Leaders and members of a Pentecostal church in Cuba have evicted the followers of a rebel pastor who had occupied a temple and apartment in Havana in a bizarre stand-off for the past 16 months.
Pastor Braulio Herrera was expelled from the Assembly of God church two years ago, but he and about 60 followers occupied the complex in August of last year in what they described as a “religious retreat.”
The stand-off at the complex on busy Infanta and Santa Marta streets at times sparked speculation about an end-of-the-world cult, with Herrera quoted as saying that God was punishing Cuba for its sins with plagues and diseases.
But Assembly of God officials insisted Herrera was fired for “theological deviation” — he claimed personal revelations from God — and then refused to leave the apartment above the temple where his family had lived for 10 years.
Church leader Eliseo Villar confirmed the eviction to the Spain-based blog DIARIO DE CUBA but denied allegations by Herrera’s son, William, that the eviction was carried out with violence.
“We decided to get them out, using our rights, and that’s all that happened,” he declared. “A group of church leaders, church members, national and other executives went in and put them outside the building without affecting their physical integrity at all.”
William Herrera had alleged that about 100 persons broke into the temple Saturday and expelled about 20 people, and then on Sunday drove out the last nine occupiers, who had holed up in the apartment, including himself.
“They had no shame forcing out of the rooms the brothers who were sleeping, people who had been living there a long time,” Herrera declared. Some of them suffered bruises but no one reported serious injuries.
Independent journalist Roberto de Jesús Guerra, who lives near the temple, said Monday that the doors to the complex were broken and church members were cleaning up the temple. There was no word on Braulio Herrera’s whereabouts.
Cuba’s government regarded the 16-month standoff as an internal church affair but usually kept police guard near the temple to avert confrontations.
William Herrera reported Sunday that he and about 100 of his father’s followers had marched to nearby government offices to complain about the evictions, and had been taken by bus to another government office to await a reply. His cell phone was not answering Monday.
The Pentecostal church has a reported 103,000 followers in Cuba, 156 temples and 883 “casas-templo” — private homes used for services