My Experience Being Robbed in Cuba

The Prado promenade in Old Havana.

HAVANA TIMES — Emma Scopes has asked to share her experience of being robbed in Cuba with HT readers. The potentially dangerous event and loss of personal belongings had a happy ending.

“I traveled to Cuba in December 2013 as part an organized group touring the island for 2 weeks. Unfortunately during my first day in Havana (after having flown into Cuba the day before), I had my hand bag snatched while walking down the Prado promenade in Old Havana.

“Despite being dragged to the ground and holding on for dear life for what felt like forever but was probably only a matter of seconds, the man managed to run off with my bag. However, I don’t look on this event unfavorably – quite the reverse in fact for what happened next.

“At least two men who had seen it happen ran after the perpetrator. Many local Cubans by this time had gathered around me and my two friends who were with me at the time to show support and check if I was ok.

“After only a few minutes there must have been at least 50 people (all local Cubans) surrounding me, showing concern. One lady even came up to me to give me a hug!

“Fortunately the police were able to catch the man who took my bag and return my possessions. By the time the police returned with the perpetrator in hand cuffs, the crowd gathered seemed ready to lynch the man!

“I could not have asked for more support at this time and truly feel overwhelmed at the love and concern from the local people who witnessed this event. The efficiency of the police was also truly astounding. 

“I’d like to use this forum to reach out to both the police and the local people who helped during my time of need and thank them from the bottom of my heart. The community spirit shown by everyone involved that afternoon was fantastic; I couldn’t have asked for more support, I was totally blown away by it all.

“So a huge ‘thank you’ to the police and to the crowd that formed around me, especially to the people who chased after and caught the man and to the lady who gave me a much needed hug. I think the cheer that went up when the police presented the captured perpetrator to me said it all.”

29 thoughts on “My Experience Being Robbed in Cuba

  • but that is the standard cuban slogan added with venceremos.

  • Hmmm thats interesting. On that exact same day – 18th Jan 2014- i had my bag snatched violently by 2 guys, one on a bicycle who took the snatcher away quickly after he got my bag. Both me and my friend who was with me at the time thought afterwards that we had been beung watched and it had been planned at least a short while before it happened. I didnt give in easily, and despite giving chase and crying out loudly for help in Spanish in a street full of people, nobody came to my aid, even after they had got away, to see if i was ok. I had mistakenly fallen into the trap of letting my guard down and believing no one wd dare try to commit a crime against me as a tourist. I found out after the event that bag snatching – and other criminal scams against tourists – are very common but swept under the carpet. I will not be returning to Cuba or recommending it to people because of the dishonestly i experienced, and the attitude towards tourists that we are all millionaires and therefore its ok to try to constantly scam us for all we’re worth.

  • You make getting mugged in Cuba sound like so much adventure and fun.

  • Excellent point. If Cuba had money or resources or anything that the world really wanted, the embargo would be meaningless. The Castros medical services export business is booming. No embargo problems there. The embargo does put pressure on Cuba financially as it cuts the Castros off from debt-financing and banking services around the world. The Castros have proven to be among the world’s worst credit risks so even this embargo obstacle is debatable. As far as being plunged into poverty, the Castros already did that so no risk of it getting worse.

  • To me it looks like a fake robbery. Why would the guy risk being jailed or lynched knowing the presence of the police on the promenade? Probably the cuffs were taken off around the corner and he got some pesos for his performance. Same for the caring and hugging bystanders. It’s to make a good impression on tourists!

  • cuba’s free to trade with the entire world, i don’t understand what the united states has that can’t be obtained elsewhere on the planet?

    for example, tourism is only around 5% of the jamaican gdp and is a very popular destination in the caribbean.

    you mean taking away a handful of yanqui tourists from cuba is going to derail the entire country and plunge everyone into poverty?

