She is a small, fragile woman with signs of premature aging and a palpable emotional imbalance. She arrives at my house with a bundle of leaves in her hand and a cry of pity that overflows. In her town, they told her only that I am the only one who can help her, a sort of angel who has been a lifesaver in my role as a human rights activist.
“In the Municipal Court, I have been humiliated, handcuffed, coerced, and threatened. The police intimidate me. Even my lawyer seems to have been bought out. Please save me.”
I am flattered by her reference and that of the other citizens of Jaimanitas, who I have been able to help, in my twelve years as an independent journalist, denouncing arbitrary detainment and institutional excesses, among other things.
Although I am aware that my work is considered illegal by the government and more than once I was branded a mercenary. I am pleased to know that some of us (the Cubans) have become a factor of balance. Although incipiently, it seems that people in Cuba have begun to consider and value certain practices.
The woman who came to see me is named Iralis Pérez Aladro and has been involved in litigation with her neighbour, Nilda Pérez Guzmán since 2007 due to a request for repairs on the walls. On this occasion, the Municipal Court of Playa issued the sentence 639 in favor of Iralis. Unfortunately, the neighbour refused to comply and would not allow the bricklayers to do their work, but that was not all.
In 2016, after nine years of tension, her neighbour, Nilda, hired a lawyer to enforce a new sentence (reversed to be in her favor), because it was she who now needed to repair her home. It was then that Iralis refused to grant permission.
“I acted in good faith this time. The original house belongs to me; Mrs. Nilda Pérez had just received the garage as an inheritance from my grandparents. I could not perform the repair because some years ago Nilda refused to allow it. The garage has turned into a sumptuous home and she now demands to enter my property to make arrangements that, on the other hand, violate all planning norms by not meeting the required distance between two homes.”
Iralis told me the story of litigation in tears. She says that she has used all the procedures established by law to claim her rights, but in all instances, she has failed against it.
“In the oral proceedings of December 2016, I was cornered. The court intimidated me by saying that I incurred a crime of “disobeying the law”, by which I may be prosecuted. On March 17th of this year, three members of the Municipal Court, along with the police chief, Captain Aurelio San Miguel, came to my home. They claimed that they came to enforce what was dictated in sentence number 639, the one that I had won in 2007 and that Nilda did not comply with, but now it is against me. As I refused to let her enter my property, they threatened to take me to jail. I went to the Collective Law Firm of 5th F and 110 the next day and hired Dr. Albertini, a lawyer who boasted that we were going to win the suit without a problem. He did not really do anything. He didn’t lift a finger to help. I lost the case because the court stated that we did not present the evidence on time.”
Iralis began to cry again. I forced her to sit on a chair since she had remained standing during her entire speech and I feared she might collapse. She showed me another letter. This one was for the Department of Attention to Population of the Council of the State, received with signature and notation on March 20th, 2017. She never received a response. She also showed me the file with the missives addressed to Dr. Albertini, various claims to the court of Playa and the Supreme Court, and several summonses from the Siboney Police Unit to appear for her disobedience.
“I also brought with me a copy of the Constitution,” she says and shows me as if it were a shield. “In all these years of litigation, I have discovered some of my rights as a citizen. Mainly the one included in Article 56, which states: ‘The domicile is inviolable. No one can penetrate the property against the will of the inhabitant.’ And that is what I’m using as a defence. But all the parties involved are against me and I see that no law is valuable because there is no law. I’m desperate…I don’t know where to go to present my case.”
I asked her to calm down and stop crying. I gave her a glass of water and I promised to help her. The only way I have to help is to write about the whole thing and denounce the conspiracy of judicial institutions, which are against this helpless woman crying in my garden.
After she left, I calmly did some pertinent investigation with the help of some of her impartial neighbours that gave me an external and ample vision of the case.
Félix Martínez Fello, a resident of Calle Primera and Rio, says that Iralis has suffered a lot with this house lawsuit and has lost at least thirty pounds because of it.
Marcos Lagardere adds: “Before, she was a pretty woman. She was always cheerful and full of plans. Now, she just leave her home for going to court, in order to solve this problem.”
Massiel López, of Tercera and 240, stated that he was familiar with Iralis’ case from the beginning and it is an injustice what they have done. “Her life is over. There is no way out of the traps the law has created for her, a fearful woman who is now somber and imbalanced.”
“It’s good that you came to see me,” said Miguelito Garcia, a candy merchant. “You, the human rights activists, are the only ones who care enough to help us, the poor. And you are looking to help with any issue against injustice for free. The best thing you do is that you don’t ask for a penny to help us. That’s rare in today’s Cuban society.”