14ymedio, Havana, 27 January 2024 — Young people, armed with knives and machetes, and organized into violent gangs. These are the members of the multiple “groups” that, according to a lieutenant colonel of the Ministry of the Interior during a recent public appearance, “implement terror” in Santiago de Cuba.
A video of the meeting, released by independent journalist Yosmany Mayeta, shows dozens of neighbors of the Abel Santamaría neighborhood in Santiago listening to the officer’s speech, surrounded by other police agents. The purpose was to report on the arrest of five young members of a gang who, wielding knives, assaulted a cafeteria in the early morning of January 7.
The lieutenant colonel stressed that it was an “organized group,” and that the assault ended with an employee – from whom they took clothes and money – receiving minor injuries, and a customer whose “right hand was amputated” while trying to escape from the assailants with another person. The mutilated person – whom the officer does not identify – is, according to Mayeta, a lineman from the Santiago Empresa Eléctrica, David Enrique Perdomo Álvarez. According to the recording, “he is still recovering.”
For the soldier, this “unfit behavior” of the five gang members is shared with many other criminals from Santiago de Cuba
For the soldier, this “unfit behavior” of the five gang members is shared, he insisted, with many other criminals from Santiago de Cuba. “We know who they are and we are going to get them,” he promised, speaking on behalf of “all the organs” of the Ministry of the Interior that accompanied him. He added that, after the interrogation of the five detainees, they gathered more information about “the different groups that operate in these places” and “beyond, in the city of Santiago.”
The lieutenant colonel spared no promise to the population. “We can’t keep having this type of thing. We are going to act severely. They will be sanctioned, have confidence,” he said, before a woman interrupted his speech to take the floor and say that her confidence in the police was only “up to a point.” She then told the story of her son, a university professor who lacks a leg, and who on May 7, 2023 was assaulted by two hooded people. “They covered him with a sheet, tied it around his neck and pulled him” out the door of his house, she said.
“Until now, no one has ever come to my house to tell me ’this has been done, that has been done,’” complained the woman, who said she had taken the case to the Prosecutor’s Office, in the face of the inaction of the police. “I come back and repeat: I trust [the authorities], but right now I don’t even know what to say,” she finished.
That was “a negative experience,” minimized the lieutenant colonel, who muttered that he had no knowledge of the situation and promised to review the case. The woman’s response to the officer’s promise was categorical: “Right now I don’t believe anyone.”
“They have not solved the cases that have happened; how do they expect the people to trust them?”
In his comment on the video, Mayeta claims to have interviewed one of the attendees at the meeting in Abel Santamaría, a Public Health worker who asked not to be identified, and who affirmed that in that area “there is not only one gang but several.” “They have not solved the cases that have happened; how do they expect the people to trust them?” Mayeta asked.
The escalation of violence in Cuba has gotten out of the hands of the authorities, who opt in most cases for inaction and establish zones of “tolerance” for crime in the cities, where patrols do not dare to circulate.
On January 5, when the police celebrated the anniversary of its founding, the deputy head in Sancti Spíritus asked that, in order to face the “current context of the country,” the State provide the officers with “new instruments, equipment, vehicles and technologies to perfect the mechanisms of the surveillance and patrol system.” Similar requests were made in acts of tribute to the police throughout the country.
The growing insecurity on the streets of the Island is impossible to disguise and demands more and more space in the official press. Curfews are a reality in several locations, despite the fact that the police deny it. In Alquízar, in the province of Artemisa, the authorities denied that people had to stay inside after midnight. However, this newspaper gathered multiple testimonies about the prohibition and confirmed that patrols circulated through the municipality to make sure it was respected.
However, the curfew is increasingly a self-preservation measure by the neighbors themselves. Whether or not the police recommend it, no Cuban dares to walk the streets alone in the early morning hours.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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