Cuba Is One of the Safest Countries

Elio Delgado Legon

Walkway on Havana's Reina St.
Walkway on Havana’s Reina St. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Though some refuse to acknowledge it, the positive results of the social transformations undertaken in Cuba following the triumph of the revolution in 1959 are plain to see and within everyone’s reach.

Many aren’t aware of these changes because they take them for granted – over 70 percent of Cuba’s current population was born after the revolution and did not experience what came before.

Cuba’s past, which resembles the present of many countries in Latin America and other parts of the world, was fraught by every imaginable calamity. I will mention only some, to enlighten the younger readers and refresh the memory of those intent on denying what cannot be denied.

The illiteracy and low level of schooling in which Cuba’s population was maintained was one of the great obstacles to development. This was coupled with high unemployment and the precariousness of work in the countryside, where there was a certain degree of abundance only during the short three months of the sugar harvest. Because of this, most of the Cuban people lived in abject poverty, completely uncertain about their future.

That economic panorama made it impossible for the country to even consider developing a tourist industry, which would have been a significant source of employment and a means of securing hard currency for the country.

Alameda de Paula, Havana
Alameda de Paula, Havana.  Photo: Juan Suarez

Tourists, for their part, were not much interested in visiting a country which, in addition to the poverty they saw everywhere, was characterized by great insecurity and violence, perpetrated by both the police and bands of gangsters, who could begin exchanging bullets at any moment.

That was the atmosphere that prevailed in the country during the presidencies of Ramon Grau San Martin and Carlos Prio Socarras, from 1944 to 1952. As of March 10, 1952, following Fulgencio Batista’s coup d’etat, the situation worsened: those who had been gangsters became part of the dictatorship’s repressive apparatus, and no one felt safe anywhere.

Today, Cuba’s situation is diametrically opposed to this. One can walk down any part of the city at any time of day without fear of being attacked. The police work to guarantee the tranquility of citizens and the safety of those who visit Cuba as tourists.

One breaths an atmosphere of peace and safety in Cuba today. There are no gangs, no drug dealing, no homeless children harassing tourists. Nor do we see anti-riot squads launching tear-gas canisters or aiming jets of water at crowds of protesters.

The terrorist actions which aimed to destabilize Cuba for many years and cost thousands of lives have been neutralized thanks to the skill of Cuba’s intelligence and security forces.

Havana bus stop. Photo: Juan Suarez

Visitors to Cuba enter into friendly and courteous exchanges with the locals. One can ask anyone on the street for directions and they will gladly oblige, for Cubans are friendly by nature.

Cubans are no longer the backward and illiterate people they were before 1959. Today, they are a cultured people who can engage a visitor and speak to them about practically any topic.

I am not saying Cuba is paradise on earth. Like anywhere else, there are delinquents who take advantage of the unwary. However, in comparison to other countries such dangers are insignificant.

The professionalism of the police and other law and order institutions guarantees the safety of Cuban citizens and of everyone who visits the country as a tourist. I can honestly say, without fear of contradiction, that Cuba is one of the safest countries in the world.

23 thoughts on “Cuba Is One of the Safest Countries

  • The main reason crime is low in Cuba
    Is not fear of police.Yes they have some
    Crime -but it is much less than Jamaica
    And east Caribbean . You can walk any where in Havana any time of day-I wouldnt try that in Kingston or even Edmonton !(Canada).
    The people in Cuba are proud of their
    Country-Cuban police have power
    -all police have some power.
    Jamaican police are corrupt ! Not Cuban police !
    I believe that Cuban people are less
    desperate and take more stock in
    Their scociety, precisely because they
    have the best education standard
    In Latin America and the Caribbean
    The rest of caribbeans are wonderful
    People-but their government gives
    them no help in medical or educational
    Issues. This leads to desperation !

  • Hope you don’t wait, James, ’til “our” government gives you “permission” to go. I’ve visited Cuba seven times over the past 55 years (including five visits between 2004 and 2012), and none by “permission”. Just go through a third or “gateway” country, like Canada, Mexico or Nassau. Via Canadian charters, like Sunwing and WestJet, r/t flights can be had for as little as $400+tax r/t, usually from Toronto to Varadero (Cuba’s Miami Beach and a two hour bus ride from Habana). Most Canadians just go to Varadero, or like resorts; these are called “fly and flop” vacations. Armed with a good travel book and a little research, however, your trip can be a much more rewarding experience, and you can travel, on your own and unsupervised, from one end of Cuba to the other. Also, if you study some Spanish beforehand, the experience becomes more interesting, as you will be able to descend into the national peso economy (or CUPS), which is much less expensive, than just staying within the tourist economy (where goods and services are charged in convertable pesos or CUC’s–however this will be changing in the future.) Also, once out of the “tourist ghettos” like Varadero, Habana Vieja, the Vedado, Trinidad, and around Parque Marti in Santiago, you are seldom hassled by the “jinateros/as”, and can meet the many Cubans who are not so focused upon tourists.

