14ymedio, Havana, 22 September 2016 – “It’s on the penultimate page,” the employee of the newspaper kiosk in Havana’s Cerro district tells a young woman who is buying two copies of the newspaper Granma this Wednesday. The terse note from the Cuban Volleyball Federation about the five- year prison sentences for rape handed down in Finland to visiting Cuban athletes sparked particular interest among Cubans, when it appeared in the official organ of the Communist Party, although citizens had to look hard to find the information.
“If it had been a group of athletes from the United States who had raped a Finnish woman, the news would have been on the front page,” said one of the buyers of the official newspaper on hearing the vendor say where to find the article.
At the “sports rock” in Havana’s Central Park – a site of informal, but loud and vigorous, daily debates about everything sports, popularly known as “The Hot Corner” – baseball still stars as the most discussed topic. But today the poor showing of the local team, the Industriales, in the National Series has to share time with a lively discussion of the trial of the Cuban volleyball players in Tampere, Finland.
The sports fans complain about the lack of coverage in the official press about what happened and the lack of details about the judicial process.
“They don’t say hardly anything and you have to hear about it from the antenna (the illegal satellite dishes hidden around the city) or on the street,” explains Samuel, a follower of the sport who was sharing his opinions on Wednesday with the other regulars of the “rock.” “I found out because my aunt gets the signal in her house with the news from Miami, because here they have just given us drabs and drabs,” complained the young man.
Some of those assembled lacked confidence in the conclusion of the Finnish court. “This is a bed (a conspiracy) that they set up for these boys in order to harm Cuban sports,” insists Victor Zuñiga, a retired welder who remembers having seen “a lot of humbug like this against our people.”
No women participated in the “Hot Corner” debates this Wednesday, where the sports talk is traditionally engaged in by men. “It if were my daughter that had happened to, it wouldn’t matter whether they were top-flight athletes, I would want justice and would want to see them behind bars,” says Gretel, 49, who was nearby.
The Cuban Volleyball Federation merely communicated in an official note, in which it made no assessment of the facts. 14ymedio tried to contact the body, but in all calls made as of this writing it was only possible to communicate with an answering machine.
Mika Ruotsalainen, Minister-Counselor of the Finnish Embassy in Mexico, which handles consular affairs for all the Caribbean countries, told this newspaper that there are no extradition treaties between the Republic of Finland and the Republic of Cuba.
The diplomat said the Cuban athletes will have to serve their sentences in a Finnish prison.
The Pinkanmaa court imposed sentences of five years in prison for Rolando Cepeda Abreu, Abraham Alfonso Gavilán, Ricardo Norberto Calvo Manzano and Osmany Santiago Uriarte Mestre, and three and a half years for Luis Tomás Sosa Sierra.