Abuse Case against Cuban Folk Singer Awaits New Testimonies

Writer Elaine Vilar has spent half her life keeping quiet about something she experienced when she was 16 years old. She is now the first victim to come forward and file a formal complaint with the police. Photo: Taken from Facebook

Any victim ready to file a complaint can do so by going to the police station on Zapata and C Streets, in the Cuban capital.

Por IPS-Cuba

HAVANA TIMES – Cuban writer Elaine Vila, one of the over 10 women who have come forward on different platforms and said they were victims of sexual abuse by folk singer Fernando Becquer, filed her complaint with the Police on Saturday December 11th, and trusts justice will be served.

“It’s time now for other victims to come forward. I hope some of them are able to do this. Everyone has their own time and pain, and they have to deal with this,” Vilar told IPS and added that at least a second victim may come forward this week, as far as she knows.

The complainant has the support and backing of the national board of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) which, according to Vilar, is willing to help every victim in whatever they need. “I believe that justice will be served,” the 32-year-old writer said, who fell victim to Becquer when she was just 16 years old.

The complaint was filed at the police station on Zapata and C Streets, in the Plaza de la Revolucion municipality, where the abuse took place. Born in 1970, Becquer has been well-known up until now for work that uses comedy, but it is generally rife with sexism and symbolic violence towards women.

Fernando Becquer makes an appearance on stage in the Cuban capital, the day after having been reported for sexual abuse.

“For years, I’ve been afraid of saying this is what happened to me. It did happen to me. It did happen to me. It did happen to me. And it was him who did it,” Vilar wrote on her Facebook profile after the article “Five sex abuse complaints against Fernando Becquer” was published in El Estornudo magazine, on December 8th.

#YoSíLesCreo, #MeToo

While a limited group of people came to Becquer’s defense, who was even invited to sing in a space belonging to folk singer Raul Torres as a sign of support, social media has been flooded with solidarity for the victims and new stories of Cuban women and women from other countries who have lived through the same thing.

First reactions also included doubts about why these stories were being told now, the intention of the complaint for political reasons, as Becquer is a folk singer who has publicly come to the Cuban government’s defense, and because the news was originally published on independent digital magazine El Estornudo.

“If five women, whoever they are, are in Havana, Buenos Aires or Madrid, and tell a story of sexual assualt perpetrated by the same persion, with clear similarities, we believe them,” was journalist Ania Terrero’s response, who writes the Letras de Genero (Gender Letters) column for digital media platform Cubadebate.

“We take them seriously, both these women and their stories, because they are living proof of a systemic, cultural problem: the naturalization of violence,” she added in a post shared by journalists, experts and activists who defend victims’ right to be heard, without asking why the complaint was being made now.

Both the testimonies collected by El Estornudo, as well as other testimonies that have been appearing on Facebook, agree that Becquer took advantage of his position as an artist and follower of Afro-Cuban religion to trick his victims by hiding his abusive behavior behind alleged “rites”, “cleanses”, and artistic “castings”.

Social support for victims

Appearing just before the publication of the Comprehensive Strategy of Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Attention and the Family Environment in the Cuban Republic’s Official Gazette, the complaint made by Any Cruz, Liliana H Balance, Claudia Exposito, Silvia and Patricia (fictitious names) to El Estornudo multiplied in just a few hours.

It all began when Liliana H Balance discovered that other women could have experienced the same thing she did and she began to investigate among people she knows.

“I keep receiving messages from women that wish to report similar situations,” journalist Mario Luis Reyes, author of the article, revealed. Elaine Vilar’s story is joined by other stories from Gabrielle Table, Massy Carram, Wendy Martinez, Amanda Santana Rizo, Dhana Sant Val and Kaloian Santos Cabrera, to name a few.

In a statement supported by the Pablo de la Torriente Brau Cultural Center, folk singer Rita del Prado said that the least important thing “is the political stance of the digital newspaper that first listened to them and published their stories, just like the ideological stance of the person who committed the act doesn’t matter. Placing emphasis on this, diverts our attention.”

“If we don’t understand that machismo kills and that immunity shouldn’t be allowed, then the issue of sexual assault shows us that equality before the Law doesn’t translate into equality in life,” historian Julio Cesar Gonzalez Pages said, in an article published by the Iberoamerican and African Masculinities Network (RIAM).

Messages of support also came from intellectual Julio Cesar Guanche, singer Eme Alfonso, folk singer Heidi Igualada, actress Camila Arteche, guitarist Reynier Aldana, psychologist Ailynn Torres, journalist Elaine Diaz and filmmaker Ian Padron, as well as the #YoSiTeCreo and Lo llevamos rizo platfoms.

CENESEX offers its services

In the first statement made by a public institution, the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) considered it “legitimate for victims of sexual violence to raise their voices” and is offering its legal guidance and sex therapy services to victims.

In addition to condemning “any manipulation that has developed around such a delicate subject”, the institution urged victims to formulate “corresponding complaints following the established legal procedures” and declared its “commitment to supporting them with whatever they need so they can navigate this complex procedure.”

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.