By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — Since the dawn of its beginnings up until today, the Cuban Revolution has had a close relationship with hurricanes. “Flora” was the baptism by fire, where Fidel was on the verge of losing his life in rescue work and then it became a regular thing to see him amidst the disaster in the wake of each and every one of these storms; Matthew has established Raul in the same policy over these last few days, with his visit to Cuba’s eastern provinces prior to the hurricane.
Civil Defense troops are very efficient and proactive in our country, who can deny that? They form part of the national military apparatus and a hurricane is viewed as if it were a war. All of the organizational system is mobilized immediately and the area to be affected is considered on “special alert”. Party leaders and the government leave behind their civil clothes and wear their olive green uniforms with pride.
It’s a good thing that the government is worried about protecting the civil population. It’s fair to recognize the fact that the Revolution has hit the nail on the mark in this regard. When we have democracy and a Constitutional State one day, it would be great to maintain all of the Revolution’s achievements too; all of them! Even those which are diminishing today. However, not as the result of voluntary and utopian policies; it would be better that this came from the knowledge of how to govern the nation well and as a result of this positive change that we so desperately need.
A hurricane in Cuba ends up like everything else: politicized. Prior to Matthew passing through the island, on a special TV program, images of Fidel walking through areas hit by hurricanes in the past were constantly being broadcast. Resounding words in the background weren’t amiss neither, where a journalist praised the great leader. Then they followed Raul’s tour where ever he went. The subliminal message is very clear: the Revolution protects its people and Raul will continue Fidel’s work. Then they repeat the news of deaths in other places, where they haven’t been so “lucky” to have had the Revolution. The end.
It’s a good thing to protect the people and we’re thankful; it’s a good thing to educate the population and we’re thankful; it’s a good thing to make healthcare accessible to everybody and we’re thankful. We’re thankful for everything! We aren’t blind or ungrateful. Of course we like all the good things and we want to preserve what should be maintained and is feasible.
However, we can’t understand the aberrant fact that in order to have these achievements, many of which are in sharp decline, we have to lose other fundamental and nonnegotiable human rights such as: freedom of speech; freedom of political association; freedom of whole personal development and economic undertaking; the freedom to be a true citizen, with civil, democratic rights; the freedom to belong to a truly sovereign people.
It wouldn’t be fair or ethical to criticize the government for the beautiful act of warning the population of the dangers of a possible disaster: I’m far from committing such a gaffe. But, it’s also fair to say that hurricanes in Cuba always end up politicized just like the Olympics, healthcare or education. They are unsuccessful in what’s basic (which is the economy) and a hurricane is an opportunity to reveal their efficacy in something useful. It pains me to say it but it pains me more to be on the receiving end. These last four years haven’t given them the opportunity to “shine” as there haven’t been any hurricanes, in spite of the fact that dozens have been predicted in the wake of Sandy by specialists at Roundtables.
Matthew has finally given them the opportunity, as with Sandy (which was apparently much weaker and was supposed to have its impact weakened by having to cross over our mountains), it wasn’t worthwhile to deploy too many resources. However, it took us by surprise with a force that nobody could have foreseen and it caught them off-guard. It was unusual. Now, with this hurricane, every resource is being deployed and they haven’t held back on effort. It seemed worse than it was and luckily it didn’t meet the terrible expectations. There were only destructive winds in the narrow strip where the eye and its nearby eyewall passed through: Imias, Baracoa, Maisi y Moa. Here in Mayari, Holguin only approximately 130km away from the center, in a straight line, we only had light winds and some intense rain, without a lot of damage. Luckily!
Marti said: “To respect a people that loves and depends on us is the highest form of greatness. To make use of their grief and enthusiasm for our own gain would be the worst ignominy.” It isn’t fair to take advantage of the pain of a family who has lost their home, or a desperate and grateful father for the medical care his child who has a rare genetic disease receives, to distract and manipulate a people while they are robbed of their sovereignty and their basic rights. A people without freedom is a castrated people; and nothing in this world can justify it or is worth it.
The truth is that the relationship between the Revolution and hurricanes is very close: to protect themselves from the events that inevitably affect us are given priority. It’s in their line of work and their political strategy. Without a doubt, it’s worth keeping this strength in the future; as it is would be timely and useful to call for reflection on other issues.