14ymedio, Havana, January 30, 2024 — When reporting the causes of traffic crashes, the Cuban authorities have two big favorites: the violation of the right of way by drivers and lack of attention to the vehicle. In both cases, the driver is always responsible while the poor condition of the roads – denounced again and again by the population – does not even appear among the main causes of crashes and is mentioned as a secondary factor.
“The frequency and dynamics of occurrence of traffic crashes in the country continues to be marked by the irresponsibility of drivers and pedestrians, with the human factor being responsible for 91% of these events,” said the official newspaper Granma in January, which placed the number of accidents in 2023 at 8,556, with 729 deaths and 5,938 people injured.
The overall figure is lower than that of 2022, when the number of crashes was 9,848; however, the number of deaths increased by 24 from one year to the next.
Granma recognizes, although obliquely, the precarious condition of the roads, caused by “the limitations on investments for their improvement”
Granma recognizes, although obliquely, the precarious condition of the roads, caused by “the limitations on investments for their improvement.” The same thing was declared last October by the Minister of Transport on Cuban Television, when he alleged that the roads deteriorate faster than the State is able to repair them. To this is added the limited availability of raw materials and parts for the asphalt factories, which are currently working at a minimum to cope. According to official data from last July, 75% of the Island’s roads were in average or poor condition.
Interviewed by the newspaper, Roberto Rodríguez Fernández, head of the Specialized Traffic Body of the Police, also admitted that “the economic situation and the deficit of parts and pieces continue to have a negative impact on the technical status of the vehicles” and that, although the crashes caused by this factor registered a decrease, the number of deaths increased. “Accidents accounted for 10% of the total” deaths in 2023, he said.
This January, an article published in the newspaper of Las Tunas, Periódico 26, again drew attention to the indiscipline of both drivers and pedestrians. “The unfavorable state of the roads in the province is one of the causes in Las Tunas for the poor condition of vehicles, and drivers are urged to use caution to safeguard life,” the media said, without pointing out that repairing the roads could reduce the number of crashes.
According to the media, in 2023 the province had on average “one accident per day, one death for every 15 accidents and 33 accidents every month,” which translates into 373 accidents and a mortality rate of 4.6 per 100,000 inhabitants.
The only discordant note in the official speech was given last March by the newspaper of Ciego de Ávila, Invasor, which questioned why, with more than 65% of the roads in the province in regular or bad condition, the authorities of the region preferred to dedicate their resources to the roads of the tourist enclaves.
“Prioritizing tourist spots was not the only reason why the rest of the provincial territory was not paved”
“Prioritizing tourist spots was not the only reason why paving was not done in the rest of the provincial territory. The plan of 56.1 million pesos for investment was carried out by only 53%, roughly due to the lack of fuel, specifically for the contracted forces,” said the newspaper. It also pointed out that the causeway bridges leading to Jardines del Rey and the keys of Villa Clara require constant repair and million-dollar investments due to the batterings of the sea.
In the same period, the runway of the Cayo Coco airport in Ciego de Ávila was paved with 11,000 tons of asphalt. Meanwhile, for the critical four-mile stretch of the Central Highway between this province and Camagüey, where cracks and landslides were reported, barely 4,000 tons were used, far from what is necessary to definitively repair the road.
The same thing happened, the newspaper reported, with many of the potholes and cracks in the roads that, in the absence of resources and attention, ended up being filled with gravel, debris and ash from the sugar mills.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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