Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Police and Law Enforcement
There is a strong police presence in Cuba, especially in the major cities, but these
officers almost never interfere in the daily lives of most Cubans. It seems that most
of these law enforcement officials spend the majority of their day simply chatting
amongst themselves on street corners. Despite the common perception that com-
munist/socialist governments operate with a heavy hand, the power of law enforce-
ment on the island seems to be pretty muted. Although the average Cuban is leery
of the police, there is a common understanding that unless you are doing
something which overtly transgresses the law in a very bad way, the police will not
get involved. In all my years of travel throughout the island, frequently taking me
through some of the seediest looking areas, I have only seen police detain one
person, and it was a rather calm event, seemingly stemming from a suspicion of a
petty theft.
Far and away the major work of police is in traffic law enforcement. It is very com-
mon to see officers perched at street corners throughout the city and especially on
highways, stopping drivers on the suspicion of speeding, drunk driving and usually
just to check vehicle documentation and taxi driver certificates. Fines for minor in-
fractions are small and are usually paid on the spot.
The police force in Havana is mostly composed of men and women who are not
native to the city. Most officers are originally from the poorer eastern provinces and
are relocated to work in Havana. The officers are paid above average wages and
are given a house or apartment in Havana upon their relocation. The ranks are
composed almost equally of men and women.
Interesting Fact: Inter-provincial migration within Cuba is strictly regulated. In order
for citizens to move to another province they must have a good reason for doing
so, such as for school, work or important family commitments. This law serves to
prevent a population exodus from the poorer eastern provinces into the richer,
western provinces. More specifically, it prevents a mass migration to the country's
richest city, Havana. Many young men and women from the eastern provinces join
the police force precisely for the opportunity to immigrate to Havana. There is very
little desire from Havana locals (Habaneros) to become police, because there are
so many other economic opportunities in the city.
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