The regime avoids giving details that reveal the disastrous state of the infrastructure of the tourist industry in Cuba. Or it wasn’t an accident.

Why hasn’t Raúl Castro ‘s regime just explained in a clear and convincing way the causes of the tragedy that occurred in the emblematic Saratoga hotel in Havana ?

Until now, half a month later, without presenting concrete evidence, he affirms that the explosion was due to a gas leak, but without giving precise details. He gives the impression that the dictatorship wants to “turn the tables” on the matter.

Why that silence? There seem to be two reasons: either it was not an accident in the end, or it was and the Government does not want to give details that reveal the disastrous state of the infrastructure of the tourism industry , already in sharp decline due to the poor quality of its services; while its neighbor the Dominican Republic breaks records for avalanches of vacationers from around the world.

The truth is that a hotel exploded with the tragic toll of 46 dead, nearly 100 injured, and 38 homes in the area severely affected. One can imagine the consequences it would have had for tourism and for Cubans if the Saratoga Hotel had not been closed for repairs and with vacationers from all over the world staying there and all the corresponding employment. The death toll would then have exceeded one hundred. And the international scandal would have dealt a devastating blow to the already ailing tourism, the main sector of the Cuban economy.

The Saratoga Hotel was to reopen four days later, on May 10. The explosion of the hotel has been one of the worst that has occurred in Cuba , and is reminiscent of that of the ship “La Coubre”, in 1960.

The regime must show evidence that it was an accident

By not offering details of how this misfortune occurred, the dictatorship inevitably fuels the suspicion that perhaps it was not an accident. The speculation this time is not to believe that it was the CIA or the internal opposition. The suspicion this time is that the military business empire GAESA , owner of the Saratoga , has enemies in the Castro leadership itself.

There is a marginalized segment of “the piñata” that enriches the generals, colonels, and their relatives grouped in GAESA, which is tied to the drug gang that usurps power in Venezuela. Everything indicates that both gangs, the Cuban and the Venezuelan, launder money with the construction of hotels in Cuba , but that is another story. What counts now here is that, after the advice of social democratic economists sent by Rafael Correa to Caracas, Maduro has begun to open the Venezuelan economy to private capital to associate with him, a move with which the madurista mafia will expand their profits. , and its partner GAESA .

Returning to the Saratoga , it was striking that the first thing Miguel Díaz-Canel did when referring to the hotel incident was to declare that “it was not a bomb” and blame the independent press for stating that it had been a bomb. Quite an infamy, because no Cuban free media had said that.

Nor has anyone explained why, hours before the explosion, a certain movement of police forces and the PCC was noticed in Havana. To prevent what? Was it known that something was going to happen and it was not known where?

The strong smell of gas, “psychological issue”

In any case, if the tragedy was caused by a gas leak , that is very worrying for Havanans, since it shows the generalized and now terminal economic crisis of the Castroist economic model, from which not even the privileged tourism sector escapes.

Before the explosion of the Saratoga , about 30 gas leaks from homes or external networks were reported daily in Havana. Now 140 are reported, as recognized by the state gas monopoly in Havana.

Of course there must be many more gas leaks, but they are silenced for political reasons. For example, on May 12, the Director of Production of the state gas monopoly in Havana, Daina Álvarez, denied that there were any gas leaks . She assured that the strong smell of gas that people feel everywhere “is not real”, but “a psychological issue” due to what happened at the Saratoga hotel.

Assuming it was an accident, if Cuba had not been submerged in a devastating economic crisis, the hose of the truck that filled the gas tanks of the Saratoga hotel would not have leaked , as has been said. And those deposits would have been outside the building and not inside. Can something like this happen at the Hilton hotel in Cancun, the Palais Royal in Paris, or the Table Bay in Cape Town?

The central hotel Saratoga , located in front of the National Capitol and whose construction dates from the colonial era (1879), was going to reopen its doors to international tourism after a second remodeling and capital repairs. Something unusual if one takes into account that it had already been totally remodeled at a cost of 15 million dollars by Habaguanex, the company directed by Eusebio Leal, and was reopened in 2005 as a five-star hotel complex, with 96 rooms and luxury suites.

The new deterioration of the hotel began since in 2016 General López-Calleja took the hotel and the Habaguanex company from Leal and passed them on to the Gaviota consortium, belonging to GAESA . Laziness and abandonment gradually ripped out the five stars of the hotel and reduced it to a middling hotel with lousy service, poorly equipped, visibly “forsaken by the hand of God,” as they used to say on the Island.

GAESA and CUPET will not compensate anyone

The dictatorship has the obligation to compensate the relatives of the deceased and wounded, and the families whose homes were severely damaged. By the way, the survivors and relatives of the 98 who died in the collapse of an apartment building in Miami Beach in July 2021 will receive almost 1,000 million dollars in compensation .

But according to the Cuban Penal Code, the previous one and the current one, no state institution can be held criminally responsible. In other words, GAESA and the Cuba Petroleum Union (CUPET) , involved in the disaster, are exempt from criminal responsibility. And, in civil matters, both entities will claim that they do not have funds for compensation. And no one will force them to give anything. And if the government builds houses for the victims, it is to make political propaganda, taking advantage of the enormous media coverage of everything related to the Saratoga explosion.

The worst thing in all of this is the physical danger that Havanans run due to the dire state of the gas supply infrastructure. Five days after the Saratoga disaster , there was another explosion due to a gas leak in a house in Old Havana, resulting in a father and his 11-year-old son seriously injured, and a neighbor with minor injuries. The first suffered 90% burns to his body and the child 75%. They are both in mortal danger.

That same day, May 11, a strong smell of gas caused the evacuation of the Marfán-Borrás Children’s Hospital, in Vedado. But no, there is no need to worry according to director Daina Álvarez, because the smell of gas is not real, it is “psychological”, purely imaginary.

The conclusion here is twofold: 1) the Castro military mafia must answer for the Saratoga Hotel tragedy , whether accidental or not; and 2) there will be more gas leak explosions, with casualties and destruction, if the dictatorial plague remains in power.

By Roberto Álvarez Quiñones
Photo: Hotel Saratoga, La Habana. EFE