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Fires in Matanzas: Divine Curse or Governmental Negligence?

For months, the regime has been downplaying a series of events in Cuba, dismissing them as' accidents' or 'coincidences'.

Fire at the Supertanker Base in Matanzas.
Fire at the Supertanker Base in Matanzas. Reuters

The horrific fires at the Supertanker Base in the Bay of Matanzas came in addition to the breakdown of Cuba’s energy system,  power outages , growing inflation, the acute shortage of food and medicine, the dengue and Covid-19 epidemics, the intensification of political repression by police and judicial forces, and those who have perished in Central American jungles or the Gulf struggling to escape this hell. It's too much.

As I write these lines the accident has not yet been clarified, and a debate has begun on social media about whether or not an electric discharge actually caused this disaster. The most skeptical are not willing to accept that explanation, and they have a solid argument in their favor: at this point, who can believe what the Cuban Government says?

This question lends credence to those who question whether lightning really struck those facilities, which have seen a striking number of incidents for months, which the Government, however, has downplayed, describing them as "accidents" or "coincidences." There have been the deaths of an unusual number of MINFAR officers, the explosion at the Hotel Saratoga, and a series of fires at state facilities. It is even more remarkable that this tendency to downplay these incidents clashes with the historical trajectory of Cuban propaganda, which tends to blame its enemies for everything that happens.

However, I think there are better questions that we can ask at this time:

The cause of all these disasters should not be sought in any divine curse, or in what happened with the seven plagues in Egypt, but rather in the selfishness and irresponsibility of Cuba's rulers and the system of government that they have imposed on the country since they seized power.

The thousands of deaths from Covid-19, omitted from public health statistics (it has been established that the island was among the countries with the highest number of deaths due to the epidemic), were not due to a celestial curse. A good part died because GAESA was allowed to invest more than 4 billion dollars in the construction of luxury hotels, while patients ran out of oxygen, offers to buy vaccines were declined, new police vehicles were purchased, but not ambulances; and thousands of Cuban doctors (who are stripped of their salaries by the new Cuban oligarchy) were kept abroad while they were needed at clinics and hospitals. This wasn't a "natural" disaster, but rather the result of deliberate, consciously adopted policies.

An official report on the explosion at the Saratoga Hotel is still being awaited. If it was, in fact, an accident, someone must stand liable for its causes, because this type of accident occurs when security protocols are violated, and the victims have the right to be compensated by the hotel's owner, rather than just cursing their "fate" and "bad luck."

And, if the national power system has now broken down, it is because essential investments in its maintenance and renewal have not been made in years. This was not due to any Divine decision.

If today there are no affordable foods in Cuban establishments it is because the Government ignored the League of Independent Peasants when three years ago, it warned of a nationwide famine if the statization of agricultural production was not brought to an end.

No one has to study entrails to divine who cursed us.

If a lightning strike did trigger this tragedy in Matanzas, we have to ask regarding the maintenance of the lightning arrester system, which protects these types of facilities around the world. Putting the explosion down to nature just 24 hours after it is an interpretation as arbitrary as assuming that the accident was due to a terrorist attack.

While the violence - not terrorism - of an oppressed people may acquire legitimacy in the face of the violence of its oppressors, I do not know of any group today opposed to the dictatorship in Cuba that resorts to it, and certainly none that are inspired by indiscriminate terrorism like the action and sabotage cells of the July 26 Movement were.

The current speculation about whether or not what happened in Matanzas was sabotage, however understandable it is given the Government's lack of credibility, unjustly question the honor of those who today square off against the dictatorship, putting only their own lives in danger, not those of innocents. In fact, sowing such doubts at this time would only serve the purpose of the Ministry of the Interior's psychological operations.

The relevant question about the Matanzas fires, as in the case of the power outage, is not whether the lightning conductors actually failed, but rather the absence of investments in their ongoing renewal through increasingly advanced systems and their systematic maintenance. This is what it is necessary to clarify to decide whether what happened in Matanzas was a "regrettable accident of nature" or the dramatic result of the already-too-long list of Cuban rulers' reckless decisions.

If we are to speak of plagues, it is not the Biblical ones in Egypt that ought to be cursed and eradicated, but rather the plague of the new Cuban oligarchy, which must be removed from power now.

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