HAVANA, Cuba. – A note published in Granma last Sunday, September 5th, states: “In light of the advances made in the process of vaccination in Cuba, its proven effectiveness and the projected goal to have more than 90% of the population fully vaccinated by November, the country is making preparations to enable it to open gradually its borders starting on the 15th” of November.
Add to this that, according to the same official information, “the health-hygiene protocols will be relaxed for arriving visitors, and they will involve looking out for symptomatic patients and taking the travelers’ temperature.” We must excuse the loyal news writer and make it clear that when he wrote “they”, he was referring to “the protocols” and not “the travelers”, as the pedestrian note implies.
A French saying warns us about a surprising reality: “That which is temporary is the only thing that lasts.” Knowing the characteristics of my fellow Cubans (in the words of our great patriot Máximo Gómez, “they fall short or they overdue it”), we could paraphrase the French words of wisdom and apply it to the triumphalist official announcement: “That which is done gradually is the only thing that is done abruptly.”
The news was published in the middle of a spike of the COVID-19 pandemic in Cuba. Frankly, we are referring to a desolate panorama. We are talking about entire families contracting the virus that originated in communist China; about those unfortunate souls who have lost several loved ones in a matter of days; about homes left empty because their dwellers have all died.
And it’s precisely in the middle of this veritable disaster that the Ministry of Tourism has sent a press note to all regime news outlets, for their immediate release. The heirs of the Castros’ rule insist on governing by wishful thinking; this inevitably leads to a harsh reality and to despair. What is lamentable is that their irresponsible triumphalism not only condemns their own cadres; it also condemns ordinary Cubans.
The release speaks of “advances made in the process of vaccination,” and it dares to put forth a statistic: “more than 90% of the population” by November. In light of notable failures to meet the vaccination schedule, which are already known, to affirm such compliance constitute a greatly irresponsible statement, if not worse.
The regime’s hacks also dare to make reference to the alleged “proven effectiveness” of the vaccination process. “Proven” by whom? Before what body? For the time being, the only “proof” there’s been is the verbal approval derived from the praises that those same hacks write. These praises have been read on radio and television by the official newscasters of the regime.
If there were a minimum of professionalism in the regime’s information and propaganda apparatus, if they behaved responsibly, then Dr. Durán’s long-winded and repetitive daily talks would have been used to better answer the justified doubts that Cubans feel, like, for instance, about the alleged effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the much-promoted Cuban vaccines.
This cannot be achieved by the mere repetition of praises and positive adjectives, but instead by making the objective data public so that it can dispel doubts and answer questions for the population. Let them answer with hard facts such questions as: What percentage of those infected have been vaccinated? How many of the gravely ill are vaccinated? How many of those in critical condition? How many among the dead?
No answers to these questions are made available. Only those answers could dispel the justified doubts of the people. The regime prefers to rely on its discredited sycophants, and everyone knows they will bend over backwards to praise everything about the regime that provides for them, and to decry anyone who speaks truth to power.
In addition, why not wait until the alleged “effectiveness” of the vaccines is proven by the measurable decrease in the alarming levels of contagion present in our homeland today? This, according to official figures, which we know are not backed by PCR testing that can diagnose new cases, and which we also know fall prey to the practice of statistics tampering, like with morbidities that are blamed on pre-existing diabetes or cardiovascular disease that the patient suffered, and not on the pandemic which caused his or her death.
What does rushing this announcement mean? In my opinion, the announcement is not weighing public health or epidemiological considerations, but more pedestrian interests: those that can only be measured in dollars and cents; those that allow the regime’s greedy hands –many of them in olive-green military uniform- to pick the pockets of potential foreign tourists.
It also shows us the degree of despair that blinds the regime. We know that over half a century of socialism has destroyed the productive infrastructure of the island, to such degree that the former “sugar bowl of the world” has seen production fall to what it was over a century ago, when the population was substantially smaller than today.
Without sugar to sell, with a diminished coffee production, without having developed in six decades alternative export products that would have compensated for the reduction of income from traditional products, the Caribbean Bolsheviks have no choice but to grab on to international tourism, at any cost.
They have to act this way, with or without coronavirus. The pandemic contagion –its present resurgence, really- is a mere detail, an anecdote that bears no importance for the regime.
What about the unwary tourist who falls for the siren song? What about the Cuban nationals that could be infected by undesirable foreigners? The hell with them!
What is most important to the regime is to continue holding on to power, its rulers obscenely savoring the sweets of privilege while the people wallow in misery, contagion and despair.