…sinks government into further discredit with the Cuban people
By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – Daily COVID-19 briefings with Doctor Francisco Duran had almost every Cuban watching because they were afraid of the spread of the pandemic. With the people’s trust and following which can only be compared to Doctor Rubiera’s meteorological reports during the threat of a hurricane.
To the point that, when briefings became weekly, on Fridays, during the “new normal” phase decreed on October 12, 2020, the population felt they were being uninformed and their sense of danger dropped. So, there were plenty of requests and opinions that Dr. Duran’s briefings should be broadcast on a daily basis again.
Thus, when the epidemiological situation became critical again after January 5th and the government decided to broadcast daily briefings again, it was well-received by the Cuban people. However, the situation has changed since infections and deaths spiked in June, which began in Matanzas, but has affected every province to a greater or lesser extent, in a staggered way.
“We didn’t miss it in my house (the COVID-19 part), but nobody watches it anymore, nor do they want to. It’s all lies!” Orlando, your run-of-the-mill Holguin resident, said in a conversation that starts at the bodega, whilst waiting in line for bread.
“Seeing everybody get sick around you and Duran telling you that numbers are going down or that there aren’t any positive cases in that municipality. But you call your family or friends in this municipality and they tell you that everybody’s infected and that there aren’t any tests for people. That’s really taking the piss. Nobody is stupid here, reality is different,” he said.
Ricardo, an engineer, also says that he’s stopped watching the COVID-19 briefing on a regular basis, for some weeks now: “I never missed it, the whole family would gather at this time and at work too, we’d run to the nearest TV or, if we couldn’t, we’d anxiously watch it on Telegram.”
“I’d even get annoyed, anxious, when it would take time to become available on this app. But ever since it’s become apparent that it has nothing to do with what’s really going on, if I do watch it now, it’s just by chance, and I get annoyed that these figures are far from the real ones.”
“For example, I have a neighbor two houses away who died of COVID-19 and he didn’t appear in the briefing. My whole neighborhood is infected, and everybody has been the same for two or three months now, and it doesn’t stop. We all had it in my house, it really hit me bad. The figures on TV are very low, any neighborhood has more new cases per day than the ones being reported for the whole municipality. It’s a lack of respect, you turn off the TV so as not to blow. This man is shameless, he’s playing a shameful role,” he weighed in.
It’s clear that the situation has been turned on its head and now the majority of people consulted have stopped watching the briefing or no longer believe in the statistics. While there has always been some incongruency about the credibility of the numbers offered by the government and there have been lots of one-time complaints of cases that were left out, it was during the current health crisis with extremely high COVID-19 cases in the last three months that Dr. Duran’s politicized and malleable nature has become clear and obvious.
When figures start to be alarming, revealing a collapse in the health system, shortages of tests for diagnosis, or disproportionate deaths, the imbalance between the national report and reality in neighborhoods, municipalities and provinces became crude and impossible to hide. This was when official statistics began to lose further credibility and, as a result, popularity.
“This man seemed like a God, people really respected him, and now people get upset when he says there aren’t any cases in your municipality and everyone is sick and dying around you,” Jose (Cheo), a street seller of fruits and vegetables, said.
It’s a discredit that isn’t a one-time thing and it won’t be without consequences, because it has joined further discredit in the PCC government that has been stewing with the Cuban people, in the economic, political and also social situation, where myths have prevailed. It’s one more point in this social revolution that is citizen-led and can have no other outcome but democracy.