By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – San Diego de los Banos has gone viral on social media and made headlines in newspapers outside Cuba. It is a town located in the Los Palacios municipality, in the Pinar del Rio province.
Up until now, zero cases of COVID-19 have been reported here and it’s precisely where the municipal authorities decided to send a group of old people who were suspected of having the virus, to the Hotel Libertad to be exact, which is located in the heart of the town, and is right next to family homes.
On the afternoon of Friday April 17th, hundreds of locals have been crowding in front of the Hotel to protest and express their disagreement with this decision. Their complaints are founded upon the alleged risk that this elderly group could pose to the health of the town’s residents.
To be honest, I find it hard to believe they would be a threat, bearing in mind that they were only suspected of having the virus, and it’s been more than proved that if the necessary distancing and hygiene measures are taken, the risk of infection is minimal.
Police immediately showed up, to make the protesters disperse apparently, as locals had found the courage to raise their voices and support complaints with applause, defending what they believe is their right and to stop the group of old people from coming.
As we can see in videos that have gone viral on social media, police officers tried to stop people from recording what was happening, but without exercising any physical force against the protesters. Later, in the night, special troops came in to ensure the group’s transfer was complete.
People have many different opinions about what happened, which range from the local townspeople in San Diego being right about the alleged risk of an outbreak, to criticism for considering it a miserly and paranoid response.
Luckily, it was confirmed that none of the old people who came into the town tested positive for COVID-19, and they were immediately transferred back to their homes.
The following truths have come to light during this situation:
1 – The local Communist Party and Government in Los Palacios’ is quite blase when it comes to Coronavirus as they didn’t weigh up the possible consequences. Why didn’t they take the group to La Guira or El Cacho (a former special troops unit and training center for Latin American guerrillas in previous decades, which is a campsite today)? Why did they have to take them to a place that was so close to the population, touching walls with family residences and just a meter away from the street?
2 – The absence of coverage in official press. Up until the moment I write this article, no government media has covered this event, which doesn’t surprise anyone in a country where censorship and silence rule over the main ills the Cuban people complain about. Maybe in the next few days, after the response this event might cause, they order their megaphones to publish a note to twist reality to their own interests.
3 – Cubans have started to lose their fear. Something like this would have been unthinkable some years ago. Now, it isn’t special news. There has been news of similar protests all across the country, whether it’s been because of water, food shortages, etc. The signs are clear and the government knows it. They are afraid that the social crisis will get worse. They know that Cubans are no longer the same Cubans as when the so-called “Special Period” crisis of the 1990s.