14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 27 March 2018 — The body of Yarisleidy Cuba Rodriguez spent almost 20 days in a funeral home in Miami until her husband, Yoelvis Gattorno, who lives in Cuba, decided to cremate her remains. Cuba Rodríguez died while giving birth to Valeria, a baby girl now barely three weeks old who is involved in a bitter family fight between her father, who wants to take her to the island, and her mother’s relatives, who want her live in Miami.
“The only motivation I had to ask for temporary custody of the little girl was to avoid her being taken to a shelter. I never wanted to take her away from her father, but to honor the memory of my first cousin who left her in my care before dying,” Nairobis Pacheco, a cousin of Cuba Rodríguez, tells 14ymedio.
The father of the child publicly accused Pacheco of denying him information about the baby. The cousin of Cuba Rodríguez, on the other hand, showed this newspaper the chats she had with the girl’s father, through the Messenger app, since the young mother died. “I always sent photos of the little girl and kept him up to date, but he preferred to put on a media show when all he had to do was wait for the process to run its course according to the law,” she says.
Gattorno and several South Florida media outlets claimed that Pacheco’s family had filed a lawsuit for malpractice against Jackson Memorial Hospital and hinted that this was the reason they wanted to maintain temporary custody.
“We have not made any demands. We are only asking for my cousin’s medical file at the hospital because we believe there were irregularities in her operation,” Pacheco says, defending herself. She says that the last weeks have seemed like an ordeal. “My face has been all over the news, I think I have become the most wanted person. Even my children have been harassed by the press,” she says.
Cuba Rodríguez’s delivery was was complicated because the pregnant woman had placenta accreta, a medical condition that occurs when the placenta is too deeply attached to the inside of the uterus. Doctors prefer to deliver by cesarean in these cases to avoid tears and bleeding. However, Cuba Rodriguez did not do well in the operation and died in the operating room, leaving only the designation of her cousin as the contact person responsible for her.
“Yari and I grew up together as if we were sisters. She won the visa lottery and I helped her come to the United States in October of last year,” explains Pacheco. Both Cuba and her eldest daughter, Flavia Paz, 15, lived at their cousin’s. After the death of the woman, 34, the teenager went to live with her father, who also lives in the United States.
“My biggest concern is that the girl’s father wants to take her to Cuba, my cousin always wanted to live in the United States, that’s why she emigrated, she was looking for the best for her daughters, I don’t think it’s best for the girl to live in that country [Cuba],” adds Pacheco.
For Pacheco, the mother of three children and a manicurist by trade, the family controversy surrounding the custody of the girl took her by surprise. “One day my friends called me and told me to turn on the news because they were talking about me,” she explains. “It was then that I found out that the baby’s father said that I wasn’t giving him any information about her and that I wanted to separate him from the child.”
“I just want the best for the girl and for her not to be separated from her sister, who has already gone through a lot,” she says.
Pacheco accuses Gattorno of not being in a position to support the baby on the island, having no work, and having belonged to the Technical Investigation Department of the National Revolutionary Police.
14ymedio communicated by phone with Yoelvis Gattorno who confirmed his intention to travel to the United States to get custody of his daughter and to bring her back to the island.
“The only thing that interests me now is to travel to Miami to meet my daughter. I’m going to return with her to Cuba,” said Gattorno, who lives in Santa Clara. The man did not deny having belonged to the police, which his lawyer Claudia Cañizares, who leads the pro bono case, had done. Currently, there is a gofoundme campaign to help Gattorno reunite with his daughter.
“In the next two weeks we could have my client traveling to Miami,” Cañizares told this newspaper. The lawyer added that several members of Congress from South Florida have shown their solidarity towards the father and interceded for him to be granted a humanitarian visa at the US embassy in Havana.
According to Cañizares, only a judge can grant the father custody of the baby and will do so looking for the greater good of the child, so the judge would make the final decision about the possible travel of a minor who is an American citizen to the Island.
Various media outlets in South Florida have compared the case of little Valeria with that of Elián González, a Cuban boy who was rescued after being shipwrecked on the raft on which he was traveling with his mother from Cuba in 2000. González’s father claimed custody of him, and received the support of Fidel Castro, who turned the legal fight for the custody of the child into a political struggle between the Cuban exile in Miami and the Government of the Island. Finally the boy was returned to Cuba and today is a leader in the Communist Youth organization.
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