They Pick up the Prostitutes but Not the Trash on the Streets of Havana / Orlando Freire Santana

Trash dumped at Aquila and Estrella Streets. Photo by Orlando Freire Santana
Trash dumped at Aquila and Estrella Streets. Photo by Orlando Freire Santana

HAVANA, Cuba, September, – At almost the same moment that Mariela Castro declared that Cuba only penalizes pandering, but not prostitution, police officers in uniform and in plainclothes conducted an operation against prostitutes who frequent Águila Street, between Monte and Estrella, in the municipality of Centro Habana.

The place had lately become a stronghold of cheap prostitution in Havana, basically targeted to domestic customers. For only six CUC — the equivalent of six dollars — five for the prostitute and one for the rent of the room, one can access those services. Of course, this “cheap prostitution” is relative, as six CUC are a third of the monthly salary of the average Cuban.

Veterans with experience in the meat trade alternated with young newcomers from the interior of the country or girls from Havana who decided to leave school and go out to “fight” for their daily bread. And although that area, on more than one occasion, has been the target of other police actions against prostitutes, repression never reached the levels of bygone days. Just as Mariela, the sexologist of the ruling dynasty ,also announced the upcoming celebration in Cuba of a symposium on prostitution and sex tourism.

25-prostitutas-carroOne of the girls who managed to escape the raid told us the modus operandi of the authorities on that occasion. The first to act were the uniformed police. They could not pick up many girls as they managed to flee. A few hours later, when apparently it was all over and prostitutes returned to their task, the repressive forces decided to change the strategy. Some agents dressed in civilian clothes, approached the girls and proposed a transaction. Once they were accepted, the agents identified themselves and they were arrested right there.

According to the witness, the detainees were forced to board a police truck and then driven to the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) Sector located in Reina Street near the corner of Rayo. There a few were released after receiving a warning letter — the first step to a subsequent arrest — but most were taken to the cells at the police station on Zanja Street, waiting for a trial that could condemn them to several years in prison.

And while that stretch of Águila Street was witnessing such a manhunt, very nearby, at the intersection of Angeles and Estrella Streets, a giant trash dump threatened to worsen the already deteriorating hygienic conditions faced by residents of that municipality and the rest of the city.

After the four containers for receiving solid waste were full, more than 20 or 30 yards of the street were occupied by wastes of all kinds. One would think that the leaders of the Castro regime’s planning decided to remove the fuel from the Communal Service Department vehicles charged with picking up the trash, and give it to the vehicles of the PNR that undertook the “patriotic” labor of cleaning Havana’s streets of prostitutes.

The Cuban leaders haven’t been able to rid themselves of the habit of constantly creating new campaigns to solve problems. First it was the health campaign against dengue fever and cholera. Now, it seems, it doesn’t matter how many Cubans get sick. The priority in the days to come is to get rid of the prostitutes so Mariela Castro can invite the attendees of her symposium to roam the streets of Havana and to see for themselves that the accusations that Cuba promotes prostitution, sex tourism and trafficking, are mere fabrications by the enemy, intended to denigrate the work begun by her uncle and now continued by her father.

Within several months, when Mariela’s symposium is history, no one would be surprised if Águila Street, between Monte and Estrella, is once again overrun by new practitioners of the oldest of trades.

Orlando Freire Santana

From Cubanet, 24 September 2013