Cienfuegos Shaken By Another Knife Crime

Friends and relatives attended the funeral of Luis Santacruz Labrada, stabbed to death in the city of Cienfuegos. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora / Mario Pentón, Cienfuegos/Miami, 24 February 2018 — He was only 23 years old with an unquenchable desire for dancing and music. Luis Santacruz Labrada literally knew each of the songs of the national reggaeton and the places where young Cienfuegueros meet. His murder by stabbing, on February 14, has shocked a city whose tranquility has been one of its greatest attractions.

“Luis danced and sang, that was his life,” says his aunt, Regla Santacruz, who lived with the young man. Although the investigation is still in progress, some relatives explained to 14ymedio that on Valentine’s Day Santacruz Labrada decided to go out to the Malecon, a popular place among young people.

“Luis had a relationship with a minor girl, but she left him for another reggaetonero named Tito. On the night of February 13, Tito and Luis met casually on the boardwalk and talked about it,” explains a close relative who prefers not to be identified.

In the early hours of February 14, Luis separated from the group of friends he was with and received a call to his cell phone. “They told him to come to a certain place and he thought it could be the ex-girlfriend, but when he got there they stabbed him,” the same source recounts.

Santacruz Labrada was stabbed four times, one of which went through a lung, according to his relatives. More than an hour after the attack he was picked up by a taxi driver who took him to the Provincial Hospital, but it was too late.

“They could not save his life. It is the second tragedy that we have had like this in the family,” says the family member. Luis’s father was killed in Havana four years ago, stabbed in the middle of a brawl.

Tito, the alleged murderer, is 16 years old and is being held in the Provincial Delegation of the Ministry of the Interior in the Pastorita district. 14ymedio talked with relatives of the alleged murderer who confessed that the enmity between the two young men “had been coming for some time.”

“Tito argued with Luis early and that day he was drunk,” said his relative, who also said that the alleged murderer will not be transferred to the provincial prison Ariza because he is under the age of majority.

14ymedio tried to confirm this version with the National Police Department of Investigations in charge of the case but the officers explained by telephone that they could not give statements to the press.

Santacruz Labrada lived in the Reina neighborhood, located on the peninsula of Majagua, a tongue of land where the Jagua port workers settled.

“Most of the boys in this area go out into the street with a knife in their pocket. People do fight with fists like they used to,” laments Yanelys Verdecia, a Cienfuegos woman from the Reina neighborhood who was shocked by the crime.

Official media are reluctant to address the issue of violence in Cuba. Nor are there statistics that allow drawing conclusions about the incidence of this social scourge. Laritza Diversent, lawyer and director of the Cubalex Legal Information Center, recently exiled to the United States, regrets that neither the opposition groups nor the government facilitate a debate on violence on the island.

“The number of violent acts is only known to the authorities, so we do not have the tools to talk as a society about the importance of this phenomenon in the country,” says the lawyer.

According to the Public Health Yearbook, 572 people died in 2016, victims of violence, but there is no data on the number of assaults without fatalities.

Diversent explains that during her time as an independent lawyer in Havana, she worked on several murder cases and the number of young people involved in these events was notable, especially in poor and marginalized neighborhoods. Article 263 of the Cuban Penal Code establishes penalties of 15 to 30 years in prison for murderers.

The city of Cienfuegos also wept last September for the murder of Leidy Maura Pacheco Mur, 18 years old. The young woman, whose baby was then only 10 months old, was kidnapped by three men from her own community in Junco Viejo. They raped her and subsequently murdered her and buried her in the Plan Mango area.

“It’s terrible that these things happen. They kicked my nephew to death a few years ago at the Rancho Luna service station and the law is still very gentle with the murderers,” Aimé Montes de Oca told this newspaper. The murderers of her relative are serving 15-year prison sentences in Ariza, the provincial prison, but once they have completed half of the sentence they can get parole if they have shown good behavior.


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