HAVANA TIMES – Folk singer Fernando Becquer was taken to court on Tuesday October 18, 2022 and found guilty on the charges of lewd and lascivious conduct by a Havana Court. According to reports by state-controlled media, he was given a five-year restriction of liberty order as a lesser sentence to jail time.
The details of the court’s ruling still remain unknown. On social media, citizens are asking whether this sentence is just and healing for his victims.
“This sentence doesn’t heal his victims, who can finally close this long cycle of revictimization, cyberbullying and delayed court case at least. It doesn’t keep a sexual predator locked up or protect potential victims in the future,” the Cuban YoSiTeCreo platform posted on its social media.
While the sentence still isn’t definitive (it can still be appealed by both sides), it has mobilized public debate about victims of sexual violence’s access to justice and reparations. El Toque’s team hasn’t been able to verify the sentence as of yet, as we don’t have access to the document.
For the more than 30 women Fernando Becquer abused, who came forward to report him in public or to law enforcement agencies, it has been ten long months of a process that still exposes gaps in institutions and civil society when dealing with cases of gender-based violence. It comes as no surprise that citizens are once again demanding a comprehensive gender-based violence act.
Ten long months
Public allegations which have become known as the Cuban #MeToo movement began with the article “Five sex abuse complaints against Fernando Becquer,” pulished by El Estornudo on December 8, 2021.
In the days that followed, these five testimonies went viral with the hashtag #YoSiLesCreo; while other women came forward with their experiences on social media. Writer Elaine Vilar Madruga was one of these women, who also filed a formal complaint against Fernando Becquer for sex abuse on December 11, 2021, the first of its kind to be made public.
Despite the viral nature of the case, the plaintiffs – especially those outside Cuba – received very little follow-up and feedback from institutions about the investigation’s progress and whether some protective or administrative measure had been placed against the folk singer.
This lack of transparency also extended to the trial, with the result (court ruling) only being posted with a brief tweet by the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) confirming that Becquer had been found guilty for lewd acts. This was also the first time the institution had talked about the case naming the aggressor.
The need to know whether protective measures existed, such as a restraining order, became urgent when victims became the target of cyberbullying and those who followed them on the Elbecquer de Cuba page. Revictimization and harassment were a constant throughout the entire procedure.
In early September, Vilar Madruga and journalist Mario Luis Reyes reported new acts of harassment on the Elbecquer de Cuba page, as well as the folk singer performing in public and private spaces in Havana and the impunity this revealed.
In response to this blatant impunity, many of the plaintiffs and women’s rights activists that supported them published an open letter under the name Juntas (together), on April 22, 2022, asking for justice for the over 30 women that stepped forward to give their testimony.
“We are fed up of your impunity. We are fed up with the fact you can walk down the street as if nothing has happened, you’re on TV, you make a mockery out of our outrage,” the text read.
Paula Ramirez, one of the plaintiffs, delivered the letter to the minister of Culture, Alpidio Alonso, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on April 30th. This was one of the few times a public response was made by an official about the case, although it wasn’t an official statement.
The minister said at the time: “if what the plaintiffs have said is proven to be true, he will feel the entire weight of the Law.”
“Becquer found guilty. Today, my life starts again,” Vilar Madruga posted on her social media.
Many people, including several of the plaintiffs, think that getting a judicial sentence is an important step and a feat only possible thanks to the survivors who came forward and the women’s rights activists that supported them. However, there are still significant doubts.
“We’ve certainly won an important battle, we managed to take a repeat sex offender to trial for the first time ever. We weren’t expecting this sentence and investigative process, but it happened. I’m not content, I won’t be, but I admit this has been a victory,” Massy Carram, one of the plaintiffs in the Becquer case, wrote on her Facebook page.
Meanwhile, women’s rights activist Salome Garcia Bacallao recalled: “Lots of people have questioned why Fernando Becquer was able to wait out the trial in freedom, even performing at state-controlled venues or at private bars, when anyone who speaks freely here in Cuba is placed in pre-trial detention until the trial, for more than a year even.”
During the procedure of coming forward publicly, many women’s rights activists told El Toque that reparations need to go beyond the court sentence.
Recognizing institutions’ responsibility in maintaining the aggressor’s power, the need for a comprehensive gender-based violence act and the creation of structures that provide victims with real support are some of the pending matters needed to tackle machista violence in Cuba.