Ivan Garcia, 5 April 2017 — He says his name is Alejandro. A thin, timid mulatto, dressed in light-blue jeans, a pullover sweater with Prussian-blue collar, and low-cut black sneakers. In one hand is a dark briefcase.
He speaks quietly and deliberately. He looks like a recent graduate of the Cuban counterintelligence school. According to the summons, he is a first lieutenant.
The interview location is the Aguilera police station in the Lawton neighborhood, off Porvenir Avenue. By now the procedure is habitual. State Security routinely summons dissidents and unmuzzled journalists to police precincts.
Although he didn’t tell me the reason for the summons, it probably has to do with my latest news reports about the upcoming implementation of the 3G network, and a report on the state of opinion of workers and residents in Old Havana about the administration of the military company GAESA in businesses run by Eusebio Leal, the City Historian.
Of course, the citations serve to try to gather information and to threaten the interviewee. It’s nothing new for me. In March 1991 I spent two weeks in a cell at Villa Marista, headquarters of the Department of Security (DSE). They accused me of “enemy propaganda,” but I wasn’t prosecuted.
Later, during several hours or days, in cells of the 10th Unit, at Avenida de Acosta and October 10th Street. Then various summonses from the political police in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In October 2008, a 12-hour detention at the Zanja and Lealtad Unit, Central Havana. And in August 2010, a summons from Counterintelligence in a special unit of the armed forces, in Rancho Boyeros.
The novelty in this case is that before citing me directly, as they have now done, they cited several friends in the neighborhood to gather information about me, intimidating them with the accusation that they provided me information or that they violated certain laws, and ultimately asked them to collaborate with the special services.
This technique was used by the Soviet KGB and the East German STASI. According to the procedure, the ideal is that there are two or more informants in each neighborhood and a counterintelligence officer for every 50,000 inhabitants.
The main lines of operational work of the Counterintelligence at the moment are directed by Alejandro Castro Espín, the only son of Raúl, the president appointed by his brother Fidel.
Since forever, the Castro brothers have designed the strategies to follow and authorized every step taken by State Security. They don’t act alone.
In the current context, with the crisis in Venezuela that has cut oil supplies to the island by 40%, the economic recession worsened by the oil deficit, the arrival in the White House of a guy as unpredictable as Donald Trump, who has threatened to repeal the agreements made with Barack Obama since 17 December 2014, and the hypothetical change in government in February of 2018, has set off alarms among the olive green executive and the secret services.
The arrests have increased. The physical violence towards the Ladies in White has not stopped. And the harassment, threats and confiscation of the equipment of free journalists is multiplied.
In the case of the alternative press, they don’t care that they have different ideological positions. They repress equally an anti-Castro journalist like Henry Constantin, a neo-communist blogger like Harold Cardenas, or a foreign journalist with family in Cuba like Fernando Ravsberg.
For political opponents, the repression has also increased. The most controversial are beaten and injured. To those who bet on inserting themselves legally into legal mechanisms, like Candidates for Change and Otro18 (Another 2018), they are also repressed.
There is no ideological distinction. Liberal thinking wihout authorization from the military junta is punished. Tomorrow it’s my turn to be ’interviewed’ by the counterintelligence officials.
I promise to keep you informed.