When it’s the Decent Thing To Do (on the Havana Plane Crash)

Haroldo Dilla Alfonso

HAVANA TIMES — A woman was crying on a news report on Chilean TV. She was the mother of a young man who would have turned 22 years old last Sunday. But, he couldn’t because he was torn to pieces and died in a plane crash at Havana’s Jose Marti Airport.

The middle-aged woman was from Holguin. She was shaking and every attempt to speak was buried by sobbing. We couldn’t make out what she was saying. But, it wasn’t hard to understand what she wanted to say.

The death of over 100 people – Cubans, Argentinians, Mexicans, Saharans -, the pain of dozens of families, so many projects cut short, hope lost, unfulfilled dreams, forces all of us (pro-government supporters, opposition supporters, reformists, emigres and island-dwellers) to take a serious look at our society’s dying present and uncertain future which awaits us (I repeat, every single one of us) if we don’t tackle this subject and go beyond our condolences.

I would be an awful person if I tried to make this matter political. However, I’d also be a coward if I turned the other cheek and didn’t demand the liabilities that so many dead people are calling for. It’s a rule of decency.

Contracting this plane for this flight was an irresponsible thing for the Cuban State to do, maybe even with criminal implications. The plane was a flying piece of junk and had been in use for 40 years when many know that anything over 25 years is too much for any airplane. There were more than enough assessments about the company’s dreadful attitude (which only had three planes) and these were outlined by an engineer from Cubana de Aviacion who listed the technical faults of control systems, tires in poor condition, accidents in the cabin and a lack of safety. Guyana had refused to let these planes land at its airport in the capital. As well as other signs which would have encouraged them not to use this flying coffin, if they had the least bit of consideration for passengers’ lives. 

I believe that all of us, regardless of our political beliefs or location, have the moral right to demand that the Cuban government acknowledge their responsibility in this tragic event and start processing compensation actions.

– First of all, the Cuban State needs to make a convincing apology in front of relatives and society on the whole, for having been unable to ensure its citizens’ safety. And for allowing a state-run company to injure the lives of so many of our compatriots in this way. They don’t need to wait a while: it should be done now.

– Secondly, administrative or legal action needs to be taken against those directly responsible for these deaths. It would be wise if the vice-president explained what they did exactly at a meeting with Cubana de Aviacion board members on March 22nd, which the ordinary press called a “productive exchange”. And eventually be removed from his position for not being able to fulfill his basic duties. The Transport Minister also needs to be let go, who in an obscene attempt to politicize the tragedy, blamed the US blockade for this accident. And I believe that from now on, officials from Cuba’s Civil Aviation Institute and Cubana de Aviacion should not only let go, but also investigated to discover if they can be criminally processed for their actions, and act as a result.

– Lastly, families need to be compensated. Not with a prefabricated home or a Chinese TV (which is what the Cuban government normally gives when everyone lives in widespread poverty on the island) but with a decent amount of money which meets international standards. This won’t bring back the dead, nor does it pay for the sadness of their families, but it sets a line of conduct. Paying is recognizing that there is a debt.

The accident which just took place in Cuba is the result of the post-Revolutionary political elite’s insensitivity, of the lack of democratic controls we have over them, of a lack of transparency and shameful poverty, which isn’t the blockade/embargo’s fault (like the Transport Minister shamelessly announced), but of the State’s incompetence, which is more worried about chasing after freelance workers than ensuring the population’s social wellbeing on an island which is being depopulated.

We can’t do anything for the young man who couldn’t turn 22 years old. Let’s at least make sure his death wasn’t in vain. For the sake of decency.

13 thoughts on “When it’s the Decent Thing To Do (on the Havana Plane Crash)

  • To answer your question Kennedy Earle Clarke:
    “Would Cuba lease outdate (sic) aircraft from Mexico?”
    The correct indisputable answer is YES!
    The 737-200 was 38 years and 11 months old. Guyana had banned that actual aircraft from its airspace due to safety concerns about constant overloading.
    I have been one of the critics of the retention of the US embargo upon Cuba. Not because it has any major effect upon the Cuban economy, but because it has been used by the Castro regime as a constant excuse for their managerial incompetence. The embargo had absolutely nothing to do with the crash of the Mexican aircraft leased by Cubana de Aviacion from a company with only six aircraft in total and a history of failure to properly service those aircraft – as described by a former pilot for that company.
    So Kennedy Earle Clarke, you can quit foaming at the mouth and just accept that the Cuban regime holds ultimate responsibility for the crash.

  • OK, I am an American and totally against the embargo, that said I RESENT Cuban Nationals in MY COUNTRY who via the Miami Cuban Ex-pat community, TOTALLY dictate US Cuba Policy, BLAME THEM!
    Secondly, Cuba is free to buy new airplanes from Airbus, Embrayer PLUS a dozen others, BUT they have no money, AND NO CREDIT!

    Much less they could lease planes from Air Canada for just ONE example, only problem with that, they don’t have WWII airplanes to lease for near free, and would want top dollar!

    The Castro’s now one, have BILLIONS with a capitol “B” stashed in offshore accounts, money stolen and looted off the backs and suffering of the Cuban People, FIX THAT!

    AND they are too ignorant as whole to ask this SIMPLE QUESTION, WHERE for the past 60 years has all the money went???? If they did and knew the answer, someone would be lynched!

    (Read the book “Castro Inc”) WHO do you think owns all the stores in Cuba, and reaps the HUGE profits? (once more 12 dollar rice cookers sold for 70 bucks and 167 dollar refers sold for 1,000 bucks)

    The trouble with Communism and why it does not work is this, EVENTUALLY you run out of “FREE” and some poor sob has to start paying for it! QUESTIONS?

