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.