Cuba: Has Counterintelligence Prohibited Photographing Shops?

Fernando Ravsberg*

Store manager Fernando Casas and his boys preventing the car of our photographer from leaving. He said he was talking with Military Counterintelligence on his modern cell phone, worth months of wages of a Cuban doctor.
Store manager Fernando Casas and his boys preventing the car of our photographer from leaving. He said he was talking with Military Counterintelligence, on his modern cell phone worth months of wages of a Cuban doctor.

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba’s Military Counterintelligence, CIM, is the body that prohibits taking pictures in supermarkets, according to the surprising version of Fernando Casas, the manager at the Boyeros and Camaguey store in Havana.

The supposed order from above is what gave power to the manager and some of his boys to try to wrest the camera from our photographer and prevent her from leaving the parking lot in her car.

When I presented myself in the place, the manager grabbed me by the shoulder and started yelling threatening me with the Armed Forces. “You can’t take pictures because it belongs to the FAR [Revolutionary Armed Forces], I just spoke with the CIM and they tell me that you have to delete the photo,” said Mr. Casas.

Apparently management does not prohibit the sale of meat products by individuals on its grounds.
Apparently management does not prohibit the sale of meat products by individuals on its grounds.

When I asked where the signs are prohibiting photographing he replied that we are arrogant and walked away, while one of his assistants came up inches from my face to remind me that this was not my country.

I cannot believe that CIM is dedicated to ensuring the “security” of a supermarket. It is more likely that management fears the pictures could reveal illegalities, such as the presence of private meat sellers without sanitary conditions.

Curiously, they never called the police, something we asked them to do from the start. So, as a precaution, I recorded the entire conversation to avoid them later misrepresenting what they said.
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(*) Visit Fernando Ravsberg’s blog (in Spanish).

 


5 thoughts on “Cuba: Has Counterintelligence Prohibited Photographing Shops?

  • In a supermarket in Canada or the US, if you are stopped from taking a photograph, it will be the manager who asks you to stop, and if you insist he will call their private security guard to escort you out, not the FBI or RCMP.

    In Cuba, as reported above, State Security agents stop people from taking photographs. That’s a significant difference.

  • Viajero may be right, but I suspect that they are for very different reasons in the name of “security” and taking a photo of a box of plates is also quite different from taking a wide angle photo of an isle, row or section of a store. With the ubiquitous nature of smartphones in the U.S. (and Canada), it’s less likely for security to intervene, though. We’re a bit paranoid here in the U.S.when it comes to security, but I suspect Cuba may be much worse due to its tighter controls on its citizens.

  • Not true. I just took a picture in a Wal-Mart Superstore a couple of weeks ago of a box of plates with my phone to send it to my wife for her approval. (smile) The salesgirl held the ruler to confirm the actual size of the plate for me.

  • Try taking a picture of a supermarket in Canada or the US. Won’t be long before security hustles you out.

  • Interesting comments, because I wondered the same thing. On my trip to Cienfuegos this past April of 2013, I did get to take one photograph in a corner supermarket and was told that photography was prohibited. You would have thought I was taking a photograph of a secret military installation! When I asked why it was prohibited, the young man just said because his boss told him photographs were prohibited. I told him I took it because I though it was a well-stocked supermarket, a positive thing! Fortunately, I got to keep my photograph.

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