Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 21 February 2017 – People say that when an event happens repeatedly it stops being an accident. The fire that took place on Monday, February 20th, 2017, in “La Mezclilla” store, in the neighborhood of San Leopoldo (Municipality of Centro Habana) is the third one in less than a month in a State-owned business in that municipality.
The first incidents occurred in an establishment dedicated to the assembly and sale of paintings and mirrors (Subirana Street, Pueblo Nuevo neighborhood); while the second, which took place a few days ago, started in the appliances department of the commercial complex known as La Feria de Rayo (Calle Rayo, in Chinatown).
So today’s fire adds to the mysterious tendency of “spontaneous combustion” that is becoming viral in State stores, which most suspicious Habaneros tendentiously attribute to the offensive the Comptroller General has been carrying out In different companies and that are exposing numerous pilfering, shortages and corruption, especially in centers dealing in Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) or the Cuban pesos (CUP) equivalents.
Fans of Mathematics cannot avoid the temptation to relate fires directly to the offices of the comptroller, as summarized in the following axiom: “An increase in in controllers is directly proportional to an increase in state-owned businesses fires”
True or not, the causes of these strange fires have not been clarified by the authorities thus far. In fact, these fires have not even been reported in the national media, perhaps because they are attributed to an accidental and “local” character, or because – in the midst of all the material deprivation and social discontent- it is wiser not to stoke the flames.
Some residents of the buildings adjacent to the fires point out that firefighters and other specialized forces that have acted in these cases have offered them the questionable explanation that it’s possible that the buildings’ aging electrical systems have not withstood the overload caused by the “high consumption” of these establishments, which sparked the initial fire in the wires. This explanation does not convince anyone, especially taking into account that the wiring of foreign exchange stores is independent and much newer than the systems for the municipality’s residential sector and, in theory, was previously calculated on the basis of electricity usage for this type of premises.
Additionally, the plan of rigorous savings in electricity that has been applied to the foreign exchange stores for a little more than a year suggests the opposite: a decrease in consumption. For example, it is well known that all stores are required to comply with a plan of “energy indicators” which the stores cannot surpass, under penalty of losing certain bonuses. This forces store employees to turn off the air conditioning equipment according to a schedule previously established by management, and as a result employees and customers alike have to withstand the suffocating heat in the stores, which are not well ventilated, since they were designed for the constant use of air conditioning.
The chronic shortages in these businesses of late has also lightened the burden on consumption, since many freezer/refrigerators, where frozen products were once stored have been turned off and are out of service, which also tends to weaken the version of the “electrical overload “as the cause of fires.
But it happens that, in addition, there are notorious antecedents that reinforce the malicious comments at the popular level, and are feeding the rumors. No one has forgotten that a few years ago there was a big fire in the “La Puntilla” store, and it was well known in the street that the incident was initiated by a few employees who were involved in an enormous embezzlement. Setting fire to the store was the swiftest recourse they found to have the evidence for the crime disappear.
A similar case, equally silenced by the authorities, was the fire which some sources considered intentional that took place about a year ago in the basement of the popular Yumurí store (formerly known as “La Casa de los Tres Quilos” [The House of the Three Pennies] located at the corner of Reina and Belascoaín Roads, also in Centro Habana, right in the marketplace department.
One does not have to be overly surprised. Cuba’s own history shows more than one example of how the displeasure of criollos has been expressed by flames. Thus, we have episodes like the Bayamo fire by the Independence Forces, the one in the city of Cárdenas, by Narciso López, and the incendiary torch that ruined the economy of not a few property and land owners in the 19th Century, among other notorious events, fruit of the pyromaniac national tradition.
In summary, whether or not the rumors are true, the fact is that several state businesses from different parts of the capital are suffering in these days a kind of fiery epidemic. If there really were a relationship between fires, embezzlement and bad management, the whole island of Cuba would be close to burning from one end to another.
Just in case, it would be advisable that, going forward, controllers begin to consider the possibility of carrying out their rigorous controls while supported by teams of firemen, cisterns and fire trucks… to see if at least they are able to do it before the flames.