14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 15 August 2021 — More than a month after the popular protests in Cuba, the death of a young man shot by the police in the La Güinera neighborhood of Havana remains surrounded by doubts. The declassification of part of the investigation file reveals that the officer has not been charged and that there are also several injured.
That Monday, Second Lieutenant Yoennis Pelegrín Hernández, a 28-year-old from Guantanamo who works as a sector chief in Mantilla, fired his Makarov pistol at a group of people until all the cartridges in the magazine were used up. One of the projectiles killed Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, a 37-year-old from Santiago who that day, July 12, was demonstrating against the government in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Arroyo Naranjo municipality.
Pelegrín has not been accused of the crime, although he appears registered as a witness in the file in the preparatory phase 145/2021 recently leaked by the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights, an entity based in Madrid that demands the judicial prosecution of the officer.
According to experts who examined the body that same day, the bullet entered the back, went through the left lung, fractured a rib and brushed the heart by breaking the pericardium.
The demonstration in La Güinera, which began around four in the afternoon on Monday, July 12, was a replica of the popular protests that shocked the entire country on Sunday, July 11. The official version contained in the aforementioned file describes the group as “antisocial and criminal elements” who after carrying out vandalism went to the territory’s National Revolutionary Police Station (PNR) “with the aim of attacking its troops and damaging the installation.” It is noted in the story that the protesters used insults against the country’s leaders and clamored for foreign investment.
Second Lieutenant Pelegrín, accompanied by Lieutenant Wilfredo Sánchez and investigator Yoandro, maneuvered “to get away from behind the demonstration” and on First Street, between Calzada de La Güinera and Principal, they ran into a group of about thirty people who threw stones and bottles at them.
To justify the shots he fired, Pelegrín explained in his statement that the stones had already hit his colleagues who were practically defenseless against their attackers. He stated that he fired “a shot in the air yelling at them to stop, not to throw any more” but they kept advancing. Then, one of the attackers provoked him by showing his genitals and telling him that he only had blanks. They were at a distance of 30 or 40 meters and, as he later alleged, he believed he was in danger.
In the four years of service that Pelegrín has served, he had probably never fired at human beings before, but by the time he aimed his regulation weapon he knew that his projectiles would hit sensitive areas of the body as he learned in the shooting range where he trained as policeman.
In front of him this time there were no cardboard dolls, but people, so his bullets not only killed Diubis Laurencio, but also wounded Yorlandis Pérez, Misael Fuentes and Rubén Pérez. Pelegrín said that after shooting he heard screams from the group telling him that he had hit someone, but he defends himself saying that no one was lying on the ground and that his attackers fled.
The claim that this PNR officer appear as a defendant in court would not only give satisfaction to the families of his victims but also give himself the opportunity to prove to what extent he is innocent and that he acted in legitimate defense.
What happened recalls the death in June 2020 of Hansel Ernesto Hernández Galiano, at the hands of the police, a death that shocked the neighborhood of La Lima, in Guanabacoa (Havana). The 26-year-old was hit by a bullet fired by the uniformed men who were also not tried, a confirmation that the security forces enjoy total impunity and the families of the victims are not given the slightest opportunity to get an objective investigation.
In cases like these, the impunity of the crime, committed by an agent of the authority, could incite others to act in the same way in similar circumstances. If the hundreds of arrests throughout the country, with the imposition of fines or prison sentences, for the alleged crimes of damages, public disorder and instigation to commit a crime have a dissuasive intention to discourage future anti-government demonstrations, the death of a citizen at the hands of a policeman must at least be prosecuted as murder to deter those who, in the name of the law, carry firearms.
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