Cuban Teenagers Arrested and Fined for Playing Soccer

By Irina Pino

Soccer in the street in Cuba. File photo: Yoni González / cubanos.guru.com

HAVANA TIMES – Lockdown during this COVID-19 outbreak drives young people crazy, as if they were under house arrest. Movement is in their nature, so they need to exercise, play sports to release some of that pent-up energy.

Where I live, in La Puntilla, Miramar, some kids break social distancing regulations and dare to swim in the sea.

Yesterday, eight young people were arrested for playing soccer on B Street, between 1st and 3rd streets, in an empty space next to the shopping mall.

It all happened so suddenly: a police car drove up, a female police officer got out and called for back-up. A few minutes later, there were three patrol cars. It was a swift operation: several police officers cuffed the players, even people who were only watching.

Not a single resident went to the trouble of stepping in, to explain that these kids are from the neighborhood and have never committed crimes in the past.

The reality is that they were taken away to the 62nd Street police station as if they were criminals.

There, police officers didn’t treat them well, and every time one of them tried to speak, a police officer would shout: shut up!

Two of the arrested kids are brothers. One of them made quite a bit of noise when being arrested and was locked up in a cell. His brother asked to be taken with him, to keep him company.

Some people said that they weren’t even playing, that this was all a great injustice. However, the police officer replied that they would also be fined, just for being near the others. As the saying goes: “The good are punished along with the bad.”

Even though it was a serious moment, the boys found a way to have fun: they joked about, laughing under their breath, about the jurassic computer the guard on call was using, about how slow it was for him to get into the database and get their ID card information, as only one of the kids in the group had been carrying his with him.

In the end, they were each given a 300 peso ($12 USD) fine, for breaking health measures under lockdown, as it is forbidden for more than three people meet out on the street. In spite of them all wearing a mask.

A little later, the brothers’ father came to pick them up and was horrified when he found out that he would have to pay two fines, that is to say, 600 pesos, arguing that he had no idea how he would get this money now that him and their mother weren’t working.

Two hours later, they were all released. They all had to walk home, of course.

It would have been better for the police to have given a warning, and not the abusive sanction for kids who still don’t work. It’s their parents who have to take on this responsibility.

Most Cuban families are in a tough situation right now, because of shortages of food and personal hygiene items, and on top of that, they have to dish out money on unnecessary fines.

There are good, bad, and even corrupt police, but them using their power arbitrarily is really the lowest of blows.

Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.

3 thoughts on “Cuban Teenagers Arrested and Fined for Playing Soccer

  • This story is sad. As the writer states the police could have handled the situation with some semblance of understanding. Teenagers full of energy kicking a ball around not interfering with anyone, not trespassing on private property, not disturbing no one could conceivable have been given a verbal warning and asked to not congregate in groups.

    However, the state police following strict COVID-19 orders exercised their legal authority in a draconian fashion. This sends a clear negative message. Disobey the law and the consequences will be very severe especially for the parents who have to endure the brunt of the youthful indiscretion.

    Absolutely, Cuban authorities must ensure that everyone, including youth, must adhere to the strict pandemic protocols instilled by the government. Otherwise, if the police overlook these new laws implemented by the government to contain the virus, the virus spreads and the government is then blamed for being to lax in its pandemic administration.

    But, as every lawyer will tell you, there is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. In this situation police could perhaps have handled the situation in a more humane way by implementing the spirit of the law – a verbal warning.

    By utilizing the letter of the law to summarily arrest these youth in public view, who perhaps were not aware of their situation, and take them away as soccer playing “criminals” clearly demonstrates the functioning of a draconian totalitarian state in action where citizens are viewed as first and foremost guilty at all times, thus automatically must be fined, then jailed, and made an example in the public square. Depressing and brutal.

    Cuba needs all its youthful energy aligned together working for a common purpose, working for the betterment of the nation but when one witnesses state authorities acting in this discriminating manner one can only imagine why many Cuban youth lose all their confidence and hope in their future and by extension Cuba’s future.

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  • This seems very harsh indeed.
    But then one must factor in that you are far less likely to die from Covid 19 in Cuba than in many other American countries such as Brazil, Peru, USA etc. So perhaps there is a grim trade off here.
    Here in England there have been many examples of people being fined for breaking the Government’s lockdown rules but unlike in Cuba the fines are fairly low relative to salary.
    But then it transpired that the guy running the Government was breaking his own rules from the get go.
    When he was found out he first tried denying it all but then eventually had to admit it.
    But he didn’t ever get fined for breaking the rules that he came up with.
    Sometimes it seems that there is no fairness in this world.

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  • Firstly Nick, as he was fired for lying in a previous position, what else can one expect.

    Secondly, he is busy trying to curry favour with his friend Donald, hoping for a trade deal – one that you could never imagine – with the US, but, fate is determining that it will probably be Joe rather than Donald in the Casa Blanca.

    He also hopes for a trade deal with former Dominions, the ones the UK cut trade with when it entered the EU. I can tell you on the best of authority, that there is a substantial combined lobby in Canada, Australia and New Zealand opposing any such deal, until the UK pays the same increments on pensions to British retirees (of which there large numbers) as they do to those who live in the US or European countries. If living in the countries I named, no increments are paid.

    Reality does not appear to bother 10 Downing Street whether under Labour or Conservative administrations. The reality now, voted for specifically by a majority of the English, is that Britain is but an offshore island, no longer part of the EU, no longer with an Empire, no longer ruling the waves, and of ever decreasing significance internationally. .

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