By Leonard Gildarie
There are two incidents that occurred last week that we have to examine this week. I am by no means happy about them, as my country has been affected.
The first has to do with three men in Berbice who were killed. Police said they were bandits, and, according to reports, were tracked to the back of Black Bush Polder where, during a confrontation, they were killed by police.
The men reportedly had Black Bush Polder, a farming community of simple people, under a pall of terror for days after a number of home invasions, beating and robberies. They were also fingered in other robberies. The men involved were said to be known to police and reportedly were in the newspapers regularly for their run-ins with the law.
Judging from what the police found, including cash and even the dangerous AR-15 rifle, a weapon that has the firing power almost like an AK-47, there would be the contention that the men were not schoolboys on their way to a party.
We have to call a spade a spade and not fool ourselves.
I was a mere teen when I started working and bought a nice bicycle. I loved that green bike. It was clean and bought from one of my first salaries. I had it about two weeks and decided one night to leave it in our storeroom downstairs. It was secured.
My mom’s shouts next morning awoke me and I rushed downstairs. The back door was broken and the bike was gone. My mom appeared to be more anguished than I was. I was looking at neighbours and the bad boys in the streets with deep suspicion. I swore to take revenge.
I felt violated. My peace at home was shattered. A mere teen I was.
As Guyana read with horror less than two weeks ago of the rapid fire attacks on the farmers, I was angry. I can’t explain to you the conditions that the farmers live and work in. I know Black Bush Polder, in the Corentyne area. I have family and many friends there. Alcohol and heavy smoking are prevalent. So is suicide. If it isn’t rain, it’s drought. It’s bad roads. It’s the paddy bug. It’s millers not paying on time or paying little.
Farming is tough. You’ve got to keep your fingers crossed. Anything can and will go wrong.
To enter their homes in the dead of the night is to violate their peace. An entire region was under siege. I can feel for the victims who travel for weeks to the courts to give evidence when police charge the suspects.
The despair would be all too clear when the suspected bandits walk free because of one reason or the other. Many of them are posting bail and going back out and committing robberies and their rampage.
These are the realities the people face daily. There is anger and despair.
I blame families of the criminals too. I understand clearly that circumstances would foster crime.
However, when your son or husband comes home with money you know was not earned honestly, then questions should be asked. Somebody has to know something.
I feel for the families that lost their loved ones. I also feel for the victims. It costs our country when home invasions and other crimes occur.
Police ranks have to visit the scene. Statements have to be taken. Police would have to seek out suspects. They have to be questioned. They have to be taken to court. They need police ranks to escort them to and from courts. We have to feed them while in remand.
The identification and dismantling of a dangerous gang last week would also make something very clear. Something no one wants to talk about openly. Yes, the major crimes are not coming from a particular ethnicity. In fact, the brutality of the Berbice crimes should make us nervous.
Crime has no race. The ease with which these men were able to acquire guns and ammunition should also raise a red flag.
This past week, a story landed in my lap. I am still to form an opinion, as the story is unfolding.
On Monday, my inbox alerted me of a report that a Cuban activist had been sent to Guyana.
I read the report and I was intrigued.
Daniel Llorente, an activist/dissident, complained to the media in Florida that he was stranded in Guyana after being bundled on a plane. He had only the shirt on his back.
I called the US embassy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the police. They knew nothing, but said they would check.
I held the story back and ran it the following day after the authorities said there was no evidence he was in Guyana. Even the US embassy indicated that he had not contacted them. I was glad that story was not true.
I was on my way to work last Thursday when a colleague called and said that “the Cuban” was waiting in the office for me. I firmly told them to ensure that he didn’t leave.
I raced through the doors of Kaieteur News and there he was, sitting quietly. He jumped to his feet, hope in his eyes. I led him into the office and started to interview him.
His story is unbelievable. If somebody had told it to me, I would have doubted. I checked his passport and other documents. I went online and there were numerous videos and photos of him.
I called the US and had an interpreter from a Spanish newspaper enable a flowing exchange. We recorded the interview.
Daniel Llorente is very well known in Cuba. During a May Day rally, he draped a US flag and defiantly ran in the open. He was a thorn in the side of Cuba’s administration. He has been arrested and jailed numerous times.
Cuba is a close ally of Guyana, with the relationship going back decades. Just last year, the US government decided that Cubans who wanted permanent visas, would have to visit the Georgetown embassy.
It appears that Cuba, growing weary of Llorente and his continued defiance, decided to throw him on a plane in an effort to get rid of him. At least, that is what the activist says.
They were apparently fearful of the backlash if anything should happen to him.
Llorente claimed he was arrested a little over a week ago and sent to Guyana with the equivalent of $10,000.
He had only his Bible, a voter ID, and the clothes on his back.
How he passed through the Timehri airport essentially unnoticed would be a question that needs answering. In the meantime, it is heartening to hear that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is asking the Cuban embassy to explain the prior circumstances.
Cuba has been good to Guyana over the years. However, no one can understand what Llorente is claiming. If it is true that he was forced out of his country, then it would raise alarming questions about Cuba’s human rights.
What would compel them to think it is okay that we would countenance, as a sovereign country, an attempt to illegally force one of theirs on us?
I spoke to Minister Winston Felix on Friday. He has responsibility for citizenship.
He admitted that the case has the attention of the government. However, a proper investigation will have to be done before any statements are made. He said that Guyana will treat Llorente with respect, in keeping with norms. I am heartened at that.
I reiterate: Cuba has to explain. In the meantime, Daniel Llorente is here, and is asking for help, most importantly a job, to tide him over until he can. We will have to see how this goes.
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