‘El Ñaño’ of Cuba: One Less Rastifarian Priest / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

The wife and son of Hector Riscart, El Ñaño from Fresa Chocolate on Vimeo.

ZURAIMA’s Cell phone (Hector’s wife): 52519247

The trial is tomorrow, April 13th; we beg the international media to be there and document this political crusade against the Rastafarian movement in Cuba. Please don’t let Hector’s children grow up without him.

Hector Riscart, 'El Ñaño', and his family. (OLPL)

The political crusade against the Cuban Rastafarian movement will reach a climax on Friday April 13th, when the leader of the Herencia reggae band, Hector Riscart Mustelier (El Ñaño), priest Bobo Shanti priest of 40 years, is brought to trial for the crime of “production, sale, demand, trafficking, distribution and possession of drugs, psychotropic substances and other similar effects.”

The grandiosity of the charge does not justify that the hearing be behind closed doors in a room where they will air the charges against national security. Especially since, in the office of Citizens Support in the Ministry of Interior, they notified Zuraima Janero Damaso, his wife and mother of two, that it was a criminal offense of no interest to state security. In short, the evidence against Riscart, who denies his guilt from the start, only depends on the testimony of those law enforcement officers who captured him the morning of November 16, 2011, upon leaving his place of work as a musician at the Havana National Cabaret Center.

In his favor, Riscart is counting on the testimony of the Herencia performers, present during an arrest that became violent for no reason. In his favor, he has not been cited for years for “following” or “re-education” by the National Anti-Drug Agency (DNA), though the Prosecutor insists that he is being “controlled” by the DNA. In his favor, is the lousy job of the expert, who didn’t document incontrovertibly that there was incriminating evidence found at the public scene. In his favor, is the search of his house at Subirana 471 apt. 2, between Manglar and Santa Martha (Centro Habana), where there were no traces of “drugs, psychotropic substances or other similar effects,” that is, there was no property was acquired in the lucrative “production, sale, demand, trafficking, distribution or possession of illegal substances.”

Against him, paradoxically, is that Hector Riscart has rudely claimed he is innocent — being a Cuban Rastafarian, a rebellious culture of lion kings and sacred cannabis — and having been convicted two years ago during Operation Shell for a similar offense. Against him, they want to make an example of him so they are now asking for ten years in prison, with no right for a reduced sentence, and an additional year for “resisting,” that legal wildcard against any claim of rights by citizens: Riscart demanded to be taken to the Police Station to avoid the humiliation of a search before his public and the managers who contract with Herencia, but was thrown to the pavement and the band has since been unemployed, as the authorities appeared at the National Cabaret and lied about the existence of cocaine and other extreme drugs.

Grupo Herencia. To the far left, Hector Riscart Mustelier, 'El Ñaño'. (OLPL)

The Provisional Conclusions (January 30, 2012) in this case are a monument to the legal helplessness that survives on the island, bureaucratic barbarism that mocks the fate of the Cubans in a lottery of legal overtones. Under the title of the Provincial Prosecutor of Old Havana, no legible name appears, it is signed only with the initials of Mr. ARR. The wording of the facts has a childish bias, among other insulting or perhaps disabling errors, the text concludes confusing the defendant with one “Ángel Laguen,” about whom (if this document retains any legal force) they should question the witnesses on this coming Friday the 13th, and not about Héctor Riscart, as his name disappears in the final third of those conclusions, thus rendering the curious case of a man judged with the identity of another person.

Hired as defense team, a lawyer of a law collective, who will be on vacation for her birthday until after the plea, that she would take the case in favor of overtime pay — perhaps because of the meager fee of 415 national pesos (about $15 U.S.) — (the family and friends of Hector and Zuraima could not meet the high fees in convertible pesos (CUCs) which are the tricks of this trade today in Cuba). Like many law graduates, she recognizes that, when the National Revolutionary Police charge someone with a subject as taboo as “drugs,” any winning strategy to dismantle the alleged evidence and alleged improper procedures of the Prosecutor is bound to fail.

Héctor Riscart, a prisoner in Combinado del Este, after an intense interrogation, which his family branded not only as manipulative but full of lies, was deprived of the sacrament of his dreadlocks even without having been convicted. To make matters worse, he has effectively gone on an unintentional hunger strike because he is a vegetarian for religious reasons, which the prison authorities do not consider a spiritual matter, but a luxury or, worse, an eccentricity of rebellion in the inmate.

