Holguin: Cholera and Dengue Fever Patients Kept Out of Sight of Pope / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 31 August 2015 — For the Cuban Government, the level of job insecurity, the index of diseases (above all those provoked by the deterioration in the control of hygiene, epidemiology and health) is politically sensitive information that must be hidden or, at the very least, disguised.

For that reason, and because of the epidemiological situation that exists today on the island, all the institutions and organisms of the central administration of the State, the Party and the Government worked tirelessly to ensure that the visit of the Supreme Pontiff would be a success, and this included camouflaging that which couldn’t be exposed.

His Holiness Pope Francis helped to forge the historic rapprochement between the United States and Cuba. His pastoral visit to Havana, and even more his later travels around the island, awakened special interest in all sectors of the country.

It was, undoubtedly, a delicate moment that was calculated with the precision of a Swiss watch, so that no one, beginning with the head of the sacred Catholic Church, nor any members of the retinue accompanying him, including the foreign press and parishioners, would receive more information than what was previously determined.

The priority was to hide what was ugly and shameful for the Cuban Government’s propaganda. The alarm went off when the Government-Church Commission designed the itinerary for the papal visit.

Immediately after they knew of His Holiness’ plans, on Monday, September 21, to visit the province of Holguín, there was an urgent “flash,” and as required by the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba for disasters, the Council of Defense had a meeting, and in coordination with all the competent authorities in every corner of Holguín, ordered that an exhaustive analysis be done of the health situation in the province.

And later, armed with the evidence of colossal chaos, even more with the need to hide their own responsibility, they elaborated a plan of action with specific guidelines, not to solve the problem, but to cover up that which must not be shown.

Poverty can’t be seen when it’s generalized, but the overwhelming number of those sick with cholera and dengue in Holguín’s Vladimir Ilich Lenin General Hospital, jumped out like dynamite in the middle of hostile terrain.

Controlling that immense truth necessitated something more than whitewashing the facades of the streets through which, presumably, the Holy Father’s caravan would pass. So, not to take any chances, it was also ordered that the patients be hidden by moving them to less accessible and, of course, less visible centers.

It’s been approximately a month since the dengue patients have been returned, without the required antiseptic conditions, to the poorly adapted rooms in the province’s nursing school, and to the classrooms of the ancient school for social workers.

For their part, those infected with cholera found a “new hospital bed” in one of the rooms in the old renal building, in equally bad condition, located next to the surgical clinic.

It’s a Hippocratic cataclysm and an extravagance of governmental hypocrisy; nonetheless, it’s good to know that, miraculously, in none of the cases has the relocation of patients been implicated in the elimination or loss of their records; and, according to information coming from overseas, the provincial health department’s data base from last Wednesday reports a discreet decrease in the population hospitalized for cholera and dengue in Holguín.

Luck or disinformation? I don’t know, because I don’t believe the Cuban Government even when it’s telling the truth.

Translated by Regina Anavy