As in many other places, in Cuba in recent years TV series about forensic science and documentaries about criminal investigations have become very popular. Crime reconstructions and programs with police experts have become favorites of many people. Where DVDs are sold, these themes are among the most demanded by buyers. Thus, the lists of offerings from self-employed video sellers never fail to include combos with programs such as CSI, Dr G: Medical Examiner, Criminal Investigation, The FBI Files… among many others. It’s not that we’ve become morbid, or maybe we have, but that the quality of these materials has improved significantly in the last decade. They mix science, police work, a pinch of emotional entanglement and some rather didactic explanations about the workings of the human body. In short, an irresistible compendium to relax after the daily tedium. Beyond their low artistic value, the truth is that they posses an audience that other TV offerings — with an excess of ideology and a creative anemia — envy.
But today I do not want to reflect on the fictional pathologist who exposes the murderer, nor the actor who plays a modern detective in an impeccably clean laboratory. No, those are just a part of a script meant to entertain and you can take it or leave it. My concern, rather, is something else: the constant leaks of forensic material — real and raw — to the alternative information networks, systematically produced from the offices of Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior. Autopsy photos, videos of crime reconstructions, photos taken by the police at the crime scene, statements made by the accused in front of the cameras. Hardly a month goes by that we don’t see, circulating on cellphones and flash memories, parts of crime files that should be guarded with discretion and anonymity. And it’s not about photos taken by some intruder who invades the scene, or some paparazzi, but rather evidence contained in police archives. So, one day you lose a relative in some tragic event and — horrors! — the next thing you see is that the moment they cut a “Y” incision on the autopsy table has become an incredibly popular snuff movie.
It’s odd that the Ministry of the Interior, which works with such great secrecy on political issues or espionage, administers its common crime archives with so little zeal. It’s true that due to this negligence we sometimes learn about events that we wouldn’t otherwise know about, such as the deaths of dozens of patients at the Havana Psychiatric Hospital. But in the vast majority of cases, the indiscretion is not tied to a revelation, but rather to a deep intrusion into the life — or death — of an individual. With the consequent additional pain for his family, who are forced to see the viscera of their father or their brother cross the screens of thousands of computers all over the country. It saddens me that someone knocks on my door to show me a body in a morgue on the screen of their Nokia, and I realize the photo was taken by those who should ensure privacy, including that of the dead. I’m frightened by this most recent manifestation our of prolonged disrespect for citizen privacy which our society is suffering. It seems abominable to me that someone from the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution betrays her neighbors, that a teacher reports on the political ideas of his own students, that a doctor speaks on television about a consultation with a patient; and now is added a flippancy with forensics as a final piece of this mechanism of indiscretion.
This is not a fictional series, nor an episode where Grissom caught the murderer after investigating the stomach contents of a larva. This is reality, the concrete pain of the family of the victim, the respect that every human being deserves, even though they’ve stopped breathing. Their nakedness, their wounds, their rigor mortis, their helplessness in the chill of the morgue, no one has the right to leak that. Much less the people who are there to ensure that this terribly sad moment is not converted into a piece of exhibitionism.
10 September 2012