The Pope’s Visit: A Pretext for Inefficiency

Mercedes Gonzalez Amade

The pope mobile in Havana.

HAVANA TIMES — All human beings, no matter what class we belong to, make an effort to give a good first impression when we have guests over at home or in our country. We try to make our guest feel as welcome as possible. Last month, we had the privilege of having the Catholic Church’s highest authority visit us. The streets filled with people – both devout and not – because this was a unique event and next to no one wanted to miss it.

As a Cuban, I was overjoyed at Pope Francis’ visit. Contrary to what some believe, our country is highly religious, a place where different creeds co-exist peacefully and harmoniously. What’s more, a few days before the Pope’s arrival (we don’t know whether there’s any connection, though many believe there is), new wheelchairs arrived at all polyclinics in Marianao. The last time that happened was 10 years ago.

In the capital and other cities the Pope visited, buildings were restored and repaired and safety measures implemented. In short, there was much movement throughout the country in preparation for this distinguished visitor.

This is only natural. What I don’t consider fair is for this to become a pretext for many irresponsible practices, the cancellation of meetings and agreements and the postponement of solutions to problems.

It seems State institutions all devoted themselves to receiving the Pope and forgot their raison d’etre. The result is that, after the Pope’s visit came to an end and everything went back to normal, heaven knows how many problems were left behind.

Addressing the needs of the disabled is among the responsibilities of many government officials. This duty was forgotten in order to meet aims related to the Pope’s reception.

Every time I approached the municipal government as a representative of the Cuban Association for the Physically Impaired (ACLIFIM), I got the same answer: “I can’t deal with that now, we are expecting the Pope.” It didn’t matter how serious the problem was.

One of the cases involved a member with an injured leg. Part of his roof collapsed and fell over his healthy leg. He was also so severely injured by the debris that he had to be put in intensive care. That’s an urgent case. The government should at least take care of the roof or offer him a new home, I don’t know. But I got the same answer nonetheless.

Every week, ACLIFIM members have to meet with the local government to bring them up to date on new and urgent cases, and to remind them of those, like me, who continue to wait for improvements in terms of housing and the sale of wheelchairs or accessories. For months, we have not been able to hold these meetings, for the officials involved had far too much on their plate. There are situations, however, that cannot be addressed later, as they directly affect human beings.

Bureaucracy reigns supreme everywhere. Why put things on the backburner and prioritize the Pope’s visit when both can be done simultaneously? That is how conflict, absurd situations, obstacles and discontent are kept at bay. We must continue to criticize the attitude of leaving things for later, for, what we leave for tomorrow is either left undone or is done poorly.