The Fire at Cuba’s Supertanker Base is Out. Good. Now What?

The smoke from the four burning storage tanks, of the eight at the Supertanker Base. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 12 August 2022 — Nearly a week after the fire started in the industrial zone of Matanzans, it is more than evident that the Cuban communists have been overwhelmed by this catastrophe, for which there was no organization, nor protocols, or anything like that.

The state-run communist press, attempting as always to appear in the best light, accused the free press, the objective press, social media, i.e. us, of not speaking of heroism and of harassing when there was uncertainty. They also accused us of using the terms “failed state” and “country in crisis.” Let’s see how unaccustomed to criticism the Cuban communists are.  They prefer to die while killing, but something makes them think they must spin a fine web or the whole thing will collapse.

It would be good, now that the fire is under control, it they would investigate, with utmost transparency, responsibilities for what occurred, and purge those who are not up to the circumstances. It would be an exercise in credibility, transparency, and responsibility to the Cuban people, and the entire world.

In case this would happen again, we must determine whether the operation was carried out correctly, if the available resources were on par with the needs, the true reach of international aid, the people affected and the solutions to be taken; in short, to learn from experience so that if it were to happen again they won’t spend a week carrying out activities that were mostly failures.

This is the direction that Diaz-Canel’s revised discourse should take, before one of local communists in charge, audacious and bothersome, such as Sucely Morfa, steps in. It is a piece of advice for Díaz-Canel to tell the truth, rather than ’wandering the hills of Úbeda’*, and to take the bull by the horns or there will be a Sucely who will do it for him, in spite of the imposed hierarchy among communists.

And, take note that I’ve said Sucely Morfa and that it did not cross my mind that the role should be played by Prime Minister Marrero, Provincial Governor Sabines or Vice President Morales Ojeda. They are for other things. Díaz-Canel should watch the youth, divine treasure, because the conga that will replace him will emerge from there.

I know that in politics decisions must be made at two levels. In the short term, facing the gallery to appease the Tyrians and Trojans*, one must do what is necessary to avoid turmoil. In the medium term, investigate and purge those responsible, however painful.

Díaz-Canel’s discourse belongs entirely on the first level, like when he gave his support to the colleagues of several organizations, especially drivers, or appreciated the international air and naval cooperation. That discourse has reached its end, it no longer makes sense, and now we must begin to demand responsibilities if things, as all indications are, have not been handled well.

This agenda compromises Díaz-Canel, who at the same time must be wondering what he will do with the supertanker base and must lay a foundation for recovery without resting on his laurels.

And then, official data will not cease to surprise, day after day. The Minister of Public Health said that as of Thursday, 130 people had been injured and treated, including two firefighters who were admitted to the hospital the day before for mild intoxication due to smoke inhalation. Only one death, 24-year-old Elier Correa Aguilar, providing services in the Firefighter Corps, although he was from Granma province. Twenty-three patients remain hospitalized, two were re-admitted to the hospital for follow up. Four patients remain in critical condition, two critical and 17 serious. We must thank God the disaster didn’t cause more harm, which is why it is so important to investigate and find the missing.

It is also surprising that the Minister of Science, Technology and Environment continues to state, with satellite images and radar, that it is not possible to detect the cloud, as it has disbursed. This is perhaps the worst possible scenario, rather than calculating its toxicity and effect on air quality. The longer it takes, the worse it will be. And they will need to prove the impact not only on air, but also on rain, vegetation, the soil and grasslands, in the medium and long term. A disaster from every viewpoint.

With the fire out, for which we should all be glad, the time has come to carry out equally important work, before the applause and the doling of awards puts an end to what occurred in Matanzas. These are new times that are not related to the evils of revolutionary times. A final piece of advice for Díaz-Canel: beware of Sucely Morfa. It has begun.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

*Translator’s note: ’Wandering the hills of Ubeda’ is a very common Spanish expression, from the 13th century, meaning going off on a tangent, losing the thread, failing to focus on what matters.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.