Mercedes Reyes is a 57 year old woman who lives in the town of Baguanos, in the eastern area of Cuba. Her husband was a soldier who fought in Angola, later returning to the island with serious mental conditions. Together, they have three children. Through sacrifice and hard work, Mercedes has worked for 33 years in order to gather up enough money to construct her own humble home.
Recently, agents from the Housing Department informed/warned Mercedes that she would be evicted. Upon hearing the news, Reyes could not help but feel furious and at a loss for words. She could not understand how it was possible that she was going to be victim of an eviction- she has always paid everything necessary, her home is considered totally legal, and she has been the owner of it for 15 consecutive years.
During these past few days, Mercedes has not been able to sleep, for she has been far too tormented about the accusations made against her and the threats on her household by a Housing Department Chief. This functionary told Reyes that her home was no longer of value. As if it weren’t enough, the government representative explained to the 57 year old that her house was to be converted into a Civil Registry, or a government office in other words.
On Friday, August 15th, Cuban police officers surrounded the entire area around the home of Mercedes Reyes, according to reports made by Luis Felipe Rojas through his Twitter account. Also, the dissident from Holguin, Caridad Caballero Batista, added that these same police agents impeded people from getting in or getting out of the area. While the troops mobilized Reyes was over at a son’s house. The officials broke down the door and threw all her belongings out onto the street, later tossing them aboard a truck. From there, the police forces drove to the house of her son and abruptly threw all that was left of Mercedes’ things in front of the house. Upon seeing this Mercedes could not control her desire to protest the injustice.
As product of her reaction, police guards rapidly arrested her. The arrest took place before the eyes of her 2 year old grandson, whom broke out with tears and screams as he saw all of this. The child’s mother had to tell him that the police were only playing a game with his grandmother. Meanwhile, Mercedes’ son rushed out to defend his mother, successfully capturing some photographs of the repression, but only to later face a violent arrest as well.
On the morning of Tuesday August 23rd, the former home of Mercedes Reyes stood as a Civil Registry Office. “The majority of times when an eviction occurs,” explains Caridad Caballero Batista, “it’s purpose is to turn in that home to a party official or to turn it into an office, benefiting only those in power and making the people suffer“.
But who can Mercedes Reyes turn to for a denouncement? The eviction orders were given directly by the government, set in motion by the Housing Department, and executed by police officers. Once again, another victim of eviction and injustice turns to the Cuban resistance to channel their denouncements, their complaints. And the world is paying close attention.
Information for this report was derived from declarations made by Caridad Caballero to this blog, along with news reports by Marti News and updates from blogger/activist Luis Felipe Rojas.
The following is a (translated) transcript of Mercedes Reyes recorded and posted by Radio Marti:
“I have been owner of that house for 15 years, and before that I had a 25 year property title. I carried out the legal process, but since there is such a huge level of corruption here, police officers just showed up to my house and told me that the house now belonged to the State. They have not let me sleep in peace. The police showed up to my house to threaten me, they told me that they’d take me out harassed, arrested, however. And if not, they’d get me in the street and arrest me. That is exactly what they did. They threatened me, and carried out those threats. I have been evicted from my home.
The Housing Department Chief came and told me that ‘the property no longer has any value, it now belongs to the state, and we will make offices here’. ‘Poor’ government, they must not have enough money to make offices elsewhere, they are pathetic. All my things have been thrown outside the house of my son. They threatened me more and told me to be careful with what I would say and do, because, in their words, ‘up to now you have had no problems, but you could have them’. That is the only thing we see in this country- abuse. They destroy people”.