Reports from Cuba: Regime turns Cuban mothers into criminals and breaks its own laws by taking their children

Lucia Alfonso Mirabal writes from Havana via Diario de Cuba:

The regime turns Cuban mothers into criminals and breaks its own laws by taking their children from them

No mother may or can be deprived of parental responsibility for crimes not committed against their children, according to the Family Code.

Last April Cuban Rosa Edelis Guerra Rodríguez, 32, was forced to move, with her three minor children, into an abandoned state-owned building in the neighborhood of Pueblo Nuevo, in Trinidad, Sancti Spíritus. For four years she had asked the municipal government for assistance to secure housing, she explained to DIARIO DE CUBA.

Now, Guerra Rodriguez not only receives threats from and is pressured by government officials and police agents to leave the premises, but the authorities, in violation of Cuban law, have taken her children away from her.

Guerra Rodríguez, who was supposed to be a beneficiary of the government program to provide housing solutions for mothers with three or more children, is a victim of the Cuban regime’s inefficiency, which fails to comply with its housing construction plans year after year.

In six decades of Revolution, the regime has been unable to solve the housing problem. The law that is supposed to help solve it has been tabled more than once, but in May 2022 the National Assembly approved a Penal Code that maintains the criminalization of people (mainly mothers with their minor children), who, due to a lack of housing, or  fearful that theirs will fall and crush them, occupy abandoned properties, in most cases these being state-owned.

With respect to the crime of usurpation, Article 421.1 states that “whoever illegally occupies or takes possession of property belonging to another party incurs a penalty of six months to two years or a fine of 200 to 500, or both.”

According to Point 2, the crime is punishable by incarceration for two to five years, a fine of 500 to 1,000, or both, “if executed by using force (…)”.

Guerra Rodriguez has not been tried and has not been sentenced. However, authorities of the province assigned themselves the power to separate her from her minor children, in violation of the Family Code.

They sent a commission composed of police and prosecutors to my mother’s house and told her that they could send my children to a children’s home without filial protection, because I would go to jail. They forced my mother to sign a paper saying she was responsible for my children. I haven?t seen them since,” she said.

Through this act, the parent’s guardianship, care, and, ultimately, communication is unlawfully prevented.

Article 6 of this law recognizes the right of children and adolescents to not be separated from their mothers, fathers and family “unless the competent authorities so determine in special circumstances, in accordance with the law and established procedures, taking into account the necessity, exceptionality and temporality of the measure and, at all times, in their best interest.”

According to Article 191, parents can only be deprived of parental responsibility (which replaced parental authority) when they a) seriously or repeatedly fail to comply with the duties set forth in Article 138 of this Code; b) mistreat, physically punish or engaging any form or violence, or any act that, in the family environment, physically or psychically injures or undermines, directly or indirectly, the child or adolescent; c) induce the child to commit a criminal act; d) abandon the child, even if he/she is under the custody and care of another person or persons; e) engage in any conduct that may be harmful to the child or adolescent; f) commit a crime against their child or g) risk the lives or physical or psychological wellbeing of their child.

No mother or father can be deprived of parental responsibility for a crime that is not committed against their children, such as stealing, or even murder, unless the murder is carried out in the presence of the children, or endangers them, or when one of the two parents kills the other, as in the case of femicides. In such cases, although the act is not carried out in the presence of the minor, the perpetrator deprives him/her of their maternal or paternal figure, as the case may be.

Far from mistreating or abandoning his children, Guerra Rodriguez has acted to put a roof over their heads, something that the Cuban regime penalizes. However, the police or provincial government officials are not legally authorized to deprive them of parental authority. Only the courts are, which they are to do by means of a judicial sentence.

It is also the courts that are supposed to order the suspension of parental responsibility if they decide that the mother or father has committed a serious breach of their duties, or when the person suffers from a significant disability, such they receive intense support, with powers of representation having been appointed on their behalf, so long as this circumstance persists; or when the absence of one or both parents has been judicially declared, as per Article 193 of the regulation.

In addition, it is against the law to coerce a person to assume responsibility for a minor, as allegedly happened with the grandmother of Rosa Edelis Guerra Rodriguez’s children. If she had refused, it being voluntary to take in her grandchildren, it would have been illegal to transfer the children to a home for minors without filial protection.

It is always up to the court to decide about children. Sending them to a home for children without filial protection or, in this case, to their grandmother, is contingent on the other holder of parental responsibility being unable or unwilling to exercise their parental responsibility.

Article 151. 4 of the Family Code states that “for sufficiently justified reasons, and taking into account the best interests of children and adolescents, guardianship and care may be temporarily transferred to grandmothers, grandfathers, other relatives, or persons close to the family, provided that they have asked the court, or it has been shifted to them by the holders of parental responsibility (…)”.

Like many Cuban mothers in her situation, Guerra Rodriguez has been threatened by the police with forced eviction.
“Since I’ve been here I have received three summons from the police to tell me that I must leave or they’ll come to remove me by force,” the mother told DIARIO DE CUBA.

“On police citations I’ve been told I could go to jail for two to five years for what I did.”

If police officers alone remove this woman from the premises she occupies, they will be violating the provisions of Ruling 471/2023 of the People’s Supreme Court of Cuba on the crime of usurpation and how to act in such cases. This regulation makes it clear that in no case do the police have exclusive powers to take measures such as eviction. Rather, they must always act in conjunction with the housing authorities, in the case of private dwellings, and the owners’ administrations, or legal entities, in the case of commercial premises.

“In the case of the illegitimate occupation or seizure of a dwelling, in which the owners are temporarily absent, the acting authority will immediately inform the National Revolutionary Police so that, together with the administrative bodies responsible for the housing system, territorial and urban planning, the community prevention bodies, and the municipal administrative councils, through the intendant, they may take measures aimed at promptly restoring the law broken,” the ruling states. Other measures may also be resorted to; eviction is the final option.

“In the carrying out of these processes, the acting authority, assisted by the National Revolutionary Police and the administrative, preventive and other bodies mentioned, shall adopt rational and proportional measures towards those persons who are not considered perpetrators, but rather are affected by their association with the perpetrator, among which minors, the elderly and others in vulnerable situations stand out.”

“The same procedure shall apply when the occupation or seizure occurs involving premises belonging to legal persons, in which the administrative authorities, owners of the property affected by the crime, are those responsible for redressing the legality violated, together with other groups or institutions deemed appropriate, and the National Revolutionary Police.”