Free him! – All the talk around Garrison about Garcia
He is one of the most well known people in Barbados, despite the fact that he is not a Barbadian and has not been free for more than 20 years.
Raul Garcia is on the tip of almost everyone’s tongue since the Cuban national was convicted in Barbados on illegal drug charges and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He served that time but was disavowed by Cuba and the United States, places where he had lived.
Now, after spending an additional two years at Her Majesty’s Prisons Dodds, he has been placed into a safe house in the Garrison, St Michael, which many are saying is just another prison as his every action is strictly supervised and he cannot see or speak to anyone besides his guards, his attorney and his priest.
This week Street Beat heard from people who live, work and exercise near the safe house and got their thoughts on how and why he was being kept there.
Ruth Scandella temporarily ceased her morning run around the Savannah to speak. She said she was in support of Garcia being given more freedom.
“The man did his crime and he did his time. When people are young they do [foolish] things and he did something wrong, but he should be given more freedom. It is a difficult situation for Government but I don’t think he is a danger to society. I would have no problem if I was to run into him,” she said.
Michelle Belgrave works in the Caribbean Examinations Council’s (CXC) Records Department, almost abutting and bounding the safe house.
“He doesn’t bother me here. Yesterday [Wednesday] he was walking around; he is supposed to be free but he was in a little square.
“I think Government could find work for him so taxpayers won’t feel part of their money is going to him. It’s really sad when you think about it; we’re all human, we all make mistakes,” she said.
Sheldine Robinson also works at CXC. When spotted, she and a friend were watching Garcia circle his small exercise area from afar. She said she did not know Garcia was there until Wednesday when someone told her.
“The problem is, I don’t know if the state has a lot of choice. He is a non-immigrant but he has done his time, so the humanitarians may have a problem with his still being incarcerated. But what do we do?
“I don’t think he is a threat and I won’t run from my work because of him; he’s not a murderer,” she said.
Roger Ifill has a unique perspective on the issue as he knew Garcia in prison. He said they both served 20-year sentences and were originally scheduled to be released within a month of each other.
“I did 20 with him, and I never saw Coronell [which he said was Garcia’s first name] get in nothing. He used to take men and teach them Spanish. He is a good man, a changed man. The system has got to forget the past,” he said.
Ifill, a groom, said Garcia was still being victimized and he should be set free, adding there were people “ten times worse walking around”.
“He is an old man now, I don’t think he will go back to the things he used to do. He learn from his mistakes. Government should give he a job so he could look after heself,” he said.
Odette Smith also had a different perspective. She said she wanted Garcia as a husband.
“I want to marry he and take he to St Vincent, let he work some mountain land,” she said.
Smith also complained that the CXC car park had been taken over, as folks were told they could no longer play road tennis there.
“We had to hold our tennis tournament at Town & Country Planning,” she said.
Not everyone was in support of Garcia being freed. Some people said he was too close to the Garrison School and could be a negative influence on the children, while others said he should be shipped off the island.
None of those who had anything negative to say regarding Garcia wished to be identified.