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)

  • May 26, 2018 at 2:06 am

    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.

  • May 25, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    Your comment is a great example of Hegelian dialectic in action

  • May 25, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    Cuba ratified the Montreal Convention on 13 December 2005

  • May 25, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    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.

  • May 25, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    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.

  • May 25, 2018 at 11:47 am

    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.

  • May 25, 2018 at 11:45 am

    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

  • May 24, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    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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