14ymedio, Havana, 13 February 2023 — Mercedes Vasallo Herrera, 51, is the most recent victim of femicide in Cuba, according to the unofficial count kept by the Cuban Women’s Network. Its activists, Marthadela Tamayo and Annia Zamora, have warned of the discovery of her body this Saturday, February 11, in the town of Carlos Rojas, in Jovellanos (Matanzas).
The victim, who was found under her bed by her grandson, was killed with a knife and had a strong blow to the head, according to Tamayo’s Facebook profile. The activist has added that the alleged murderer is the husband of the victim, who has been detained by the authorities. Vasallo was buried this Sunday morning in the local cemetery.
With Vasallo, the number of femicide victims recorded so far this year in Cuba has increased to ten, a number that could be higher, since there is no official count. Last Friday, when the murder of two more women became known, the official press published an extensive note in which, among many other things, pondered if there really were more victims or if now the cases are being made known, an inexplicable inaccuracy, since the Ministry of the Interior is the only body that has strict control of all violent deaths that occur in the country.
The activist has added that the alleged murderer is the husband of the victim, who has been detained by the authorities. Vasallo was buried this Sunday morning in the local cemetery
Cuban officials have kept statistics of murders, robberies and violence of all kinds hidden for decades, preventing the importance of these problems, as well as mapping the crimes and addressing the solutions.
The associations Red Feminina de Cuba and Yo Sí Te Creo [Cuban Feminine Network and I Do Believe You] have been monitoring femicides since 2019, which is allowing these cases to be brought to light, some of which reveal gross negligence by the authorities, such as that of Neisa López, a 29-year-old, allegedly killed by a former police officer convicted of killing his wife and attacking his sister-in-law. The man was on probation, since he was a cancer patient and stabbed the young woman, who was his nurse.
The previous femicide occurred on February 3 in Camalote, Camagüey, an event that generated great commotion among Cubans due to the conditions and the escalation of violence in the province. Leidy Bacallao Santana, 17, sought refuge at the police station after threats from her ex-partner, Elesvan Hidalgo, a 50-year-old man, but he chased her and ended up killing her with a machete in the police unit.
The alarm generated by the multiple known femicides in barely a month has reactivated the request of the Women’s Network in Cuba to promote a comprehensive law against sexist violence. The group ensures that it’s essential to classify the crime or consider it as part of an aggravating circumstance, but also that there are transversal measures that involve police officers, judges, communicators, health workers or educators, in raising awareness of this specific phenomenon.
In addition, they consider that a transparent record of the victims should be kept, and solutions should also be provided for relatives, particularly minor children of the murdered individuals. In the last three years, 102 women have died as victims of male violence in Cuba.
Translated by Norma Whiting
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