cuban government is getting no break; it’s experiencing times of profound desperation as almost nothing is working out right.  At this very moment it doesn’t know where it will recruit the personnel it needs to reinforce the police in the capital.  Things aren’t working out well with the young officers recruited from the eastern provinces over the past several years.

It was thought that those inducted from the east wouldn’t become implicated in Havana’s networks of crime and corruption since they were coming from so far away.  But as always happens in the plans of our bureaucrats, improvisation and circumstances have again dealt them a bad hand.

What’s happening?  Corruption and graft have shot way above what was expected.  The statistics are astounding, even to the most skeptical observer.

Police who are imported always wind up “hooking up” with some old acquaintance that now lives in Havana.  Eastern prostitutes become their accomplices, as do their drug dealing counterparts. These networks of solidarity are very solid, especially when they’re strengthened and protected by hard currency.

Faced with this situation, the government made another 180 degree turn without wasting time, an abrupt shift that will take it back to the same place.  Now they’re trying to reconcile themselves to young candidates from Havana so these trainees can take the places of those ex-officers who are now being sent back to their eastern hometowns, though for the moment these transfers are voluntary.

The public doesn’t expect big changes from these new native Havana cops.  Only the faces of those involved in corruption and graft will change.  Immigrant prostitutes and dealers will be threatened by Havana prostitutes and dealers.  They know from their own experiences that when stopped in the street by an officer who was an old friend from the classroom or the bedroom, they have a much better chances of getting out of any jam.

Will we gain something positive by having a homegrown police force again?  We’ll have to wait and see.  In any case, one would have to be naive to think that an armed body won’t defend with tooth and nail the interests of whoever pays them.

Even like this, perhaps it will be easier to face law enforcement officers who feel that their profession stigmatizes them.  More than a privilege it is a need; collectively, they are the last card in a once prestigious deck, because being a police officer in Havana ceased being something prestigious a long time ago.

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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.

Yenisel Rodriguez has 155 posts and counting. See all posts by Yenisel Rodriguez

4 thoughts on “Will They Be from Havana or Santiago?

  • (Ok, correcting myself, @Insider did say “how can anybody /blame them/”, so he did pass a moral judgement and absolved them. The rest still stands, though – regardless of morality, corruption is rampant and conditions are given for corruption to thrive, so it is unreasonable to expect otherwise).

  • Hi, @Bobby. I believe you misunderstood @Insider. He never claimed that it was OK to accept bribes, to steal or to lie. He made a statement of fact and not a moral judgement. It is foolish to expect that there will be no corruption, given the incentives and facilities for it. It doesn’t make it right, it just “is”. Indeed, a great number of people in Cuba will steal and take bribes. It is so common that we even have a word for them, we call them “luchar”. It is known that kitchen workers are “luchando” part of the food from heir kitchens, that Coppelia workers empty the ice cream balls so they can sell the rest, that “Vivienda” officers “luchan” their bribes, and that police are corrupt. The cognitive dissonance can go to amazing lengths: I once witnessed a dialogue between a victim of a crime (he had been assaulted a few years ago to take his wallet) and a police officer while waiting for a bus. The impressive part was that they both agreed that the “poor thief” was just “luchando”, like everyone else. Sickening and wrong, but a fact nonetheless.

    There are plenty of incentives for corruption:
    1) Low / Insufficient salaries.
    2) Greed.
    3) Unnecessary and even contradictory regulations that give too much power to some individuals.
    4) No real (and “safe”) way to report instances of corruption.
    5) No real feedback of what happens when corruption uncovered.
    [and others]

    Of these, only #2 is exclusively the person’s fault, the rest are systemic problems. It’s wrong to steal, but unless you deal with the causes of the illegal behaviour, you can’t expect that theft will stop. Hungry cooks (#1) will take home whatever they can to feed their families, and then rationalise their actions. Corrupt greedy cops will demand bribes if there is no real way for their victims to denounce them without fear retaliation (#4), either physical, or legal (#3). And unless they know that they *will* be caught and the punishment *will* be severe, they don’t really have an incentive to stop (#5). (That said, I met one eastern cop in Havana that I believed was honest and honourable).

    Regarding the severity of the punishment, I agree that policemen (and other government employees with too much power) should be held to a higher standard. However, it is well known that just increasing the severity of the punishment doesn’t necessary lead to reduction of crime, and can end up making matters worse. A criminal doesn’t expect to be caught, so increasing the punishment may not deter him (on the contrary, he may commit additional/worse crimes to evade capture).

    All that can’t be washed away by just saying that it is wrong. It /is/ wrong, but unless the systemic problems are attacked, it will not go away. See http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=71726 for an example of a regulation whose authors should be charged with criminal negligence, because no reasonable person could expect a different result. (That is, of course, in addition to the charges on the corrupt bureaucrats who take advantage of the situation).

  • “How can anybody blame them for taking bribes?”

    You are saying that you support the right of people who believe they are not being paid enough to commit criminal acts to supplement their salary. Majority of people in practically any job wil tell you they believe their salary is is insuficient, so what does that mean, should they accept bribes and steal and lie, and that’s OK?
    Policemen in Cuba earn way more than an average worker, plus ‘stimulation’ benefits and much better rations.

    Secondly, these are public officials, designated by the public to *uphold the law*, and just for this reason these are the people that should be exemplary in their adherence to the law. They should be the last ones to take bribes, and they should have the most severe punishment if they do so.
    Law does not exist if law enforcement is corrupt.

    You are morally bankrupt and I truly hope I never run into you in your workplace. I’m scared to think what your workplace is, given that you signed as “Insider”

  • Raul Castro admitted the salary is insufficient. How can anybody blame them for taking bribes? Who is to blame are the bureaucrats and politicians working so slow and bad no foreign capital can enter to improve the employment situation and production. Without foreign capital, production will stay low and Cuba will devolve. A simple economic relation which would finally solve the doble moneda locura much faster then now. But the people have it in their own hands. It´s time people get fired for bad work like Yadira and Pazo last month.

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