    Guess WHO that poor sob is? Why is a rice cooker on Amazon prime 12 USD in the USA, that same rice cooker sold on Obispo in La Habana today is 67 USD, I know, I just bought one?

    Why is a cheap tiny “Mabe” brand refrigerator $1,000. USD in Havana today, while THAT SAME refer is 167 USD in the USA or 250 USD in Mexico???

    70% of Cubans today DON’T own a fridge, wanna know why? 20 years wages to buy one!

    Answer? everything “FREE” for the people in the communist utopia, why is there a shortage of transportation IN ALL FORMS IN CUBA? Simple answer, when it is 95% subsidized by the government to be artificially low, Cubans buying RT air tickets for 12 bucks on Cubana, the government has no incentive to buy/lease/add more planes, trains and automobiles!

    It only costs them more money, they DON’T have, the oxymoron of which is what there is, is being siphoned off, and diverted offshore.

    Why can you buy no fresh milk, beef in any form, or any GOOD high quality food in Cuba today? Brazil for one exports beef, there would be a HUGE demand and market for it, the Castros will not allow it in, much less pay for it.

    This crash was caused by corruption in Mexico, and the Cuban Government taking the cheap way out, leasing an antique 40 year old airplane, that SHOULD have been scrapped 20 years ago, from a company with a very questionable safety and track record.

    The other issue is overloaded planes returning to Cuba from ANY country, as the Cuban flight crews and nationals fight to bring in consumer goods they are unable to obtain in Cuba, because of the poor and mismanagement by the Cuban Government!

    Recently a friend took a Cubana flight from Canada, an airbus A320, upon boarding ALL the overhead bins were ALREADY FULL, of the flight crews “GOODS” destined for the black market, as well my friend says the plane was SO OVERLOADED it barely got off the ground, and was shuddering violently on takeoff! He filed a complaint with air traffic safety.

    Let me into Cuba tomorrow with full license to import and sell, and in 24 hours I will solve ALL shortages of consumer goods and building materials, it’s called “Free Market”

  • i quote “Cuba cares more for its people than all the critics combined”

    for my it is very indecent to say something like that, that is so false, and even if was truth, Idon´t need nobody to take care of me, I just want freedom to take care of my self.

  • Come on! Is this the first Airline crash in the history of Aviation? Cuba cares more for its people than all the critics combined. Plane crashes are not a daily occurrence in Cuba? There are Plane Crashes all over the world and I have not heard any re-action like this. Come on HT criritcize the cruel and inhumane embargo on the island. Would Cube lease outdate aircraft from Mexico? We sympathize for the loss of lives, but cease the Blaming game. What about Korean Flight K007 A 747 Passenger Plane which was equipped with spy equipment to fly over the Soviet union to spy and was shot down when it failed to heed warnings fromthe Russian control tower. All 269 passengers were killed September 1, 1983. Risking the lives on a passenger plane to collect military intelligence. I did not hear much outcry and comdemnation from the USA citizens when they discovered the motive of USA?

  • Even the Castro communist regime cannot hold the US embargo responsible for their neglect in failing to examine the history of Damajh Aerolineas prior to leasing from them. Having run their own fleet of six Antonov An-158 to a point where even their own aviation authority instructed that they be removed from service (May 3), they knowingly leased the 38 year 11 month old 737-200 which had been banned from Guyanese air space,
    Cubana de Aviacion is a subsidiary company of GAESA the Cuban Military holding company with Raul Castro Ruz’s son-in-law in charge
    There is an obvious and clear message. Don’t fly Cubana de Aviacion – if in Cuba with no alternative, take a bus!

  • I feel terribly for the families and friends of those who died. That there is now only one survivor is tragic. She will need significant medical and psychological support.

    Given the amount of money received from tourism it is incredible that the government is still using substandard aircraft. 1) airplanes form part of the infrastructure that the government has to improve to sustain and increase tourism 2) this is possibly the only way that Cubans could also benefit from investment for tourists as there is no direct or even trickle down benefit to them in any other way that I know of…. 3) no tourist will be rushing to take internal flights, that’s for sure.

  • Your comment is a great example of Hegelian dialectic in action

  • Cuba ratified the Montreal Convention on 13 December 2005

  • Sadly, a regime that considers that average earnings of less than $21 per month suffices, is unlikely to compensate at anything approaching the terms of the Montreal Convention.

  • In what way did the embargo affect the 40 year old leased Mexican aircraft? Please explain!
    One knows that it is customary for the Cuban regime to aportion fault for its own incompetence and errors to the embargo, but in this instance, no indication has been given of how the embargo had any influence. Blaming the embargo is a knee jerk communist supporters reaction.
    As one who loves Cuba and admires it’s people, I want GAESA and it’s subsidiary Cubana de Aviacion to admit their responsibility for leasing the 40 year old aircraft and crew from a company which apparently only owns 3 aircraft. Doing so, ought not to be difficult as Raul Castro’s son-in-law is the Head of GAESA. Boeing ceased production of the 737-200 over 30 years ago. Who was responsible for the maintenance of the aircraft ? Cubana de Aviacion or the Mexican company?
    When was it last inspected by a Civil Aviation Authority?
    Until you answer those questions victor rodriguez, your opinion has no merit.

  • The best apology is ending the embargo on Cuba, US bloodied its hand with this. Only a anti Cuban fanatic can’t understand the simple truth.

  • According to Article 21 of the Montreal Convention, in case of death of passengers, the airline is liable to pay up to 1,13,100 Special Drawing Rights for each passenger. This works out to approximately $174,000 at current rates

  • In the US, this is what we call a Tort. I agree with Haroldo regarding the Castro dictatorship’s civil liability in this issue. It’s a shame that, as history suggests, crash survivors and the families of those killed will likely never be compensated for their loss.

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