  • I would love to vacation in Cuba. Maybe someday my war mongering country will lift the embargo!!!

  • I should have been more specific. By police, I mean the political police. I agree with you that the guys (and gals) in the light/dark blue uniforms are guajiros with uncomfortable shoes and by comparison are keystone cops next to NYPD, LAPD, or Chicago’s checkerboard. Cubans FEAR the guys in the plaid shirts with government-issued Adidas that you see mixed in the crowd at every concert or organizing every repudiation rally. These are the ones to fear in Cuba.

  • Fear of the police,I don’t think so. Not in Cuba. As an attorney in the US I would say that the fear in this country, by the poor and minorities is much greater, Moses. I’ll give you an anecdote. Once about 10 years ago I was arrested in Havana. I was stopped for riding my bike the wrong way on a one way street, and I had no ID on me. They called a paddywagon and loaded me in w/ 4 or 5 other prisoners, and we drove around for a while until we ended up at the police station in Chinatown. I sat in the tank w/ about 20 other people, none of whom appeared fearful of what was going to happen to them. After about 2 hours I was released by an official who scolded me for not having my passport with me. He said “proxima vez, amaralo a las cojones”. I told Cuban friends about his grosera and they were incensed. The wanted to go w/ me to station to make a complaint about the cop that said that to me. US cops are dangerous in many circumstances. From all I can see, Cuban cops are not.

  • The debate continues with regards to what civil liberties will a society trade for personal safety. What is already clear is that the whole of society must offer this exchange and not just the poorest and most vulnerable. Violent crime in America’s largest cities is, in fact, going down. Cuba seems to be safer because these type of crimes are not reported in the government media. Cuba exists under the heel of a police state. Crime is lower at the price of a police force free to operate without citizen oversight. Cubans replaced their fear of criminals with the fear of the police. There is little positive about a society motivated by fear.

  • It shows what good leaderships can do, I’ve not been myself but I have hear
    d the same sentimenties how clean and safe it it.

  • Moses, regarding NYC’s former “Stop and Search” policy,
    it was demeaning and disgraceful! You know the point I was making in that a city or nation can in fact curtail crime
    by restricting rights of its citizens. As a former resident of Chicago, I can tell you that crime in the major cities, USA,
    is getting totally out of hand. Cuba, for many reasons,
    seems to be safer. It also appears that Cuba is changing
    radically and for both sides of the Florida straits, this is
    a positive sign. I enjoy your comments.

  • Note that in Cuba being black also is a “reason” to be shot at:

    “José Luis Zumaguera se encuentra en estado de coma. ‘Merecía un tiro en la cabeza, por ser negro y delincuente’, decían los uniformados.”

    “La policía dispara siete veces a un ciudadano durante una persecución en Colón | Diario de Cuba”

  • What an incredibly racist thing to write. The “Stop and Search” policy NYPD used mostly against young men of color was overreaching and probably unconstitutional. DeBlasio, NY’s new mayor, was, in part, elected because of his campaign promise to end this demeaning practice. BTW, I am Black.

  • Humberto, ayax and Cubaqus all believe that Cuba is safe b/c it is a “police state” and you better obey, or else. Reconcile that with, let’s say Honduras. Maybe they don’t know, but police death squads have reappeared there, performing curb-side executions of suspected gang members, (along with the occasional leftist journalist) and yet crime is through the roof. The key is desperation. There is no true desperation in Cuba, much as the Cuba haters wish there were.

  • The fact that crime isn’t reported doesn’t mean there is no crime.

    There is lots of crime “Cuban on Cuban” and lots of scams and thefts from tourists.

    Tourists that rent a car and drive risk imprisonment even for accidents they did not provoke.

    A reminder:
    “Teacher who visited Cuba due to ‘low crime rate’ strangled in hotel room”

    A young British teacher, who travelled to Cuba after being advised it was a haven for female tourists, was ambushed and murdered in her hotel room in an apparently motiveless attack.

    “Mississauga man trapped in Cuba after car accident”
    Damian Buksa, a 34-year-old Mississauga man, fell asleep in the back of his rental car. His guide drove the car and crashed into a tree. Now Buksa can’t leave the country.

    “New tourists take heed of Cody’s case”,

  • I bet that Havana Times wont post this!

    Human Rights Watch published an extensive report (LINK PROVIDED) on prison
    conditions in Cuba in 1999. In it it widely criticized most aspect of the Cuban
    judicial and prison system. A figure of 100,000 or more makes Cuba the country
    with the most prisoners per capita in the world. International organizations
    have reported that inadequate food and medical assistance, sexual abuse, limits
    and restrictions on visits, beatings,… in Cuba’s prisons. Amnesty
    International (LINK PROVIDED) has often started letter letter writing operations
    to support suffering prisoners of conscience. I refer to the extensive reports
    linked to at the top (HRW and Cubafacts) for a more detailed report on abuses in
    Cuba prisons.

