dengue, Cuba

Dengue in Cuba, to add insult to injury

Havana Cuba. – “Lots of fluids and rest” is what the doctor indicates when the fever and muscle aches make him suspect that the patient has contracted dengue, but he does not even issue a prescription for any medicine to relieve the symptoms because it would be of no use: the Pharmacies are empty, out of stock, and it looks like they will be that way for a long time. There is no cure or palliative. The regime boasts its production of vaccines against COVID-19announces without much success that it could give them away and export them by the millions throughout the world but, at the same time, it is unable to produce a simple paracetamol or duralgin tablet.

Meanwhile, on the black market they are available in quantities, at no less than 250 pesos (just over two dollars) for a 10-unit blister. And also multivitamins, antibiotics, ointments, remedies of all kinds, brought from Guatemala, Russia, Panama, Nicaragua and even Haiti.

In emergency rooms there is nothing, not even thermometers, much less disinfectant or protocols to contain infections or at least to pretend that something is done, that our lives matter. In some hospitals it can be noted by the apathy and mistreatment that there is not even a desire to work.

The doctor, when he is one of those who tries to do the best he can, puts his hand to the patient’s forehead and more or less ventures with a diagnosis that anyone, without having studied medicine, could arrive at without even touching the body, just with seeing how bad they all look, with hearing the moans of pain, the fainting. The doctor can do nothing other than repeat over and over again what would be best to write on a poster at the hospital entrance: “There is nothing, we can do nothing”. Go home and pray that the illness is mild.

Only a couple of weeks ago they have started telling patients that it is dengue. There are already so many cases that they cannot deny them. They have not been able to continue with the story of the “seasonal flu” or the “andancio”. Complaints on social networks do not allow them to extend the lie of “nothing happens”, “this is a normal situation”.

Now they have had to accept that the health system is collapsed, that there are many more infections than the few thousand that official statistics reveal, that they would have ways to deal with the situation but the definitive social outbreak is just around the corner and the repression police is a priority, it consumes all the resources of the State and more. So there is no way to fumigate against mosquitoes beyond the hotels and exclusive beaches where tourists have to be protected, beyond the neighborhoods where the bosses of “continuity” have their comfortable burrows.

In contrast to these “zones of exception”, there is probably no neighborhood in Cuba that has escaped this new wave of dengue, “bad dengue”, as some say on the street. Dengue of which appears together with the abandonment and the decrepitude of the system; dengue from which you have to feed it, a lot of food that there isn’t, that it nourishes. Real, physical food, and not the one that the diet promises by dint of drooling on the official Gazette as if the Food Security Law, pure print, were the solution to our old problem of hunger.

Neither hunger nor dengue are solved with laws. “Dengue is not cured with croquettes and mincemeat”, someone says to that poor doctor who advises him to “eat well”, “take rest”, two almost impossible things when you depend on a salary that is not even enough to kill hunger. first three days of the month, and when everyday life is a continual shock of people dying, leaving, giving up, going crazy.

I have personal experience of very poor neighborhoods like mine, in Arroyo Naranjo, where possibly no one is missing to get infected. Neighborhoods such as El Calvario, Reparto Eléctrico, The Güinera where illness has become an everyday thing. So much so that even with broken bodies, people take to the streets to stand in line, to fight for survival without paying any attention to the word “rest”.

“In Cuba you can’t rest even when you die,” says a man, already retired, as he goes out into the street with a fever of more than 38 degrees to line up “for him.” He doesn’t know what they will get, or if they will finally sell something in those places that, even though they have lost their status as “stores”, people continue to call “store”, “market”, “shopping”. And here nothing is what it says it is. Apparently, in communism everything is a representation of what was or what we long for.

Not even the worst things are called by their true names: dictatorship, famine, inflation. The people —sick more due to lack of freedoms than due to so many viruses in the environment—, prefer to continue saying “government”, “ordering”, “Special Period”.

Thus, between illness and euphemisms, between innocence and pretenses, between blackouts and mosquitoes, deaths and escapes, these months go by that were once family vacations or having a good time with friends.

The feeling right now is that those days of innocence are over, perhaps forever, because it has become evident in the midst of so much disease, repression and mass exodus that we are a dying country whose times are coming to an end. From now on, those to come will all be months of uncertainty for a nation that has, like every sick body, the possibility (and the miracle) of healing or dying.

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