'Special Troops, batons, guns and dogs' to control the people in Guantánamo
Three months after Hurricane Matthew hit, the inhabitants of Baracoa and Maisí are complaining about the Government's sluggish response to aid those who lost everything, and criticizing the still-strong military presence in the affected areas.
"All this is controlled by special troops, ‘black berets’ and ‘red berets.’ The situation has been like this since the passage of Matthew, and in recent days some 300 or more of them showed up to relieve those who are here,” explained Wilder Frómeta Romero, who lives in Balatrera, Baracoa.
"They control the lines to buy building materials and other things. They go around armed with batons, tear gas, and pistols. People are scared.”
Oversight at locations selling materials for the repair of homes is meant to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.
“It's where there are the most dissatisfied people, because they give the materials to people who aren't supposed to get them, there are long delays in the allocations, and, moreover, they don't give people what they really need,” said Frómeta Romero. The military “is trying to avert a protest,” he said.
He explained that at the end of the year the authorities “slashed the prices” of some items “and the streets were packed.”
“Several people, mostly youths, got into fights, and the ‘black berets’ went up there, I think to prove their supremacy to the people,” he said.
Frómeta Romero's wife complained that many basic necessities, like “rice, peas, soap, toothpaste and sugar, are expensive.”
“The prices of agricultural products, such as vegetables and meats, are sky high. Chicken abounds, but at the TRD (stores), where you cannot go, due to the lines, and, in my case, my fear of military dogs,” said the woman.
“They said they were going to give rice and beans free of charge for six months, and since the Hurricane they have only given out these products free once, and that was during the month of the tragedy. What they have you done with that, I do not know,” she complained.
Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz, a dissident leaving in Jamal, said that in the town “they've installed security cameras everywhere.”
The authorities put “a checkpoint in Yumurí and another on the Toa Bridge. The soldiers have taken over Baracoa in such a way that some don't even want to go outside, they're so scared,” said Manzanet Ortiz.
“The reinforcements are brought in Jeeps, and guarded by patrols, with their sirens blaring, so that everyone knows that more guards have been sent. A few days ago they got into it with some kids, and, with what those black berets know about personal defense, imagine how they ended up,” he added.
Manzanet Ortiz complained that “the repression against dissidents has increased” because “people come to us to report the injustices that are being committed.”
“When we try to leave the town they stop and inspect us to see if we have any recorded information or images on us. They take our USB drives, cameras, phones, everything that they believe serves to conduct independent journalism,” said the dissident.
In Maisí, one resident affected by the hurricane, who asked not to be identified, said the situation there “is similar to that in Baracoa.”
“The authorities claim that it is 80% recovered, but the truth is that most of us are living in ‘temporary’ shelters made out of cardboard sheets and tar to craft walls and roofs sheltering us from the rain,” said the woman, a resident in the town of El Veril.
“I myself have begun spending time in an office they want to get me out of,” she said.
“They are leaving for last those of us whose houses were razed by the hurricane, and giving priority to those who suffered partial damage; according to the State, to build us a complete house,” she said. But “I'm not going to leave (the office) until I see what happens, because with them you never know.”
A young man from Los Llanos, who, like his neighbor in El Veril, preferred not to reveal his name, said that the town is also “militarily reinforced.”
“Since Matthew swept through that place, the special troops have not left,” said the youth.
“No one has ever seen so many soldiers here. I can even understand that they have mobilized those doing their Military Service as a labor force for the recovery process, but the only thing the special troops do is sow fear among the peasants,” he said.