Citizen Insecurity, Cuba’s Achilles’ Heel

Nowadays many Cubans avoid going out at night, afraid of being mugged and other crimes. Photo: El Toque

By Glenda Boza Ibarra (El Toque)

HAVANA TIMES – The Cuban Government’s discourse often highlights how safe it is on the island. Citizen security has dropped in Cuba in recent years, although there isn’t drug trafficking, organized crime, gangs, or criminal groups – that are present in other cities in the region that make countries like Mexico and El Salvador potentially dangerous places.

In March 2023, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said that Cuba is a country where you can walk down the street in peace at 11 PM, in an interview with Al Mayadeen TV.

Diaz-Canel is reading old news, as we Cubans would say. For years now, ongoing shortages, blackouts and inflation (as well as other motives) have led to a surge in theft, violent murders and even gender-based violence that leads to feminicide. Internet access has allowed a spotlight to be shone on these crimes, with the Ministry of Interior refusing to disclose these numbers.

Stories posted on different independent media platforms and a few other stories in the government-controlled press (after social media users put a lot of pressure on them) sound like they’ve been picked out of horror movies. Teenagers in gangs to steal; people going into empty or inhabited homes to steal belongings; men killing their wives and children; “ninjas” who attack cars and buses with foreign tourists; crimes on farms and ranches; and rampant corruption.

Cuba’s Global Peace Index

According to the 2023 Global Peace Index (IPG), Cuba has an average peace score, ranking 99th out of 163 countries. Meanwhile,, says the archipelago “isn’t in a good place and can be considered a dangerous country.”

In the 2022 report, the Cuba was in 98th place, after falling nine places compared to the year before. It is one of the seven Central American and Caribbean countries to have got worse with rising violent crime.

In the 2023 regional analysis, the country hasn’t become less safe compared to 2022, recording similar indicators.

Cuba ranks 116 in terms of citizen safety. This listing takes different factors into account including organized crime, domestic conflict, violent crime, political instability, the incarceration rate, violent protests, the influence of foreign conflicts, civic unrest, homocide rate, terrorism, etc.

In terms of militarization, the country is the 22nd country in the Americas with the least military rule in the country, although it’s likely the report didn’t take into account the intervention of military organizations linked to the Military’s Business Administration Group (GAESA) in the national economy. 

The economic impact of violence (economic expenses and effects linked to the controlling, preventing and dealing with consequences of violence) in Cuba shot up to 26 million USD, in 2022. In this regard, Cuba ranks 49th, with an impact of 2,399 USD per capita. 

Despite statistics presented in the report, Cuba’s indicators can always be distorted due a lack of transparency of official data. 

Within the region, Costa Rica (with one of the lowest poverty levels in Central America and the Carribean) has the highest peace rating. 

Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, the US and Haiti are the least peaceful, and the calmest are Canada, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Argentina.

Citizen security in Cuba

Fake accounts linked to State Security and the Ministry of Interior often “clean the image” of the organizations they work for. To do this, they mostly post photos on Facebook of solved police cases, criminals arrested and objects returned to their owners. Despite the above, Cubans continue to feel unsafe. You just have to read the comments on these very same posts. 

Also, the exposure on social media of personal information of alleged aggressors violates the legal principal of presumption of innocence and fails to respect privacy. 

While there is strict control of firearms in Cuba, more and more crimes using these kinds of weapons – sometimes homemade – are being reported. Official figures indicate that 90% of cases have been solved, but general numbers aren’t given, nor how this compares to numbers in previous years. 

The state-controlled press and public servants repeat and stress that the sensation of increasing violence in Cuba is part of a “campaign orchestrated by US Imperialism to destroy the Revolution.” 

In spite of that, stories and numbers don’t lie. 

During a recent government meeting, it was disclosed that the crime rate in Las Tunas has shot up 40%. On the other hand, in Sancti Spiritus, there was a news story back in July 2023 about a group of 11-16 kids aged between 14-25 years old who “lightly and seriously wounded” their victims, who “they’d steal from at times.” 

A feature in Granma newspaper stated that 12,000 individuals had been suspected of being offenders of different crimes, up until July 2023. Even though it said only 8.5% of these crimes are violent, these numbers are nothing like we’ve ever seen before. 

In the case of livestock crimes, MININT admitted that there are over 2,400 people involved, and “the number of people incarcerated for these crimes has almost doubled, compared to the same period in 2022.” 

