Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

La Habana, 26 de julio de 1998, Cuba Free Press.

THIEVERY BRINGS OUT THE COMMUNIST PARTY'S STATE OF DEFENSELESSNESS By Ariel Tapia, Cuba Free Press. p> HAVANA - Thievery in general is one of the main problems that occupies the attention of national and local Communist Party officials during the periodic analyses they carry out in all of Cuba's provinces. The problem is far from solved here in the capital city.

Instead of resolving the problem, these periodic conferences appear to be emphasizing the negatives that result from an economy that constantly shifts its resources and whose state businesses are corrupt.

The public is conscious of the gravity of the situation yet receives almost no information about the amount of psychic and material damage that the population suffers as a result of insecurity in the streets and the wave of robberies that courses through every community.

Writer Jose Prats Sariol of the Santos Suarez neighborhood in Havana says he feels like he is in a "state of defenselessness" after some thieves tried to burglarize his house one early morning.

"When I understood the danger, the rats already had nearly torn off the bars that protect the door of my house," he said but added that he quickly scared off the bandits when he confronted them with machete in hand. That same day there were 12 reports of house burglaries in various zones of this neighborhood and its nearby community, called The Viper.

The gendarmes find their work difficult due to the huge amount of red tape that has developed. In the simple bureaucratic process of receiving the reports, many police stations already have problems because of lack of paper on which to duplicate the information. That's the way it is at "Unit Ten," the station for the municipality, "Tenth of October."

Police patrols of the streets are notably affected by the shortage of tires and other repair parts for their automobiles. One policeman, who demanded anonymity, revealed that in his station, half of the patrol cars were unused because of the shortages.

Despite their close collaboration with various other mechanisms of observation, such as the local Committees of Defense (the neighborhood observation posts), and the Unique Vigilance System, which helps in the investigation of crimes and the capture of the perpetrators, the police system is not as efficient as it indicates to the public.

In fact, police agents are much like the great majority of the public--they invite corruption as a remedy of their impoverishment.

One of the most common practices among certain guards as a way to make some extra money is the sale, on the black market, of gasoline from their patrol cars and the falsification of auto property deeds, on which the taxes amount to 5,000 pesos. The police officer's salary is about 200 pesos a month, which equals about $10 in purchasing power.

This capital city is a focus of tension. Here are concentrated the big operators, the majority of the chiefs---and the major group of criminals. Nevertheless, there also is a notable deficit of officers of public order in other provinces, and the few who are in operation are hiding out in their stations, as if waiting for something to happen.

During a visit to Manzanillo, in the eastern sector of the island, Cuba Free Press was able to observe the absence of street patrols, despite the large crime index there, especially in connection with the theft and butchering of large cattle.

Havana residents (Havaneros) don't like to serve as police officers, so outsiders often find in these jobs the key that opens the doors of the capital to them. To reinforce at all costs the security of the big city is the priority that stands out for the maximum leaders of the government. However, at the same time, other populations on the interior of the country are losing their police agents to Havana.

So it goes, the tendency of thievery rises to the front to an amount that makes it more difficult for the authorities to counteract it. As a result, "justice" hardens and becomes more cruel, applying exemplary sanctions--lengthening sentences or bringing death sentences in some cases. The latter are occurring, for example, in cases where violent attacks have resulted in the death of bicyclists.

The theme is inexhaustibly polemic. When the sharp edges of the problem are summed up, a social chaos is notable that menaces the island. And criminal acts virtually only surface when the result is someone's death.

Ariel Tapia, Cuba Free Press.

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