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Jimmy Roque Martinez: I was born in Havana in 1979, and it seems that work has been my sign. Custodian, fish farmer, lens carver, welder, glass maker, optometrist, have been some of my trades. But none consumes as much of my time as caring for my family. For many years I’ve faced the least pretty face of this society, and I try to be happy while I transform it. I am too shy. I like silence, sleep, theater and movies. I hate injustice and arrogance, and I can hardly contain my anger when it happens in front of me.

Cuba, Pensioners and Respect for the Law

May 29, 2017 | Print Print |

Jimmy Roque Martinez

Retiree selling tamarind seeds. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Some people usually sell goods on Tulipan Street, in the Revolution Square municipality, just like they do in almost every neighborhood throughout the country. Generally-speaking, these are industrial and/or craft goods, and the people selling them are people aged 65 years old and over, many of whom have already retired.

I have seen policemen, along with inspectors, fining these street vendors on many occasions, and there is almost always a particular policeman who is tall and imposing in manner.

Not too long ago, I witnessed how this policeman, this time dressed as a civilian, fined an old lady, with the help of two inspectors. Minutes later, they took her merchandise to a police truck that was parked nearby.

That’s when I made my way towards them and asked where the goods that had been taken off sellers, who had already received fines, would go.

Of course, the plain clothes policeman asked who I was, before answering that the goods are kept in inspector warehouses and are then used to replenish stock at stores or markets, depending on the item in question.

That’s when I asked if it would be possible to corroborate the fact that this mechanism works properly, as it is common knowledge that policemen and inspectors pocket confiscated goods for themselves a lot of the time.

The plain clothes policeman told me that he wasn’t obliged to give me any explanations, and that he only needs to answer to the Ministry of Interior and State Security, trying to void my right to question him.

During our conversation, the policeman showed me his identification to show me that he really was a policeman, while the two women who were accompanying him did the same and identified themselves as inspectors.

Every public authority should be obliged to give any citizen explanations and report back whenever a citizen asks them to; but we already know that talking about rights in Cuba is extremely suspicious.

Broom sellers. Photo: Juan Suarez

If Cuba was really a socialist country, if its modes of production really were the peoples, then they would be compelled to give account for their management; but because that isn’t the case, the only thing that is promoted here is that corruption spreads and grows in every sector.

It’s a well-known fact that salaries here in Cuba aren’t enough for people to live a dignified life and that pensions for civilians are measly, while the cost of living is becoming more and more expensive.

One of the causes (among many others) is the fact that we are still keeping an army up and running and such a large police force, without them having any real work to do, who are used to confiscate lighters and cigarette packs from old people on the streets of this city because they have no real military maneuvers to do.

We need to fight for our civil rights and for citizen control so as to put an end to corruption and the privileges that the Cuban military and political elite enjoy.


What's your opinion?

  • Dan Makgow Smith

    If this sort of thing goes on in Cuba, it is wrong. I visited Cuba in March and was appalled at the squalor and run down buildings. They need to concentrate on fixing the communities and concentrating on things that really matter. What’s the matter, aren’t the citizens poor enough yet?

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      The answer Dan Makgow Smith (I use your full name as there is another Dan who contributes) is that the “things that really matter” are communist dogma, power and control over the mass proleteriat. Poverty is relative – who cares about it as long as everybody is equally poor?
      It was that master of the English language Winston Churchill, who summed it up:
      “The inherent vice of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.”

  • CUBAQUS

    From what I saw:
    I was in a police station in Santiago de Cuba reporting the theft of a mirror from a rental car when a man was brought in for “trafficking” coffee. He had 6 pounds of coffee with him returning from a friends farm and was arrested and fined for “trafficking”. When the man left I saw the police officers opening his bag and make coffee for themselves in the station and dividing the “stache” between them (making smaller bags). That is what happens with much of the goods “impounded”.

    Another example:
    When renovating his house a friend of ours bought some tiles for the bathroom from an “ambulant” seller. Soon after the police appeared, confiscated the tiles and issued a fine. A couple of days later he saw the same seller trying to sell the identical tiles (a smudge on a case made that clear) to another person. He warned that person about the corrupt scam: the seller sells then informs his corrupt police friends where to confiscate and fine and gets the wares back to do it all ever again probably splitting the cash from the sales with the policemen.