On Saturday, we took advantage of a friend heading for Pinar del Rio and traveled in his car with some donations for the victims. Clothes and food given by people who have little, but with a desire to help those who have less. That solidarity between citizens that, although it may seem insignificant compared to what governments and NGOs can give, mustn’t be left undone. The final destination for the things we collected was the town of Consolación del Norte and the small adjoining villages, some of which still don’t have electricity.
On the highway we were surprised to see how quickly they had repaired all the political billboards. These signs would be more practical as roofs for houses than in their current use as political propaganda. One of these gigantic metal posters would be enough to cover some of the houses whose residents are still sleeping under the stars. Can you imagine having a ceiling that reads, “Only by our work can we create resources”? Living under such a platitude might not be very pleasant but at least it would protect you from the rain.
I returned and confirmed that the recovery will take years, that hope is scarce and that the worst may be yet to come when the enthusiasm for helping fades. The police have tightened the checkpoints along the highway to prevent the movement of goods in the informal market. Bad news for all of us who depend, in large measure, on the sellers who knock on our doors. An intense campaign against the diversion of resources, against high prices in the farmers markets, and against all those who spread negative rumors, warns us of what’s to come. We already know that these offensives start by attacking what’s illegal and evolve until they restrict the few spaces for opinion and continue even to the peanut sellers. The condition of “public plaza under siege” is heightened, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see some examples of legal processes in order “to conserve socialism.”
These two hurricanes have left us trapped in a pattern we already know. That of a State that tries to resolve through centralization, control, legal threats and a strong hand what should be solved with openness, space for private initiatives, freedoms and reforms.