Cuba Joe Biden Rep. Pic
A street in Cuba JF Martin/Unsplash.

Cuba, long known for the safety of its street despite the country's ever-present economic woes, is seeing a sharp increase in crime, Spanish outlet El País reported.

Concretely, the outlet detailed how independent media (that is, not controlled by the government, which has a tight grip on information) is reporting more cases of theft and violence.

It recalls a particular example on June 8, when people were attending an event to mark the beginning of the summer. The scene ended up with large disturbances, including fist fights and people wounded amid images of people walking with knives and machetes.

Police took several people and there was talk of many being hurt and some dead, although the government later denied any people were killed during the incident. The outlet said this was just one of many such cases across the country, many of which mention the police's ineptitude as a common denominator.

The spike in crime comes as Cuba goes through a grave economic crisis, among the deepest of its already troubled history. "Some might say there have always been violent robberies, murders, killings. But you're seeing more of it today. The country is deteriorated in every aspect, including its values. The economic crisis is impacting all areas of life," Nelson González, a lawyer working in the Cuban judiciary told El País.

The downturn is such that about 5% of the country's population has emigrated over the past years, and Cubans abroad increasingly prefer to send care packages to family back home, rather than cash transfers.

The current reality on the ground marks a sharp contrast with Cuba's historical figures, which placed it among the safest countries in the region (that is, without taking into account its widely-known political repression).

Moreover, a digital poll by Cubadata showed that over six in ten people surveyed said they were victims of a crime in 2022. However, less than 15% reported it to the authorities. The government routinely rejects there is an increase in crime and says any such claims are peddled by its detractors.

Facing this scenario, groups of Cubans have created social media groups to independently denounce crimes. Other NGOs are also keeping track of gender-based killings. Last year, they said, there were 89 such crimes in the country, almost three times what they recorded during the previous two years. Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel has said that gender-based killings are a "media construction that has nothing to do with Cuba's reality."

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