  • Elio Delgado Legon!! Where are the links to your “data”!! Here are

    UNESCO: WORLD ILLITERACY AT MID-CENTURY: A statistical study published
    1957 (p. 30)
    TABLE 5: Number and percentage of illiterates in the population
    15 years old and
    COUNTRY: Year – Total number of persons – Cannot read
    and write – Per cent illiterate
    COSTA RICA: 1950 – 457,786 – 94,492 –
    DOMINICAN REPUBLIC : 1950 – 1,185, 424 – 677,293 –
    PANAMA: 1950 – 442 249 – 132,978 – 30.1%
    PUERTO RICO: 1950 –
    1,255,328 – 335,799 – 26.7%
    ARGENTINA: 1947 – I I,318,896 –
    1,541,678 – 13.6%
    study published 1957 (p. 41)
    CUBA: 1950 – 3,400,000 – 680 to 850,000 –

  • Well, even though most of this is true, the fact is there actually are children (and adults) harassing tourists in the cities; they’re just not homeless. They have homes, poor ones, but homes. And, they go about said activity as politely as they can; should they be caught in the act they’d be in trouble with the police.

  • Thanks Moses! It’s was much safer in NYC when the police could randomly stop black kids and search them without cause but that’s
    been halted. I hope you’re not black!! Or did you know this?

  • I agree. When I look at the amount of crime on some of Australia’s streets and the pathetic penalties handed out by the legal system, it makes me want the police to have more powers, not less. Of course absolute power breeds corruption and abuse so it’s all about getting the balance right. For me, Australia is on one side of the pendulum and Cuba about the same distance from centre on the other. But what they’re doing in Cuba makes it attractive to tourists and at least some of the locals I’m sure. Cuba is heading in the right direction – I’ve only been there once but very keen to get back again.

  • I agree completely with Elio, Cuba is a safe destination. Compared with surrounding destinations, including South Florida, Cuba is much safer. (Some foreign tourists who have taken the wrong turn off the expressway between Miami International Airport and Miami Beach have paid for their error with their lives!). Of course, as everywhere, certain common sense precautions should be taken. Although you can be bothered by jinatero/a’s, they don’t have the desperation of those from nearby nations who don’s have a social safety net. Also, I’ve seen first hand some of the professionalism exhibited by the local consabulary (who are were skilled in psychological methods of defusing and deescalating confrontational situations, such as domestic violence, sexual harassment, etc.)
    Finally, in the few cases where a capital crime has been committed, the unrelenting investigation of Lt. Mario Conde will quickly find the culprit!

  • This will be our 10th winter in Cuba, not just a week or two, 4 or 5 months is our usual length of stay. Both my wife and I have walked together and at times walked alone at various times of day or night, not one unpleasant episode to report. The Cuban people are second to none in being polite, helpful and kind. My morning walk is a problem, it use to take me about 1 hour, many people now recognize me and I’m forever being asked to come in and have coffee, well needless to say it now takes all morning……………and I enjoy every minute, not only is my Spanish improving, I also enjoy the finest coffee in the world as well as the finest people, some of whom are getting pretty good at speaking English, its a win, win situation.

  • el Elio este es un infeliz que manera de hablar mierda claro que hay seguridad sino lo haces te desaparecen del mapa oye mira que hay que leer cada anormalidades es mi pais y siempre lo amare pero la seguridad tiene su costo represion contra el pueblo cubano lo haces o te matamos o te perdistes y no se sabe donde estas por favor elio no seas descarado y tan estupido abre los ojos mi hermano

  • Finally, a subject where Elio and I can agree. Of course, generally speaking, police states tend to have lower crime. There is a saying in Havana…’there are two million people in Havana, one million citizens and one million police”. Still, I think nothing of walking the streets of Central Havana near the casa particular where I stay at 3 AM. I can’t do that in my own upper-class neighborhood here in San Francisco. Elio should stick to praising Cuba for its cigars, rums, salsa and now street safety. Leave writing posts regarding politics to the grown-ups.

  • We have visited Cuba many times and besides the warm weather, we feel safe in Cuba. Cuba is full of Canadians in our winter and being able to move around safely is one of the main reasons

  • “The professionalism of the police and other law and order institutions guarantees the safety of Cuban citizens”…
    Pobre Elio, está muy mal de la cabeza. En todas las dictaduras hay menos crímenes y no hay que ser demasiado inteligente para entender por qué. Pero la falta de neuronas a veces hace escribir posts como este.

Comments are closed.