The Government Demands More Rigorous Police Work / Laritza Diversent

According to the January 6 edition of the newspaper Granma, “Updating the Cuban economic model demands concrete actions from the police to ensure the safety of families and order in society.” The Ministry of Interior made this known during the celebration of the 52nd anniversary of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR).

Apparently the Cuban authorities are fully aware of the dangers surrounding the application of its new policies — mainly, the plan to lay off 500,000 workers this quarter. This is something unprecedented in the history of the socialist revolution, which promised, in its state constitution, full employment for all its citizens.

The situation on the streets is tense. “Transportation is getting worse, food is scarce, prices have gone through the roof, and there is no money. The only option left is to steal,” says Peter, a young man of 38, self-employed, who fills lighters. “I chose this activity because I can be on the corner waiting for some business to fall into my hands. The license at least gives me some cover,” he comments.

The government is aware of this reality. It knows that the new self-employed workers need the black market and the illegal trafficking of merchandise in order to finance their economic activities. It’s the only way to guarantee enough resources to stay in business and pay the state taxes. Classified by the population itself as excessive, given the precarious state of the island’s economy.

Cuba has a population of 11.2 million people, and the State, the main employer, has the ability to hire fewer than 3.9 million. There are too many people “inventing,” and we all know that illegal activity is the main source of survival. Faced with this phenomenon, the government increases its repressive force, mainly in the capital. In July, the Interior Ministry graduated nearly 600 officers, and in September, 500 were added to the new class.

The Cuban police, to curb black market activity, control the inter-provincial highways and deploy operatives who hunt down traveling vendors. They can detain someone and make a record of his belongings on a public street, although this power is not derived from the law, but rather from the excessive power that the government places in this body, whose members do not skimp on abuse.

In fact, they decide which citizen will be tried or not by the courts. The Penal Code gives them the power to impose an administrative fine instead of referring a crime to the court. There are quite a few police officers who accept bribes to apply the law at their convenience.

This truth is well silenced by the government. They warn: “The law is applied with the utmost rigor and severity.” However, they tolerate corruption and abuse, in exchange for impunity for members of the police. They are the main force of repression and the only one that guarantees them that an unsustainable system in maintained.

Translated by Regina Anavy

January 26 2011