The images of the disaster left by Gustav in the west of the country play across the screen. Somber faces in front of houses that couldn’t stand against gusts of more than two hundred kilometers per hour. In the midst of the tears and anxiety the national television reporters have managed to extract phrases such as: “The Revolution will not abandon us.” “The government will rebuild our houses for us.” The slogans no longer show the conviction – lost years ago – that the Father-State can solve everything; rather they try to commit the authorities in front of the cameras. As if, by taking the microphone and screaming that the government is going to restore what is lost, they might force it to do so.
The victims of today demand a quick solution, but those affected by past hurricanes or floods are also waiting. Only the combination of institutional help, citizen solidarity, and foreign donations will alleviate the plight of all these families. Cuban civil society cannot undertake, on its own, a campaign for collecting assistance. It would be illegal, without going through official channels, to launch a call for neighbors to send clothes, medicines and food to the affected areas. Our civic disability reaches to the point that not even in the case of disaster can we spontaneously come together to help our fellow man.
From the United States there is talk about a moratorium on sanctions against Cuba as a way to help those affected. Lamentably, to relax those awkward regulations for only three months will not be enough. When the national and foreign reporters return home, and the linemen finish restoring power in the disaster areas, only then will the true depression come for what is lost. There will be no journalists there hunting for slogans, nor hearing the victim’s complaints over unfulfilled promises. But support from citizens, help from family living abroad and from international NGOs [non-government organizations] – solidarity that doesn’t look for political support, nor acts of faith – cannot disappoint them.
* This Sunday I will travel to Pinar del Río to bring my help directly to the victims. I will meet with people from civil society and exchange ideas on possible methods of solidarity.