Héctor Riscart asks his wife Zuraima and his brothers in God to pray for him, perhaps in one of those ritual retreats in the mountains of Pinar del Río or Baracoa, where police quickly detained them (sometimes under threat of confiscation of private farms ) and imposed on them warnings of “pre-criminality” for practicing Rastafarianism in this country. Riscart can not conceive of any possibility of a divine mistake in the absurdity that he has inhabited for months, but continues to hope that the helping hand of a supreme truth will the minds of judges and cleanse the fallacies the voices of the agents declare against him.

Alarmingly, one of them, Ernesto Martinez Ramirez, of the Special Police headquarters in Cuba y Chacon (Havana Vieja), at a table at the National Cabaret minutes before the arrest in November 2011, wearing civilian clothing, tried to get members of Herencia to sell him prohibited cigarettes. Despite the negative response, and although he was not acting as a policeman, he denounced them to the guard and patrol services in the area (Maikel Atiet Creagh, Wilbert Durruthy Favier, David Rousseaux Columbié: all traceable also to Cuba y Chacon). The initial statement in Martinez Ramirez at a point in the process was changed for no apparent reason, to become less impressionistic and more incisive against Hector Riscart.

“]Although it all happened under police cameras on the corner of Prado and San Jose, the recordings could not be included as legal evidence, as his wife claimed on behalf of the defendant, because the officers in charge (coincidentally of the station of Cuba y Chacon) argued that these records disappear in a few days due to lack of personnel to process them. In this regard, there is still only the word of the police about the “resistance” of the Rastafarian, and the “discovery” in situ of a nylon bag cannabis on the street, which no witness testified to, and that was foisted exclusively on Hector Riscart, when he was already handcuffed in the Dragones Street Station (Old Havana).

It is significant that they did not seek incriminating fingerprints against Riscart, even if illegal substances were ratified as such by the Central Laboratory of Criminality, documented only by so-called photo-tables and then burned by the Division of Criminal Investigation of 100 y Aldabó. Nor did they attempt to document chemical traces or odors evident in his long hair and in the turban that covered: a white cloth that was never seized, despite being mentioned in the provisional findings as key to associate the findings with the person of the accused. The investigator of the Picota Station refused to convene an explanatory confrontation between witnesses, because apparently the versions of the policemen did not quite agree with each other regarding the musicians of Herencia—Adrián Obregón Janero (props), Germán Daniel Rivera Díaz (percussion), Zenén Mario Abreu Peña (soundman)—and Hector Riscart himself (director).

As a pharmacological colophon, what’s left is a positive urine sample, that could relate to the private consumption of hemp in the days before the actual facts concerning the cause (“consumption” is, strictly speaking, outside the Cuban Penal Code): an event, in any case not related to that crime which is trafficking in and profiting from harmful substances.

Beyond the anti-modern local legislation on the responsible use of psychoactive natural products, beyond clinical and industrial advantages of Cannabis (demonized by the Criminal Code, which blesses the profitable export of brand-name alcohol, for example, or the marketing of coca by the governments allied with Havana); far beyond the counter-culture that bids for for freedom from the whole oppressive establishment (be it market, communist or both); beyond the hyper-sensory cult incarnated by carambola in a Caribbean rhythm and the mummy of an African dictator; beyond the other Cuban Rastafarians who have been sentenced to and served prison terms without daring to assert their worldview castrated by communism; beyond the fear to exercising the law here, ranging from the mediocre to the petty (who pays more wins) and the petty to the death of our society (those nearest to power pay the most); beyond this tragedy will now leave bereft a man of a poor family, decapitating his spiritual and economic axis for a decade, all because of half a minute of human misery in the mute eyes of the world and its Babylons of the 21st century.

I fear that this Friday, April 13, one of the few eminent priests of the Bobo Shanti order in Cuba, popularly esteemed as Ñaño, a man of immutable inner peace, will have his faith in love and in the universal light put to the text by a Cuba plotting against him, where solidarity is still an uncivil dream that is running out of gods other than hatred and despotism.

Originally published in Diario de Cuba.

10 April 2012