Cuba’s Police Should Be Looking After Us

By Leo Cascar

Leo at the National Arts School
Leo at the National Arts School

HAVANA TIMES — Martin and Leo, two young artists from Havana were walking peacefully home at night after a long day of working, studying and rehearsing when a policeman called them over on the corner of 23rd and G Streets and rudely asked them for their IDs, in an almost unintelligible dialect, for reasons which, clearly in his delirious attempt to control everything, he thought was obvious.

While the young men waited for the policeman to finish up finding out what their civil status was on the database, they asked themselves why they had been stopped as all they were doing was walking. After quite a while, the policeman approached them and told them what they already knew: their criminal records were completely clean, and after this he asked them to show him what they had in their daypacks, the offended young men asked him why to which the policeman didn’t give any explanation and just insisted.

There were lots of things in the daypack including a laptop. The policeman began to ask lots of questions like: whose is it? why are you carrying it in a daypack? Until, after so many ridiculous questions, he ended with the best one of the night: Where are the documents stating the owner of this laptop? They looked at each other confused as they knew that a lot of people walk around Havana with their laptops and very few of them have these property papers, as they are bought from private individuals who don’t give you any papers, while others are purchased abroad and if they came with any papers, they would surely be kept in a safe place at home.

These two young men were arrested and taken to the police station on Zapata and C Streets because they didn’t have their laptop’s ownership documents. They were left all night in a cell, nobody giving them an explanation or asked them any further questions. The next morning, when the policemen switched shifts, they were made to sign a piece of paper and were then handed all of their belongings and released without any explanation whatsoever. Everything they asked was answered with silence, until they finally made up a story about how there had been a laptop theft and that just to make sure that it wasn’t the stolen laptop, they were arrested.


There’s no more irrational and insolent excuse than this. I can’t imagine that now if a cellphone was stolen, the police would lock up anybody carrying one on the street to find out which one it was… the young men’s parents said. And I ask myself, how is it possible that an institution that was created to look after people and to maintain order, commits this kind of foolishness? It’s true that the police in other countries are corrupt and aggressive, but in Cuba, while being very corrupt and only a little aggressive, they are also very stupid and not very well-trained.

I don’t understand how people allow them to continue lying and fooling us with this illusion that they exist to protect the population when crime in Havana has never been eliminated, and is even growing at an exponential rate because the police force doesn’t work properly, it loses its time on young students, while criminals continue running loose in Havana as if it’s nothing.

8 thoughts on “Cuba’s Police Should Be Looking After Us

  • Consider yourself very lucky for not having been arrested. There a few foreign prisoners in Cuban jails whom had no “fear” either before being arrested. Cuban law permits the government to hold you for a long time before you are even charged with a crime.

  • I saw a young black man being carded and harassed for a while by police; he was walking by, not doing anything suspicious as far as I saw; I guess he had the documents, and they finally let him pass. It looked like harassment to me.
    I did not feel personally unsafe at any time or anywhere in Cuba.

  • What crimes did you witness ?? Please tell us Cuba watchers. I was there in January/Feb. 2016

  • You must remember, Cuba has been a closed society and now with this transition, it is a shock. I make no excuses, it’s my homeland and they are now troglodytes and you are correct, “GUAJIROS” is exactly what they are. Hicks, brought in to divide and conquer on behalf of the government……other than that ,hope you enjoyed the Twilight World that is Cuba.

  • I was there last year and during the Special Period and have never felt any danger in Cuba. I am Cuban American as well so perhaps the language may have been an issue where unnecessary fear may arise.Rapid change and desperation are both occurring. It would be so sad if Cuba does not get it together on emerging violent crime. Havana will lose its crusty luster appeal. The government and the new hotels have to much at stake.Cuba’s safety is world known….I pray they get it under control. They don’t care about religion . That system has so denigrated traditional Cuban culture….Like the SPIRITUAL AIDS that Marxism is. Blessings to you. Sandy. <3

  • Sandy, you were very lucky. All it takes is for some guajiro policeman who could give a pip about your “extranjero” status and you could have found yourself locked up waiting for a representative from your embassy (assuming that you are not American) to sign you out of jail and put your insolent butt on a plane out of Cuba. It almost happened to me and it did happen to my German buddy who was renting the casa particular across the street from mine.

  • Trish: i was in Havana over a decade ago and saw instances of police haraasment although not to this extent . I deliberately approached the police at times to show them that I as a foreigner was watching their behaviour and i made my disdain clear. I was never afraid, not once. I was angry and upset on behalf of the cuban people, but never afraid. I figured the worst they could do to me is turn their steely gaze on me as an intruder . I saw myself as having paid for a flight to Cuban, I broke no laws, in fact I was helping the cubans through the Special Period. I trusted my government to have my back if there was any abuse towards me. I travelled the country and did not hide my Christian faith , my Bible, the gifts I had for my friends, my curiosity for the culture, the government rules, ration books, peso stores, the men in yellow, the alternative religions, the neighbourhood watchers, the meetings. In North Korea, in China and some parts of Indonesia, I would be afraid but never Cuba.

  • I observed this occuring when in Havana earlier this year. It was disturbing, and the only thing that gave me an unsafe feeling during my trip.

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