Paramilitaries / Yoani Sánchez

To El Sexto, arbitrarily detained Havana graffiti artist

The tires squeal, the car doors fly open, three men pour out, all produced by the same mold: strong, military haircuts, cell phones clipped to their belts. There is no possible escape. No neighbor will provide refuge, the curious move away, frightened, and potential witnesses won’t want to talk. They force you into the car without showing you an arrest warrant, nor even an ID showing they belong to the police. The license place is private so as not to leave any institutional trace. Nor are the blows accompanied by any stamp or signature, not so much as an acronym. You have just fallen into the hands of the Cuban “paramilitaries,” those political police who never wear a uniform, who have the power to break all the laws, to lock you up in the absence of any crime, and to take you for a “walk” while shouting their threats and sinking their knees into your abdomen.

More and more often the methods of the mafia are found in the ranks of State Security. Their impunity even upsets the regular police, who watch as these guys with aliases fill the cells with detainees never entered into the station’s incident book. The practice of fishing on the margins of the law has become routine for the restless boys of Section 21, who feel themselves to be members of a select body who can block anyone from any place, or forcibly detain them, even inside their own homes. They are trained not to listen so it’s not worth the trouble to fill their ears with phrases such as, “I am a citizen, I have rights,” or “I want to see a lawyer…” or “What crime am I accused of?” For them, their victims are not individuals protected by a system of laws, but merely “worms,” simply “vermin”… those whom a despot like Gaddafi, in his time, called “rats.”

And there you are, inside that car that is a black hole swallowing the Constitution which should save you, encircled by the muscular arm of someone who calls himself Agent Camilo or Lieutenant Moses. For now, they are only going to frighten you, but in the future — when you are more daring — they will be tempted to scratch you with their fingernails, push your head into a bucket of water, play games with electric current and your testicles. Because when the government creates structures that are not accountable to any law, there is no possible defense for those who oppose it. These paramilitaries of today are the thugs of tomorrow. These elite forces, who project themselves as defenders of a dying system, may find their hands don’t hesitate to kill. They have already proved their frenzy by stopping abruptly in the street and forcing you into a car. The next thing they want to see running is your blood.

13 October 2011