A tornado passed through several municipalities in Havana, causing deaths, landslides, blackouts and interruptions in water service, exacerbating the poverty in which many inhabitants languish, already dire due to food shortages. After the tornado, it was time for the regime to take action – one that has been invoking the "Revolution" for more than half a century, and boasting of its humanitarianism.
Natural disasters occur everywhere, are largely unavoidable, and all peoples are vulnerable to them. What is not inevitable is, after the natural disaster, a political one ensuing that exploits the people. And this is what is now happening in the Cuban capital.
Nothing is free for those affected by the tornado (at most, discounted), as they have been or will be charged for even the food that was rushed to them, and the construction materials they have been promised.
Neither is there any temporary lifting of Customs restrictions so that Cubans residing abroad can help those who suffer.
This is nothing but the standard reaction by the Cuban government, which, even in cases of possible donations from other governments, and after even greater disasters, does not let anyone come between the State and the victims. Because those victims are considered property of the State. And, in the name of that exclusivity, the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) takes charge of removing from the disaster zone every citizen who seeks to help, as far as is possible.
Solidarity by individuals with other individuals is not abided, there is no deployment by civil society, as the only help to be received by the victims is to come from the State –which can also make some money off it.
It suffices to look at the authorities' reactions. The Internal Trade Minister published the list of prices charged for the aid, and the Tourism Minister warned that hotels that could have housed people without a roof were off limits, all this while President Díaz-Canel tweeted about a society, an economy and a government that "will always see to it that no one is left homeless." Díaz-Canel ought go tell this to all those who have long been waiting, in Havana and throughout Cuba, for a home, after so many hurricanes.
The last straw came when Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment Minister, Rodrigo Malmierca, made the regime's priorities clear in his tweet : "The March of the Torches on the 166th anniversary of the birth of #JoseMarti. The tornado did not matter, the people, always united with their leaders. We will repair the damage in Havana and celebrate the 500th. But first we will vote Yes on the #newconstitution."
That is, the people's suffering does not matter, or the deceased, or even Martí: for the arbiters of the destiny of the Cuban people, what is really important is their propaganda program, which calls for a parade first, followed by a celebration of the founding of the capital, and, above all, unanimous obedience towards the authorities' dictates.
The victims of the tornado have been cordoned off by the PNR and municipal authorities; they are charged for the scant help that the State deigns to provide them, which makes them promises that will never be honored, and, no matter how many vicissitudes they must endure, they are expected to vote YES, ratifying their masters' designs; YES to a Constitution that perpetuates a system that ignores the needs of the population, prevents any aid from reaching them and, above all, is capable of prompting scandalous comments like those by Malmierca. A system that, in the name of revolution and humanism, actually keeps the best of each individual from emerging after a disaster: solidarity with others.
In other parts of the world collective disasters trigger responses that bolster a sense of community, as citizens come together to help each other. But this does not happen in Havana, where the misery wrought by the recent tornado is compounded by that imposed by authorities who, above all, continue to divide Cubans.