  • Don’t believe the hype! Using your example, the real reason Cuban doctors are most likely to return to a remote African village is because he/she will earn $200 per month on mission as opposed to the $20 per month in Cienfuegos. Plus that doctor will be able to bring
    back a cheap computer and running shoes. I don’t want to dismiss Cuban altruism altogether but it is no more prevalent in Cuba than the thousands of US Peace
    Corps volunteers and Doctors w/o Borders medical staff that leave the comfort and higher salaries of their American lives year after year to do the same charitable work Cubans do. Cubans have not cornered the market on volunteerism. On the contrary, many of the tens of thousands of medical internationalists from Cuba do so to escape the tyranny of the regime. Thousands of Cuban doctors in Venezuela have walked into the American embassy in Caracas and declare “asilo politico”. So much for solidarity, huh?

  • Wish I could say the same about my ‘being robbed’ experience in Cuba. Instead when the police came they told me I would be charged with ‘speaking against the government’ and ‘would never be allowed back to Cuba’ if I didn’t drop it. But show me police anywhere who can’t be jerks 😉

  • Political wisdom AND Bible school?

  • That’s Sr. Agent Moses.

  • …and yet you live among the evil. I am sure the good people of Cuba will have you. Surely, they could benefit from you political ideas. Give it a shot, eh?

  • There is no doubt, in my mind, that the reason Cubans are so exceptionally good people, compared to other nationalities, is the revolution. It has installed a sense of humanity and decency within them. I seem to recall that Che said the purpose of the revolution was to create ‘a new man’: in that, I believe, it has succeeded.

    Is there any other nation more evil than the USA: because of its wars: famine, poverty and misery encompass the entire peoples of this planet. Just so that 1% of Americans can have wealth beyond the comprehension of all: wealth that is so great it is of no use to them.

    I recall that Jesus said that if a man has two coats let him give one away. Of course the 1% in America have thousands of billions of coats, so to speak, and yet they still ravage more wars on the starving to steal their rags.

  • “If you refuse those in need, you refuse me.”
    Jesus Christ
    If you support an economic war on the people of Cuba who you readily admit suffer from economic deprivation , do you not, by doing so, also reject Christ’s teachings and coincidentally, and definitely not accidentally , the primary tenets of socialism and communism as regards sharing the wealth ?

  • If the U.S government does not hate the Cuban people , why has it punished them all with their 54 year war on their economy which was put in place EXPLICITLY to make their lives so miserable that they would , themselves, overthrow the revolution the U.S could not bring down militarily ?
    Americans have been indoctrinated over those years to believe what their government says about “Communist” Cuba and go right along with the U.S attempt to bring down the revolution so…yes the American people think the Cubans , the vast majority of whom support their revolution , are bad people.
    How could they think otherwise ?
    The people at the top in the Cuban government do not suffer as it is with any government .
    It is always the regular people.
    You can’t simultaneously support the economic war on the people of Cuba and maintain that you don’t hate them.

  • I guess what you fail to understand is that there is no “human nature” separate from concrete social and economic conditions. That is as old as anthropology. If you have a culture that emphasizes individualism de modal way of behaving will be selfish and individualistic. Like the many experiments and actual events when a person is attacked and no one comes to their rescue. That is more likely to happen in any US city than in Cuba. Cuba has sent thousand of doctors to Africa to the remotest parts and many return over and over although they have better condition in Cuba. Now if they were being sent to California then of course I would understand they wanting to return, but Africa? Its called solidarity a value lacking in our culture, it is non existent but self interest is more modal than internationalism.

  • Agent Moses will always put a negative spin on any Cuban news item because that is what he is paid to do.

  • I am glad for Emma and that she took the time to post her story. Of course there are good and bad events and outcomes in all countries. But while they are serious for the individuals, they are just anecdotal until someone can show a statistically significant pattern or correlation – or until someone unschooled in logic or just looking to besmertch a country or people, uses an example as a generality. Using anecdotes to prove a bias is commone among those who are arguing emotionally or from prejudice.

    Fortunatley, we can do better. Those more comprehensive studies and observations can descern larger trends. Using such measures, you can make reasonable assertions that some cities and some coulures have different levels of violence, etc. Such comparisons of Cuba with other similar societies show that Cuba comes off well in most measures of violence, organized crime, and even large scale corruption. Also, as a nation Cuba has seldom invaded anybody and is clearly not profiteering from wars or resource exploitation. Yes, there is systemic and low level economic corruption and many other social problems, but it doesn’t compare to the social devastation in most other poor countries.

