Cuban Writers-Artists Union Addresses “Organized Gangs” / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

Gangs are usually made up of children, often under age 14 (Frame / ARTE)
Gangs are usually made up of children, often under age 14 (Frame / ARTE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 17 February 2016 — The deterioration of ethical values ​​was the focus of discussions held at the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) last Friday in Havana. The meeting also addressed violence and the emergence of “organized gangs” formed by children and adolescents, a problem in response to which the city’s artists were called on to “protect the social fabric of communities.”

During the meeting, they discussed “problems that may exist in the slums” and the role of artists in response these phenomena. One participant at the event, who requested anonymity, told 14ymedio that a prosecutor invited by the cultural authorities reported that some of the gangs “are armed” and “are dangerous.”

Also attending the meeting were members of the entity’s Standing Committee on Community Culture, Heritage and Traditions and representatives of the Ministry of Culture, which called for transforming the “citizen and his environment” through art. Miguel Barnet, president of UNEAC, considered this as the artists’ ” biggest challenge.”

As a solution to the escalating violence in Cuban streets and the moral impoverishment of the population, authorities in the arts called for more “hard work” and “strengthening the identity and culture of the country.”

Several of those attending the meeting, among them writers, playwrights and theater and television actors, were concerned about the social situation in the country. The consumption of audiovisual materials, which a number of people described as “violent without artistic values,” was also a focus of the discussions in which “the weekly packet” was sharply criticized.

Criticism also fell on artists, with participants noting that “there is insufficient level of preparedness” to carry forward the “community cultural work,” and that there is often “limited awareness” of this type of project at the neighborhood level.

Members of UNEAC have reported an increase in violence in recent months, and they are asking for effective measures against crime. In the city of Camagüey, the intellectual Pedro Armando Junco is leading an initiative to apply stricter penalties against perpetrators of murder.

The death of his son, the rocker Mandy at the hands of a gang with knives, last May, has led Junco to believe that “the only way to eradicate the violence in the streets” is “to punish severely those responsible for a case of this magnitude.

Clashes between gangs are happening more and more frequently in different neighborhoods of Havana, where families are often left to mourn a victim who was killed.

These groups, such as the one that calls itself Los Desaforaos (The Outlaws) and an increasingly popular composed of girls who identify themselves as Las Apululu, are composed of children who are often under 14. The gang members often have a very strong sense of identity and commitment to the group, which revolves around two or three older leaders, more experienced in the art of street fighting.