The director of a Cuban nursing home for elderly women has denounced the "disproportionate" targeting of the organisation after inspectors issued a fine of 200,000 pesos - approximately £80 - for failing to follow coronavirus protocols.
Ana Elena Fundora Lima said an inspector, who was allegedly not wearing a mask or PPE, fined the nursing home for a series of minor infractions including the lack of a manufacture date on bottles of chlorinated water and a failure to display posters with a written plan on how the nursing home planned to combat Covid-19.
Run by the Servants of Saint Joseph in Havana, the nursing home has been in lockdown since March 2020 because the residents are high risk.
Lima posted a letter on Facebook calling the visit "a cynical act" and complaining that no one from the government had visited them before who was concerned about the care being provided there.
The letter reads: "What deeply outrages me about this unjust and cynical act is that until today, no one from the Ministry of Health has been concerned with knowing how we are providing careful care for the elderly women and those who work here on a daily basis, not even to verify the quality of life of the elderly women. So what is it that matters? How do they expect us to use the very few human resources that we have to carry out these tasks?
"The only answer is "that's the protocol." It is evident that the "protocols" (and those who adhere to them) do not know at all what it means to have to constantly discern and prioritise between the "guidance" and what is essential. It is a shame that they look at insignificant details that change no one's life and do not refer to impeccable hygiene, the general condition of elderly women, their quality of life."
The Cuban government has been accused of using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to target religious groups unfairly. Violations of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) remain consistently high, despite the fact that many religious communities have been less active because of the coronavirus restrictions.
Head of Advocacy at Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Anna-Lee Stangl said: "CSW is highly concerned by the targeting of this nursing home by the Cuban government. Cubans across the island are struggling to cope with both the current economic difficulties as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Efforts working to support and protect some of the most vulnerable like those carried out by the Servants of Saint Joseph should be welcomed.
"We call on the Cuban government to refund the fine imposed on the home, and to cease all harassment of the Servants of Saint Joseph and all religious groups across the island that are carrying out work to support their communities in the midst of crisis."