The 14 Cubans that the Regime Sent to Die in the Matanzas Fire

In the absence of government transparency, relatives have uploaded the information on social networks. (Collage)

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14ymedio, Havana | 10 August 2022 — If there is something surprising about the majority of those who disappeared putting out the fire at the Matanzas Super Tanker Base, it is their youth. The Cuban government counts 14 – after having given the initial number of 16 – and affirms that they are firefighters, but the desperate calls of family members on social networks show that, for the most part, they were adolescents between 17 and 19 years old who were undergoing Military Service, sent to fight the flames without any experience.

One of them, Leo Alejandro Doval del Prado, 19, was presumed dead by his aunt Yunia Doval and other relatives. “It is impossible to find survivors. There is not even hope of finding his body,” Doval told Radio-TV Martí.

On Tuesday, the woman published a heartfelt letter addressed to her nephew, wherever he is, in which she describes him as “cute, affectionate and principled.” A student at the Secondary Vocational Institute of Exact Sciences (IPVCE) Carlos Marx, from Matanzas, he was doing his Military Service in a fire department and his dream was to become a neurosurgeon.

“I always admired your values and your family knows that you are not one of those who run, without imagining that today I would prefer that you had fled”

“I don’t want you as a hero, my boy, I prefer you to be a coward!” Doval writes. “I always admired your values and your family knows that you are not one of those who run, without imagining that today I would prefer that you had fled. I would feel the same pride if you arrived now saying that you suddenly became cowardly, rebellious, defiant and got off the fire truck, because ultimately, you are not one of them.”

The authorities, so far, have only confirmed the death of Juan Carlos Santana Garrido, a 60-year-old firefighter whose body was recovered on Saturday, and at no time have they published the list of missing persons.

Burnt truck at the scene of the fire at the Matanzas Supertanker Base. (Yumuri TV)

In the absence of government transparency, and as on other occasions, such as after the explosion of the Saratoga Hotel on May 6, the relatives have unloaded the information on social networks, through which their names can be traced.

Official journalists reported the death of Michel Rodríguez Román, 20, but later deleted the information. A resident of the municipality of Santa Cruz del Norte, Mayabeque, he was doing military service in the Fire Department number 3 of the Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport in Varadero.

“Who ordered them to place themselves in the red zone, where they would be hit by the flames if the fire increased in strength, as it did? Whoever he was, he didn’t think about how he was endangering the lives of children.”

Osley Marrante Guerra, 28 years old, has also been declared deceased, according to his cousin Iván Guerra in statements to Radio Televisión Martí: “At around 4:20 AM, the GPS signal was lost, apparently it was the time of the second explosion and that was when he died. A co-worker of his and his boss died too”.

The family of Fabián Naranjo Núñez is not only “heartbroken,” but outraged. “I hold every person, anyone in authority who allowed inexperienced boys to fight a fire of such magnitude, fully responsible,” his cousin Yarleny Horta wrote on Facebook, something that was reiterated by another cousin, Yanelys Naranjo González: “Whoever ordered them to be placed in the red zone, where they could be reached by the flames if the fire’s strength increased, as it happened. Whoever he was, did not think how he was endangering the lives of children, that their parents at home believed to be safe and sound. And today they don’t have an answer to give us. We can only wait.”

“Around 4:20 in the morning the GPS signal was lost, apparently it was the time of the second explosion and that was when he died”

Sources close to Luis Raúl Aguilar Zamora confirmed to 14ymedio his death during the fire and pointed out that he was not a firefighter, but worked as a civilian for the Armed Forces. “In my opinion, he became one more victim of the regime who left his wife with their two minor children. Everything is very sad,” said a relative of Aguilar who preferred to remain anonymous.

Luis Ángel Álvarez Leyva, originally from Holguín, served in the same airport’s fire department. “Matanzas authorities told us that we have to wait until the last moment, that if after 72 hours he hasn’t appeared, that the heat is so intense that my brother may already be dead. But in real life, they didn’t tell us that he is dead, formally. They are going to keep informing us because it is not yet known if he is alive or maybe the explosion has thrown him to the mountains. I’m hopeful that he will appear,” Luddvianka Álvarez said in an interview with Martí Radio-TV.

Meanwhile, relatives of Andy Michel Ramos have also reported him missing. According to Amarilys Ramos, nothing was heard from him after he went to the scene of the incident.

The only thing known about Osmany Blasco Sosa was that he was on duty, putting out the fire. The relatives of Raciel Martínez Navarro, Diosdel Nazco, Adrián Rodríguez and Areskys Quintero have also asked for help to obtain information. The only thing known about the latter is that he worked at the company Unión de Construcciones Militares de La Habana.


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