Cuba: Self-Employed Thugs or Imperialist Mercenaries?

Fernando Ravsberg*

One of the thugs in action, preventing photographer Mastrascusa from doing the job he is authorized to do in Cuba.

HAVANA TIMES — I checked the list of allowed self-employment trades and didn’t find one for bodyguards. These are proliferating so much, however, that some cultural institutions, private businesses and now even US security companies are hiring them on the island.

During Rihanna’s recent visit to Havana, Cuban camera operators and photographers who work for different foreign press outlets were attacked. They were insulted, threatened and pricked with pins by a group of thugs.

“We’re gonna bust your camera, and then we’re going to mess with you too,” they told a cameraman while pricking photographers with pins to prevent them from taking pictures of the US star strolling about the city.

“He pushed me, tried to take my camera from me, grabbed my neck, all the while pricking my right hand with a pin, all because I tried to take some pictures of Rihanna,” my colleague Ernesto Mastracusa reports.

They hired them to do the dirty work, while the US bodyguards gave them orders. They are Cubans paid by the “empire” to hurt other Cubans. Curiously enough, no local newspaper accused them of being mercenaries.

This re-framed photo clearly shows how the Cuban journalist was pricked in the stomach.

Antonio Molto, chair of the Cuban Journalists Association (UPEC) did however sympathize and is encouraging the reporter to pursue legal action. “Mastracusa is right in pressing charges over this incident. He has our support.”

The investigation won’t have to secure the services of Sherlock Holmes, as they have the photo of one of the aggressors. They also know he works at an embassy, where he was recognized by one of the journalists attacked.

The diplomats’ response was immediate. According to the information given my blog, Cartas desde Cuba, when they saw the images of the aggressor on social networks, they told him his trial period had ended and that he would not be hired as a driver.

These officials refused to provide us with his phone number in order to interview him and try to understand his take on things, as well as find out who hired him, whether he has some kind of accreditation and how he came to be a part of the select group of people considered for work at embassies.

Local Contractors?

There is more than enough incriminating evidence. Though it does not appear to be very “manly,” the use of pins is dangerous, because these bodyguards use the same one to prick different people, exposing them to the risk of contracting serious illnesses, such as hepatitis or HIV.

Attacking, insulting and threatening journalists accredited by the government also does not appear to be too legal, and the organizations that regulate our activities in Cuba are also asking for this incident to be cleared up.

One of the aggressors, who had started working at a diplomatic headquarters in Cuba.

A Cuban wishing to work at a foreign firm must be hired through a State employment agency. As such, the activities of that group of bodyguards also violate one of the strictest work regulations in effect in Cuba today.

“Better” relations with Washington can improve the material conditions of Cubans, but that prosperity will also bring very bad practices, such as the creation of unofficial police groups, whose members are known as “contractors” in the United States.

This incident should serve as a warning for society and help it prevent the emergence of security forces that work outside the confines of the State. Leaving something so delicate in the hands of the a private company will create problems, all the more so when such contractors work on instructions from foreigners.

I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but, looking at Cuba in context, one sees that paramilitary groups in the region pose a serious threat to governments, some of which that first tolerated them and now are unable to control them.

Cuba’s history offers us a warning concerning this danger. About 60 years ago, gangs of pseudo-revolutionary gangsters proliferated to such an extent that the president was forced to reach an agreement with them in order to bring the violence under control.

Given this background and the region’s context, the most advisable thing would be to keep security and internal order operations exclusively within the State, ensuring strict adherence to the law and the strictest professionalism of its operatives.

Some friends have suggested I should not become involved in this matter, out of fear I could be attacked as well. I believe that, if anything like that were to happen, it would be a perfect measure of how much impunity these thugs have or think they have.

(*) Visit the website of Fernando Ravsberg.


9 thoughts on “Cuba: Self-Employed Thugs or Imperialist Mercenaries?

  • June 5, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    If they hire them, than yes, they are responsible for what they do. Seems rather academic to me.

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