14ymedio, Havana, 11 December 2017 — The Baptist Church, through the pastor and coordinator of the Patmos Institute, Mario Félix Lleonart, has denounced the occupation of one of its buildings since last July by individuals acting in a personal capacity. The building is the site of the Office of the Board of Missions of the Association of Baptist Convention of Western Cuba, located in Havana’s Vedado district.
The Church has denounced that the authorities are not fulfilling their obligation to restore the property to its legitimate owners and has requested the intervention of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in the United States along with the support from the US Government. The demand has its origin in fact that the building belonged to the SBC’s Home Mission Board until, in 1967, to avoid a potential confiscation because of its being an American-owned property, it was transferred to the Baptist Convention Association of Western Cuba.
According to Lleonart, who details the complaint in a statement posted on the Patmos Institute website, the church was installed on the ground floor of the building, but little by little the upper floors were filled with people who occupied the building in the face of the apathy of the religious community and the Government’s disinterest. The authorities have taken a special interest in stripping the Baptists of this property located in an area of preferential interest next to the University of Havana.
The Convention denounced those early phases of the occupation and in the early 1990s the courts ruled in their favor, but the authorities alleged that they could not force the illegal residents to leave, since they had no place to relocate them to. In spite of everything, the Convention recovered several floors and decided to locate the Office of the Board of Missions there, which opened this past July 6.
The Patmos Institute denounces that all the movable property that was inside the building, “including safe, computers, and documents,” is in the hands of the occupants and it is unknown what they have done with it.
Apparently the illegal residents of other apartments on the third floor broke through the dividing wall and occupied the area. Pastor Karell Lescaille, director of the Board, came to the site a day later and was unable to open the door of his office, which was obstructed from the inside. The neighbors refused to let the pastor pass on the grounds that they had occupied the apartment because it was being used by the Convention for “non-pertinent purposes.”
The occupants were warned that they should return the property and restore the wall after the Convention alerted the police and filed a complaint, but they refused to withdraw.
The Convention regrets that despite these measures and their having contacted the Office of Attention to Religious Affairs, they have not been able to recover the property. In their view, this is due to the lack of interest from the Cuban Government, which they believe intends to disrupt the task of the Mission Board and, at the same time, to control the building.
“Since the national mechanisms, far from giving any result only protect impunity, we call on all the national and international bodies that can to cooperate with us,” the Convention stated.
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