    Lastly, these measure are impressive when you add in that Cuba has nonetheless been able to provide universal education and health care. Argue about the quality if you will, but again relevant comparisons show it is truely impressive, especially when you add in that the US with it billions has for years attempted in many ways, covert and overt to destroy any possible success in Cuba.

    So good luck to those who wish to blame all ills in Cuba on the revolution, or twisted assertions that Fidel is one of the richest people in the world (Vanity Fair for example), etc. and do so consistently while never referring to the corporate and Mafia theft before the revolution or the military and other sabotage by the US since.

    Thanks Emma and yes there are good people everywhere, but they don’t always get to act that way.

  • Hola Lloyd, the pagan, thanks for reading my comment. You probably missed the fact I was responding to the affront we proud ‘anti-revolutionaries’ feel when Castro apologists assume criticism of the Castros means criticism of the Cuban people. Nothing hateful about my comment, just making a necessary distinction.

  • Glad you got your purse back, Emma!
    At the home of my friend in San Agustin one night, around 3:00 a.m. his two dogs “Negro” y “Blanco” started barking. Getting up, he noticed a thief was taking down garments from a neighbor’s clothesline. Quickly, he jumped out of bed, grabbed his machete, and gave chase. The culprit dropped the clothes and fled. Had my friend caught him, no doubt, he would have rendered “Saudi” justice!

  • Moses, the christ worshiper, always adds a hate message to every post. Why not just enjoy with a positive post like Hasta la victoria Siempre

  • Americans don’t think Cubans are bad people! Who told you that? The US government believes the Castro regime is bad. There is a difference. The US welcomes far more Cubans to our shores than Canadians do and we have far more Cuban-Americans than there are Cuban-Canadians.

  • Why are Castro-apologists so unable to grasp and retain the concept that criticism of the Castro regime is not criticism of the Cuban people? The “anti-revolution folks” like ME understand that there are many hard-working, decent and honest Cubans in Cuba forced to live under a tyranny that encourages and then turns a blind eye to poor customer service and corruption. I am thrilled this tourist had a positive end to a negative experience. This could have and does happen everywhere. Cuba is no exception. Personally, I try to direct my criticisms to the Castro regime, the Castro dictatorship, the Castros, etc. I am careful to distinguish what is CUBA and the Cuban people and what is the government forced upon them for the last 55 years. Even the most blinded and virulent Miami exile critic of the Castros in no way connects the disaster that has become of Cuba with the Cuban people.

  • I witnessed a similar event on the pedestrian street in Cienfuegos, 9n 2011. I heard shouting and saw a man running towards me. Someone tried to stop him and he fell, dropped the purse and ran off.
    The lady whose purse it was, was being consoled by locals when she was presented with her purse.
    I asked a policeman who had arrived almost immediately, if they were going to give chase.
    His answer: “He’s well-known, we know where to go and pick him up.”

  • That was my experience too with public servants and medical personnel in Cuba, In my country, not even tourists get this treatment…..I am sure the anti-revolution folks will spin this to show how bad Cuba is!

  • This is a very funny joke, I commend you…..

  • Shame About the U.S. Their Government, using the media, has their own people so brainwashed, in infinite angles, that they think the Cuban are bad people. If they would only Listen to the Canadians that have been down there, then they would realize, how crooked their Government really is!! Been To Cuba, Good People, Great Time. me….I Am Canadian!!

  • That story could easily be repeated a million times in any poor section of any major U.S city where capitalism has produced such widespread wealth that not only would this woman have her purse returned but she would be given a Gucci purse full of money for her trouble.

  • Hasta la victoria siempre…WTF? Nothing to do with the article. Glad that you are ok.

  • hasta la victoria siempre, venceceremos. really a good story. mine was a little different. i purchased some baseball memorabilia from private dealers in havana. they were confiscated from me and i was fined by the authorities at marina hemingway. just wondering if the corruption there has been dealt with.

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