HAVANA, Cuba.- My husband used to say that back in the 1940s, when he was little, a policeman commanded respect with his authority. He often recalled how, just by clicking his cane on the sidewalk, the security guard managed to get those young people who were still talking on the street late at night to go straight home without a word.
Today, sadly, few have any respect for law enforcement officers. This is due to multiple reasons. On the one hand, a consequence of totalitarianism is that generation after generation parents teach their children to ignore the laws that regulate coexistence. But perhaps the most important argument is that the police, with their incompetent and corrupt behavior, have lost the favor and admiration of the citizens, who for many years no longer see them as protectors but as enemies.
Indeed, the mission of the uniformed men in a totalitarian system like the Cuban one is not to protect people or enforce the laws, but rather their main task is to repress any spark or attempt at freedom.
In the neighborhood where I live, you can see a patrol car parked in front of a house where music is played at high decibels, and also with children playing almost on top of it, without the agents doing anything about it. Some have also seen how, in a secluded alley, the uniformed men take gasoline out of the patrol car’s tank to sell it as contraband. And not a few say they have witnessed how some patrolmen accept money from a noise promoter to let him continue scandalizing with impunity.
However, how different life would be for Cubans if law enforcement officers did their job! Well, social indiscipline such as promoters of noise disturbing neighbors or children causing disturbances on public roads should be combated ex officio, without waiting for those affected to report them. Do the uniformed men wait for a complaint to persecute street vendors who are only trying to earn an honest living, even if they don’t have a license?
The street vendors who come from other provinces can attest to this, who often, to avoid being caught by the vigilantes, have no other way out than to leave behind the merchandise that they have been able to obtain with great sacrifice and not a little investment. In this way the members of the National Revolutionary Police plunder cheese, milk, yogurt, lemon juice, crab dough, honey from bees, and other not inconsiderable foods that otherwise they would have to pay for.
On the contrary, in the field of domestic violence, unfortunately so present in current Cuban society, there the police do ignore the matter, they wash their hands under the pretext that it is “family problems.” Thus they leave thousands of women, mothers, sisters, grandmothers who suffer violence from their brothers, sons, fathers, husbands, etc. helpless.
While the official media do not tire of advertising the Houses of Care for Women and the Family as safe places for the victims of this scourge, in practice the majority of cases do not go through due process in the pertinent institutions, not only for lack of proper guidance, or because those affected do not dare to report their aggressors, but also on multiple occasions because the PNR itself dismisses the reports, downplays the importance of the crimes and discourages the victims.
But not only victims of domestic violence face the demoralization of law enforcement officers when reporting a crime, since they seem to ignore Cuban laws, or, if they know them, they are not interested in enforcing them. Lascivious abuse, home invasion, robbery or arbitrary exercise of rightsjust to mention a few, often go unpunished in the face of the impotence and disbelief of those affected, who generally do not find support or empathy in the agents even after showing them the written law.
And just as they are unaware of the laws of our country, so they demonstrate ignorance of international laws and regulations regarding human rights and fundamental freedoms. For the armed wing of the regime, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is nothing more than a demonic pamphlet brandished by “Yankee imperialism” to undermine the order established on the island by the family in power. Another rooster would crow if they understood, for example, that demonstrating is an inalienable right of every citizen, that the role of a police officer during a demonstration is to maintain order, and that maintaining order does not in any way mean repressing the people, nor beat up protesters, let alone shoot them.
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