Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. - http://www.cubafreepress.org

December 23, 1998, Cuba Free Press.

TRAVEL ON CUBAN HIGHWAYS - A NIGHTMARE DEATH OVER WHEELS By Ramón Humberto Colás Castillo, Cuba Free Press.

Las Tunas - To travel on Cuban highways is becoming a nightmare. The daily occurrence of tragic traffic accidents takes the lives of thousands of Cubans who, in spite of the lack of security, must, to travel, ride on the scarce motor vehicles available to the state or outdated private transportation equipment.

In this region we use the latter. The "fleet" consist of different cars from the fifties.

The statistics of the provinces, published weekly in "26", the official monopoly publication of the local Communist Party, are scary in this part of the national territory. From January to October of 1998 there were 308 accidents, 16 more than same time in '97. The dead totaled 48, while 442 suffered injures of different seriousness. The economy tallied losses at more than 36,500 pesos. In November, 5 more people died.

The government departments are the ones primarily involved in the many deaths. The private cars, on the other hand, during 1998 were in 46 accidents, with 8 deaths and 35 injured, a number higher than past years.

DANGER FOR BICYCLE RIDERS

As a result of the economic crisis in the country, women, men, young people and children, without proper traffic instruction, invade the streets of Las Tunas and on the highways. This means of transport has become the most effective way to move from one place to another, but the highways lack the appropriate conditions. So the cyclist is considered as a hindrance which causes constant problems.

This year, bicycles have been in 117 accidents, 19 more than in 1997. Twenty-five persons have died and 131 received injures, minor or serious in such tragedies.

Accidents have become a major cause of death. And the accidents resulted in part because of the poor attention drivers give to the operation of their vehicles, the ingestion of alcoholic beverages, the operation of carrriage-cars pulled by horses, bicycles, tractors and trucks without lights, the poor condition of the machines, the lack of resources for maintenance and repair, and the run-down conditions of many highways.

On reading about the accidents in the news, I realize they constitute one of the mayor causes of death in the country. On August 25, in San Cristóbal, Pinar del Río, 25 persons died and 24 were injured when a truck transporting people through a mountain pass that was declared impassible a few weeks earlier by the authorities - because of its bad condition - fell off the edge of a mountain.

The investigations revealed the negligence of the driver who was not careful in the operation of the truck and the vehicle's deficient mechanical conditions. What's more, the number of passengers exceeded its capacity.

On August 24, in Cárdenas, Matanzas province, five people died and one was injured as a result of the collision between a huge truck and an unlighted carriage pulled by horses - without lights - on the Havana-Varadero expressway.

These examples show the danger for the people traveling on the more than 60,858 kilometers of highways and expressways, city streets and roads of the Island. Yet only 19 percent of the roads seem to be of interest to the government, according to indications in the monopoly daily, "Granma" as expressed in its Sunday edition of October 23. To the 19 percent will go the major efforts and resources to "obtain higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness with close attention to security requirements, comfort, fast results and economy."

These privileged roads seem to be those used mostly by the tourists. The government 'forgets' that the Cuban people move constantly throughout the country on more than the 80 percent of roads and highways, which are in bad conditions. That's where death awaits, hovering over the wheels.

Ramón Humberto Colás Castillo, Cuba Free Press.


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