In a post I published this month (Under the sign of the violence) I was commenting on the rise of crime in Havana. However, on Sunday April 12, the journalist José Alejandro Rodriguez confirmed in his usual newspaper column “Receipt Requested” in Juventud Rebelde that this phenomenon is not confined to the capital. It’s not a consolation, rather the opposite: the column included a letter signed by 66 farmers from a remote community in Holguín province, “desperate because of the impunity with which ruffians and thieves make free with their goods and persons.”
It turns out that in the rural district Arroyo del Medio in eastern Báguano, there are apparently organized criminals who devote themselves to stealing livestock for which they later demand from the owners thousands of pesos in ransom. The farmers worry that if they complain (to the authorities I suppose), the bandits will wipe out what little they have. According to what was published in the newspaper, the victims claim, in addition, that “you can no longer work the land because a large percentage of the crop goes into the hands of these unscrupulous people.” Unlike in the classic style of the old Western films of the U.S., these new bandits of the 21st century are worthy rivals of those of the Cuban middle ages—the 17th and 18th centuries—who devastated the countryside. The new ruffians have the incredible audacity to invade the farmers’ properties and even stone those who dare to confront them, afterwards withdrawing peacefully with their loot and sending their demands for ransom. Even worse, it seems that when faced with any accusations, the offender only has to pay a fine to the court… Are the judges participating in the dividend, or is that the prisons are already crammed with certain individuals, those whom the system finds more “inconvenient” than it finds the bandits? In any case, how is it possible that Cuba recently imposed penalties of up to four years in prison or correctional labor for those who traffic in cartons of eggs, powdered milk and so on in the black market, and we tolerate these dangerous people remaining at liberty to continue committing their crimes?
The Juventud Rebelde journalist is quick to clarify that, “the political and disruptive implications don’t escape the peasant wisdom, that in the long run they have these vile acts in a country where so much has been done for the peasant since the first days of the Revolution…” Finally, it’s understood that José Alejandro has to be mindful of his job, guaranteeing, or at least showing, an impeccable political health, but in any event I think he is very courageous in the column, allowing himself to divulge this and so many problems facing the Cuban of today.
Some friends from the Island’s interior have also told me stories, their own and those of others, about the increase in certain kinds of crime where they live, pointing to a generalized dangerous situation in the whole country. The case of the farmers of Arroyo del Medio, then, seems neither unique nor isolated but an example of what is happening, one more symptom of the social deterioration brought to us by bad government policies and the sustained economic decline over the last 50 years.