Two teenage gangs disturb the public peace on the streets of the Havana municipality of Cerro, while the police remain passive. Known as Los Apululus and Los Atormentados, both gangs engage in physical aggression against the elderly, assault and robbery on public streets.
The slums of El Canal, Las Cañas, Carragüao, Pilar and Atarés are among the hardest hit. The victims are stripped of their belongings, especially cell phones, accessories, money and clothing.
For the psychologist Leticia Collado, a resident of Las Canas, “these behaviors are the result of the fracture of the family and the crisis of the ideological education structure, which shows little interest in cultivating civility and socio-cultural principles in children and adolescents.
"The family is immersed in daily survival exacerbated by the economic circumstances of the country, while the school environment is no longer an attraction or an incentive," because of the lack of prospects for a successful professional future, said Collado. "These deficiencies are a breeding ground for criminal behavior," she concludes.
Sayú, a retired teacher and resident of El Canal neighborhood, questioned the role of the People’s Power, the police and so-called "mass organizations" controlled by the government, mainly the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) .
"The People’s Power delegates and the CDR are only interested in 'Revolutionary tasks' such as CDR guard duty, volunteer work, or a call to a 'combatant' march; they report on how you dress, what you eat and who you associate with," criticized Sayú.
"But they don’t care about the fact that these teenagers don’t go to school, or what happens there. To make matters worse, the police just wander the streets and when you do see a police car, you can be sure they are after some girl, intercepting old ladies selling peanuts or engaged in corruption. They bring more worry than security," he said.
However, Cecilia Canteros, president of a CDR and a People’s Power delegate from Las Canas, said "the problem starts inside homes where families barely concern themselves with the upbringing and education of these teens."
"Many here know who the boys are in Las Apululus and Los Atormentados, but no one lodges a complaint for fear of reprisals from their relatives who are also violent people. The state is not responsible for these problems because people do not report them to the appropriate authorities," said Canteros.
A police source, which cannot be revealed, said that these acts are considered "social indiscipline and not as criminal acts, so the responsibility and solution is left up to the Party and Youth structures."
"The Department for Attention to Minors only acts when there is a criminal process; it barely does any preventive work," the source added. "There are several reports of these gangs, but the indication from the Party is that they are already dealing with the matter".
While the Communist Party "deals," the residents of these neighborhoods live in fear and many citizens have suffered injury as a result of the assaults committed by the two gangs.
"When they kill two or three old people or the godson of some boss for four pesos or a cellphone, that is when someone will pay attention. That’s how things work in this country: there has to be a death for the government to lift a finger," complained Sonni Diaz, a mother of two.
In the face of the growing phenomenon of violence on the island, the official press is silent. With few exceptions, they always treat it as "isolated incidents," and alert the population to violent criminal acts, but never when the perpetrators are teenagers.
This translation was originally published by Translating Cuba.