Alfredo Guevara (1925-2013) passed away on April 19 in Havana.
HAVANA TIMES — Police officers burst into the home of Alfredo Guevara (founder of the Cuban Film Institute) this past Saturday and detained a number of individuals entrusted with the care of the documents and other belongings of the late cultural figure, reported CafeFuerte.com.
According to the website, relatives of Guevara residing in Mexico denounced the violent police operation, which deployed 22 agents to Guevara’s home, located in Havana’s neighborhood of Vedado, on Saturday.
“They’re still inside the house. They’ve cut off the phone lines, have been breaking doors open in thorough searches and detaining people responsible for looking after the family’s properties,” declared Jonathan Gincoff in Mexico City. Gincoff is the boyfriend of model Claudia Guevara Cueto, the adoptive granddaughter of the Cuban intellectual, who passed away this April in Havana.
Guevara’s relatives have declared they were never notified of the search and had not granted authorities permission to conduct it. They claim Cuban authorities did not answer their telephone calls either.
“They’re breaking the law,” said Antonio Guevara, Guevara’s adoptive son, in declarations to CaféFuerte. “We’re the lawful heirs of his entire estate, including his documents, properties and artworks, as he declared in his will.”
The search stems from a recent Cuban government decision, which declared all documents related to the life and work of the late Alfredo Guevara “cultural heritage of the nation.” The resolution was passed by Cuba’s Ministry of Culture (MINCULT) on April 25, a mere week following Guevara’s death.
The government decree establishes that anyone wishing to use, divulge or promote Guevara’s estate in any way must request authorization from the National Cultural Heritage Council (CNPC) to do so.
“They make up regulations and laws on the go to get their hands on other people’s belongings,” declared Janet Cueto, Antonio Guevara’s wife. “Alfredo Guevara’s will does not mention any of them, nor any government institution, as the heir of any of his properties. The house they’re searching now, because we didn’t give them what they wanted, is the property of my children, Claudia and Alfredo.”
Neighbors of the family approached by CaféFuerte confirmed the search, conducted by Ministry of the Interior officials. Renowned blogger Yoani Sanchez divulged the news through Twitter, and an official Cuban government site stated the operation was aimed at drawing up an inventory of the heritage items kept in the house, which was being carried out by CNPC experts.
“The inspection arises from a report brought to the competent authorities on Thursday by neighbors of the Guevara household,” stated the blog Cambios en Cuba (“Changes in Cuba”), managed by Cuban government journalist Manuel H. Lagarde.
According to Lagarde, who quotes “available sources”, the report states that, in recent days, people had been seen removing properties from the house in hours of the night.
For the time being, the heritage items are to be inventoried and stored by the Heritage Office of the Ministry of Culture, the source declared.
The Guevara household treasures a valuable collection of artworks and documents, which Guevera left in his will to his family, an adoptive son and two grandchildren. These properties were under the custody of close friends of the family, currently residing in Mexico and the United States.
Quoted by Cambios en Cuba, CNPC president Gladys Collazo Usallan insisted that the measures have no other aim than to “protect the interests of the true heirs and Cuba’s heritage.”
“According to official sources, the search is aimed at protecting the properties of the heirs, but it’s actually an artifice to confiscate all of Guevara’s compromising documents,” commented filmmaker and journalist Manuel Zayas, who resides in New York.
According to Zayas, its true aim is to send a clear message to the heirs, to make them understand the government will show no tolerance towards them in the future.
A Case of Corruption
“What we’re actually witnessing is a case of corruption of massive proportions. Alfredo Guevara was one of the most prominent private collectors of Cuban paintings, paintings he bought and sold for decades, and these activities were tolerated by authorities because of his history of support for the government,” Zayas added. “The government’s tolerance has run out.”
The filmmaker told CaféFuerte that “there’s evidence that this trade in artworks has made hundreds of thousands of dollars for the heirs, who have purchased several properties in Miami.”
Guevara passed away at 87 following a heart attack on April 19. His ashes were scattered days later across the steps of the University of Havana, the place where he became a student leader of communist convictions and met Fidel Castro. His granddaughter, Claudia Guevara, was present at the ceremony.
A close collaborator of Fidel and Raul Castro, he was the founder of Cuba’s Film Art and Industry Institute (ICAIC) and of the New Latin American Cinema Festival held in Havana each year.
Neither of the Castro brothers, however, made any pronouncements regarding his passing. The only member of the family present when Guevera’s ashes were scattered was Fidel Casto’s son, Diaz Balart.
“It’s clear that, by the time of his death, Alfredo Guevara had fallen out of favor with the government,” Zayas pointed out.