In Cuba, a container of humanitarian aid sent by a British religious organization is confiscated.

The container was seized by the Department of Attention to Religious Institutions and Fraternal Associations of the Cuban government.

Contenedor en puerto de Mariel (Imagen de Referencia) © TC Mariel
Container in Mariel Port (Reference Image)Photo © TC Mariel

A shipment of humanitarian aid sent to the Evangelical Church of Cuba "En Jesucristo Libres" by the Christian organization International Aid Trust, based in London, England, was confiscated by the Cuban regime due to irregularities found, according to a report from the independent media outlet CubaNet.

The container, seized by the Department of Attention to Religious Institutions and Fraternal Associations, contained a power generator, 15 Singer sewing machines, three electric lawnmowers, food, clothing, shoes, household appliances, mattresses, musical instruments (guitars, ukuleles, violins, flutes, tambourines, keyboards, electric drums, wired microphones, toys, wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers), as reported by the mentioned media outlet.

An analyst from that department, named Ignacio Valdivia O’Farrill, stated in an audio message addressed to the directors of the religious organization, and which CubaNet had access to, that "the confiscation of the container is a sovereign decision of the Cuban State."

Valdivia O’Farrill alleged certain procedures for the reception of products. "There is an approved procedure that consists of goods entering the country being accepted or not based on their origin, characteristics, and objectives. When some of these aspects do not meet the approved standards, the State can make the decision [to confiscate], as was the case in this instance," he added.

According to this official, the donation, valued at 6,552 dollars, including shipping costs, had "many inconsistencies in this import procedure by those who carried out the procedures."

However, he failed to enumerate what the alleged inconsistencies were, and reiterated the firmness of the decision to confiscate, which they believed was justified "with documents or without documents."

The shipment had been made in February with donations from religious individuals in the United Kingdom. It arrived through the port of Mariel and remains there currently.

Sources from the receiving Church stated that it complied with the requirements established by the Cuban Customs.

Reverend Bernard Cocker, founder and chief executive of International Aid Trust, sent a letter to the United Kingdom's ambassador in Cuba, Mr. George Hollingberry, dated June 4, in which he requests assistance to "establish constructive cooperation with Cuban officials and effectively implement humanitarian projects for the benefit of the Cuban people."

Screenshot/Institute Patmos

In the letter, Reverend Cocker gives descriptions of the situation experienced at the port of Mariel as "regrettable" due to the retention of this container, which brings necessary products for the Cuban population, currently immersed in a crisis of shortages and lack of basic goods.

The formal reason given by customs officials is that "the shipment contained prohibited items," when the "humanitarian cargo contains only essential goods to help those in need in Cuba, such as clothing, food, wheelchairs, mattresses, footwear, baby food, toys for children, etc.," expressed in their letter.

The Patmos Institute denounces on its blog that this is not the first time that an event of this nature has occurred with religious institutions.

In 2020, we had already reported the theft of four containers that had been sent to Cuba, also collected by Cubans, in what was known as "Solidarity among brothers," through a church in the USA that sent it to another church in Cuba with the purpose of distributing it to the Cuban people through a network of pastors and churches waiting for it.

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