Cuba

'Massacre' in central Cuba raises questions about violence against women on the island

Cuban police respond to a stabbing incident in the city of Cienfuegos. A mother and daughter both died of stab wounds. The suspect is an ex husband. Violence against women is not openly discussed in Cuba. The government does not publish figures on the number of violent crimes on the island and the official press rarely covers those incidents.
Cuban police respond to a stabbing incident in the city of Cienfuegos. A mother and daughter both died of stab wounds. The suspect is an ex husband. Violence against women is not openly discussed in Cuba. The government does not publish figures on the number of violent crimes on the island and the official press rarely covers those incidents.

It was 11:30 in the morning last Thursday when Luis Roque heard the first pleas for help. He was about to head to work when his neighbor's screams made him stop in his tracks.

"Oh, my baby girl! My baby girl," screamed Tomasa Causse Fabat, a 64-year-old nurse as she stood on the sidewalk in front of her house in Cienfuegos, in central Cuba.

"She was bleeding," Roque said. "I figured something had happened and ran to help her."

As he tried to help Causse Fabat, the woman's daughter, Daylín Najarro Causse, dashed out of her house and ran toward Roque's home across the street.

"Daylín took refuge in my house with multiple stab wounds in her belly," Roque said. "My ex-wife and my daughter helped her and put a shirt over her wounds to try to stop the bleeding. But at that moment, the assassin followed her there, continued to stab her and finally slit her throat in front of my terrified family members."

Najarro Causse, 36, died at the scene. Her mother died a few hours later. She bled to death in the same hospital ward where she had worked, a victim of multiple injuries allegedly caused by Rafael García, her former son-in-law. Her husband also received minor stab wounds as he tried to fight off García with a bat.

Najarro Causse had been married to García, whom witnesses identified as the murderer. The couple has a 5-year-old daughter.

At the time of her death, she was three months pregnant from another relationship. She and García had been separated for some time.

"I do not know if it was because of hatred or revenge, but it was a massacre," said Adrián Najarro, son and brother of the victims.

Violence against women is not openly discussed in Cuba. In fact, it has been cited as nonexistent. In January, Mariela Castro, daughter of former leader Raúl Castro and president of the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex), stated that there were no femicides, an achievement she credited to the revolution led by her father and her uncle, Fidel Castro, in 1959.

The Cuban government does not publish figures on the number of violent crimes on the island and the official press rarely covers those incidents. There is also no legislation specifically aimed at domestic violence and the Cuban Penal Code does not stipulate penalties for these kinds of crimes, according to Cuban law experts and feminist organizations that have sought to change the laws without success, so far.

Cases involving women who die at the hands of their boyfriends or husbands are treated like any other homicide, experts said.

While violent crimes may not be a daily occurrence in Cuba, they happen more often than officials admit.

In the city of Cienfuegos, population 150,000, there have been at least three murders within the past two years. In February, 23-year-old Luis Santacruz Labrada, was stabbed to death by a minor. In October, Leidy Maura Pacheco Mur, 18, was brutally raped by three men who later killed her.

"A few weeks ago, another woman was murdered with a machete... Unfortunately, the local media does not talk about most of the crimes that happen in the city," said a doctor from the provincial hospital in Cienfuegos who did not want to reveal his identity for fear of losing his job.

"Serious wounds caused by knives have become an almost daily occurrence," the doctor said. "Just Monday, a patient arrived with several stab wounds. As a society, we need to reflect on what is happening."

García, the suspect in the most recent case, "served a year in prison and had just been released from jail when he committed the crime," said Najarro, whose mother and sister were killed.

García had been accused of sexual abuse against his 5-year-old daughter. "As they found no evidence [of sexual assault], they only sentenced him to one year and six months in prison for a misdemeanor, charges of exhibitionism or something like that," said Najarro, 34, who added that sexual abuse laws are "very weak" in Cuba.

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Cuban police at the scene of a double-murder in Cienfuegos. The government does not publish figures on the number of violent crimes on the island and the official press rarely covers those incidents. Courtesy

Najarro, a teacher by profession, said that several witnesses stated that on the same day García killed his sister, he had gone after another woman, a former girlfriend, who managed to hide and escape his wrath. Other witnesses said that García also had tried to pull his daughter out of school that day but teachers did not allow him to take the child.

"I feel bad. I have no words to describe what I am going through," Najarro said by phone from Cienfuegos on Monday. "It has been a terrible day for me. I'm now alone in the world with my niece. I just want justice to be done and for him to pay for what he did to my mother and my sister."

A neighbor of the San Lazaro neighborhood where the crime occurred and who witnessed the incident told el Nuevo Herald that after killing his ex-wife, García "put the knife in a black backpack, got on a bicycle and left... as if nothing had happened."

By then, several residents had gathered in front of the house where the crime was committed and called police.

"When the first patrol cars arrived, the aggressor was going up the hill and passed right by them. People started screaming and pointing and that's how they caught him," said the woman.

Another neighbor said she felt "extremely affected" by the crime. "In this block we have always lived among good people," she said. "We never thought we would see something like this."

Follow Mario J. Pentón on Twitter @mariojose_cuba
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