By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – I was on my way to work and I stopped under the bridge on the highway to “hitch a ride” just like I do every morning. In other countries, some people hitchhike to go on an adventure, but in our case, it’s a necessity.
It’s not just me though, a great number of people find themselves forced to hitch a ride if they want to get to work or sort out a problem quite away from home, because of a lack of public transport. This pretty much happens across the entire country, except for in cities. People go to roads and highways to catch a ride and go where they need to.
Private transport services have started up again, some US trucks that have been exploited for over 60 years, whose owners provide transport services, and citizens like me board them because we have no better alternative.
But things were different this morning. Earlier on in the day, some police officers and other plainclothes officers were stationed at certain points, telling people to stay away. I guessed some important government figure was going to visit the province.
This group of ordinary people must suffer long hours under the sun until the high-ranking leader passes by, thereby stopping a hypothetical attack, I guess. I’m referring to them as ordinary because that’s how those in power see them.
I could also call them informers, although I run the risk of being derogatory or unfair to some who are doing this because they are obliged to or don’t have the freedom to say NO, and they have to wake up at the crack of dawn and/or catch heatstroke just to protect their boss’ physical wellbeing.
Of course, they aren’t all like this, some of them do it out of conviction or convenience and that’s when they fall under this despicable label, despite everyone not holding my same beliefs. In fact, two years ago, when I said “now when I went to the bridges, they were being patrolled by a heap of snitches”, my father-in-law told me off, as they were just doing their job in his eyes.
But I understand my father-in-law, he was a man born in the 1950s, part of the generation that was indoctrinated with revolutionary romanticism in the 1960s and ‘70s, a decent man who despite his intelligence, can’t accept that his dreams of a prosperous socialism were flushed down the drain years ago.
Well anyway, there was a government visit to the province, headed by Miguel Diaz-Canel, prime-minister Manuel Marrero and a group of ministers and vice-ministers.
I found out that night when I turned on the TV to see the weather. I saw images of Diaz-Canel and part of his entourage in the 5 de Septiembre neighborhood, popularly known as “El Maica”, while the journalist’s report talked about roadworks, building homes and the neighbors’ gratitude for the Revolution’s work, the same journalistic script in what they call “vulnerable neighborhoods” nowadays. “Bah, mere propaganda,” I thought to myself.
To give you an example, look up the article on January 27th called “Conversing with the population, the key to the Government’s administration” where you can read the following excerpts:
“Is the neighborhood making progress or not?” Establishing a dialogue with the population, in every space, is a constant practice that the Cuban Government has used and has demonstrated important results…
“Are they listening to what you’re proposing? Are solutions being found to the main problems here?” The Cuban leader also wanted to know when talking to neighbors in the 5 de Septiembre neighborhood, one of Pinar del Rio’s 36 vulnerable communities, where actions are currently being implemented to improve residents’ quality of life.
Yep, the neighborhood has been transforming for a few months now. Grateful, the people there told him about how much had been done, and about other actions that could also come to light. Once sidewalks and curbs are started on, roads would then be paved, but it’s telephone services and water supply that the community continues to think about…
Look at the article published by Granma newspaper on January 28th too, with the heading “Pinar del Rio is producing, fighting, working and making progress,” in which Prime Minister Manuel Marrero said “defending unity above all else, in every scenario and circumstance, will allow us to steam ahead. He also said that he met a people “who are producing, fighting, where work is being done and progress being made.” He added his faith in the future, as the leadership generation is standing by its commitment to the Cuban people and the Revolution’s founders.
The following day, I asked two friends living there (it’s fair to say that it’s one of the most precarious in the city of Pinar del Rio) and they told me that streets and sidewalks are only being paved in small areas, the rest wasn’t shown on TV. Let’s hope these works aren’t left uncompleted.
Looking at results from the visit, I also read an article published on Cubadebate called “Government’s trip to Pinar del Rio comes to an end,” on January 28th.
Problems detected during this visit include the provincial capital’s residents’ dissatisfaction with the water supply, having the longest supply cycle out of all of the provincial cities in the country; delays in building houses for people whose home were destroyed by hurricanes in the Los Palacios municipality; deficiencies in top-priority services in Minas de Matahambre, where housing has seriously deteriorated; 37 companies with economic losses in 2021; and price speculation as a result of shortages.
This was a summary of the problems detected by that visit. However, these aren’t the only problems being faced by the most far-western province.
Nothing was said about chronic shortages at national currency stores, where Freely Convertible Currency (MLC) stores priced in US dollars are pretty much stocked with products that ordinary Cubans have no access to, as they don’t earn in MLC, having to pay for this currency at over 90 pesos and/or having to buy basic essentials on the illicit market at exorbitant prices that continue to increase every day, amid an inflation rate that continues to grow with every call to lower prices.
Nothing was said about the poor housing situation which is widespread throughout the province and not just in some areas, or about building material shortages in a country where getting a hold of a nail is harder than finding flowers in the sea, as an old Massiel song goes.
Nor was the tough medicine situation seen, with medicines harder and harder to find, or the poor condition of health services.
Not a word was spoken of the transport deficit in the province, and even the capital city lacks an urban transport network that ensures basic satisfactory transport, or about the poor state of roads here.
Absolutely nothing was said, not to mention the lack of human rights safeguards and basic freedoms, as this is even more serious.
It seems just a few problems exist (not all of them), and these can normally be attributed to the “US embargo/blockade”.
According to the Government, these problems will soon be resolved, as the Cuban people continue to believe in their revolution.
In the meantime, the years continue to fly by, and with the years, decades, and then a century and the biggest problem of them all will continue to be here, like Augusto Monterroso’s dinosaur.