Even countries like Spain and Canada have warned their citizens about traveling to Cuba, not only because of fuel, food and medicine shortages, but also because of the danger of being robbed and sexually harassed.

Given the lack of government statistics, independent initiatives such as the Cuban Observatory of Citizen Audit monitors complaints, articles, statements and similar content on social media and in the press to write up the Public insecurity report in Cuba. 

During the first and second trimester of 2023, the Observatory reported 287 crimes, 119 thefts and 82 homicides. The document also reports on attacks and other types of crime. 

An investigation carried out by CubaData states that 61% of Cubans surveyed said they had been a victim of violence and crime, but that only 14.6% had reported this to the police. 

Peace globally

The 2023 Global Peace Index (IPG) has revealed an alarming trend in global stability. This year, the average global peace rating has fallen for the ninth year, dropping by 0.42%. This downward trend began in 2008, improving only in two years.

In a more detailed analysis, 84 countries have seen growing peace, while 79 have seen less. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had a significant impact on this trend, placing both countries amongst the top ten least peaceful countries in the world. Ukraine has seen the greatest setback in its IPG rating this year. 

More intense global conflicts could be seen before the Ukraine invasion. The total number of deaths in this regard has shot up 96%, with domestic and foreign conflicts being a significant reason for this increase. This decline would have been seen even if we had excluded Ukraine and Russia from the analysis. 

Geographically-speaking, the Middle East and North Africa have seen the second greatest improvement, but it continues to be the least peaceful region (it holds four of the ten least peaceful countries). On the other hand, Europe continues to be the most peaceful region, although it has dropped in three IPG categories, due to increased tension with Russia. Europe is the now less peacefult than it was 15 years ago.  

Countries like Libya, the Ivory Coast and Afghanistan, which have suffered serious conflicts in the past two decades, are among the five that have improved their peace situation the most. 

Fifty-nine countries have seen their political instability worsen in the past year, compared to just 22 that have seen improvements in this regard. The numbers reflect a complex and challenging global dynamic when it comes to peace and international security. 

The Global Peace Index was conceived by Steve Killelea, an Australian tech entrepreneur and philanthropist. The report is now produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, a group of international experts dedicated to developing metrics to analyze peace and to quantify its economic benefits. 

The Index measures the positive peace level of a country using three levels of peacefulness. The first: ongoing domestic and international conflicts; the second: safety and security in society; and the third is linked to a country’s militarization.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

One thought on “Citizen Insecurity, Cuba’s Achilles’ Heel

  • No doubt there is a a direct relationship between crime and poverty. As poverty increases crime increases. This certainly isn’t astounding news. No one will dispute that Cuba’s poverty rate has increased substantially in recent years; hence, the crime rates reflect that reality.

    Because of the Cuban totalitarian government’s corruption and incapacity to provide the basics like medicines and nutritious foods for its citizens, hungry, desperate people must revert to illegalities like crime to survive. To them there are no other options. This scenario takes place globally.

    In comparison to the U.S. the type of crimes committed in Cuba need to be analyzed. What do we see and hear on social media and in the news regarding crime in the US ? People, almost all young males with semi-automatic guns entering public places like schools and/or shopping centres and opening fire mowing down countless innocent victims. Such crime sprees, thank God, do not occur in Cuba. And it isn’t just once in awhile these horrific crimes take place but take place, sadly, numerous times.

    Such crimes occur in the U.S. and to lesser extend in Canada. Yes in Canada too, unfortunately.

    As the article rightly points out, the crimes committed in Cuba are petty ones relatively speaking. In the country-side cattle is stolen and butchered obviously for food and for sale. In towns and cities break and enters and burglaries are proliferating as idle young teenagers and idle young men prey on vulnerable property owners and tourists. Again, when these young people have no hope for a better life they rationalize among themselves that their unresponsive totalitarian government also steals from them and live lavish life styles so why not them.

    Regarding an increase in domestic violence this is a global phenomenon not only a unique spike in Cuba recently. Absolutely, poverty contributes to this horrific tragedy as families endeavour to support their families but because of dire economic circumstances fail to do so resulting in pent up anger and resentment which invariably leads to tragic results. And, unfortunately it is usually the female partner who suffers the negative consequences.

    Of course the solution for a decrease in criminal activity especially among the young is for the governments, any government anywhere, to help young people obtain a decent paying job which provides a decent living wage. In Cuba with the current totalitarian government totally disconnected with its citizens, any hope for crime to diminish is scant.

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