Cuba

Parents of Cuban baby who died after receiving vaccine say they were threatened by agents

Cuban state security agents have interrogated the parents of a baby girl who died Oct. 9 after receiving a vaccine against mumps, rubella and measles known as MMR at a clinic in the Alamar neighborhood of Havana, according to reports by 14ymedio and confirmed by el Nuevo Herald.

Yaima Caballero and Osmany Domínguez Soler, parents of Paloma Domínguez Caballero, told 14ymedio that they were summoned to a Public Health Ministry facility on Oct. 16 to receive details about the death of the baby, one of five children who had severe reactions after receiving the vaccine, produced by a company in India.

But instead of meeting with doctors, they were interrogated by State Security agents who threatened them with prison unless they stopped posting their complaints on social media about the death, Caballero told el Nuevo Herald in a phone interview from Mexico, where the couple went days after the interrogation.

“They asked us thousands of questions, even when I had my first period and when the nurse handled the vaccine,” Caballero said. The agents, identified only as Lt. Col. Hernández Caballero and a Maj. Arrebato, also told the parents that they were aware of their social media campaign demanding justice for their daughter.

“It’s a crime to make false accusations against other people and institutions, and crimes are paid in prison,” Caballero quoted one of the agents as saying.

Before the death of the baby, the parents had planned a trip to Mexico, although they did not have a precise travel date. Both had obtained a tourist visa to visit Mexico. But Caballero’s passport had expired.

She said that state security agents had her under surveillance at home. She also pointed out that her application to renew her passport was approved unusually quickly after the interrogation. The process usually takes 20 days, but she got her renewal in three days. Soon after obtaining the passports, the couple left Cuba for Mexico.

Now they are afraid to return.

Dr. Roberto Álvarez Fumero, head of the ministry office in charge of maternal and baby services, told el Nuevo Herald that the meeting was a routine interview in search of further details about the baby.

“We asked them about previous vaccines, about the conception and the birth. We spent nearly two hours talking about technical questions that are required by the investigation under way by the ministry,” the doctor said in a telephone interview from Havana.

He added that he could not confirm the presence of State Security agents during the conversation: “I personally invited the parents to the Public Health Ministry, and as I remember the meeting it was very cordial. The mother did most of the talking,” Álvarez Fumero said.

The doctor added that he’s been recovering from a car crash and is not up to date on the investigation into the baby girl’s death, including whether there has been an official ruling on the cause of death.

Caballero’s social media campaign for justice included tweets using the hashtag #justiciaparapaloma. She blamed the government directly and attacked Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel, who alleged in a tweet that the campaign was the work of Cuba’s political “adversaries.”

“It’s shameful that he’s more concerned about what adversaries may say than what the parents feel. My girl was named Paloma Domínguez Caballero, and it was a triple loss because they killed her and her parents,” she posted on her Twitter account in response to Díaz-Canel.

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