Calling it part of a pattern of harassment by the government, a Cuban dissident family was upset over the canceling of a youth group baseball game against players from the U.S. mission in Havana.
BY VANESSA ARRINGTON
HAVANA - It was supposed to be a friendly baseball game. But hours before a neighborhood youth group was to play a team from the U.S. mission in Havana, Cuban security agents allegedly charged into the home of activist Marcos de Miranda and confiscated his baseballs, bats and mitts.
The action, de Miranda says, is the latest and among the most bizarre in a long history of harassment targeting his family, made up of dissidents clamoring for change in communist Cuba.
‘‘It was to be a sports and cultural event—nothing at all political,’’ de Miranda, 28, said in his family’s apartment. ``We’re denied even the right to play our national sport.’‘
De Miranda’s 59-year-old father, Roberto, is a librarian among 75 government opponents rounded up two years ago, though he was released for health reasons last year.
His 54-year-old mother, Soledad Rivas, is a member of the increasingly audacious ‘‘Ladies in White’’ who have protested for the release of imprisoned dissidents.
They say their existence in Cuba is difficult. Speaking out against President Fidel Castro and his government has brought a slew of punishments, ranging from lost jobs and social ostracism to prison time and death threats.
Of stout build and fiery eyes, Marcos de Miranda is a youth activist ready to take on the system and willing to go to jail fighting for a Cuba where citizens can say what they please and have freedom.
As a teen, he was expelled from a military cadet school for refusing to participate in a verbal attack on dissidents including his father. He says he has lost five jobs at Havana restaurants and a store on government orders.
‘‘Keep in mind that we are peaceful opponents,’’ de Miranda said. ``We are fighting with our ideas, not weapons.’‘
His 26-year-old brother, Mikael, lost a job hand-rolling cigars, apparently also because of the family’s politics.
De Miranda founded a youth group in March. While core members include government foes, the group also organizes nonpolitical activities—like the June 12 baseball game.
It was to include many non-dissidents from de Miranda’s neighborhood, a poor one. The game, against a team mainly of U.S. Marines attached to the U.S. Interests Section, had been advertised in diplomatic offices. With U.S. policy toward Cuba increasingly rigid, ties between the government and the Interests Section are tense.
The day of the proposed game, the Marines and others decided to play baseball anyhow. The field they went to, usually empty Sunday morning, was occupied by members of Cuba’s Communist Youth group playing soccer, a U.S. Interests Section official said on condition of anonymity.
The Americans were turned away from two more fields and told by a field director that they must pay a fee and get advance government permission to play.