The once prosperous Cuba from the 1950s that enjoyed first-world roads and infrastructure has been plunged into third-world status by socialism. The public projects from the first half of the 20th century that put Cuba on par with the U.S. and Europe have been criminally neglected for 64 years by the Castro dictatorship, leaving Cubans to live and struggle in miserable conditions. This is socialism in action.
Potable water? That’s doubtful
While the majority of Cubans denounce the issues with water supply in different locations, few are aware of the frequent unsanitary distribution, especially in the eastern provinces. In Santiago de Cuba, complaints about the cloudy appearance of the precious liquid, sometimes foul-smelling and bad-tasting, are very common. However, many people are not fully aware of the potential health risks this presents.
A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms that “contaminated water and poor sanitation contribute to the transmission of diseases such as cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, and polio. Without proper water and sanitation services, or if they are insufficient or managed improperly, the population is exposed to health risks.”
During periods of heavy rainfall in Cuba, the water tends to be much dirtier, although the situation is not exclusive to rainy days, at least in the province of Santiago de Cuba. The longer the pumping cycle takes, the higher the possibility the water arrives in poor condition, at least in the first few hours. This is related to the corrosion of old pipes, which despite their deterioration, have not been replaced in much of the country.
“Logic indicates that the first water after several days flushes out some of the rust from the pipes, causing it to become cloudy; a while later it tends to be somewhat clearer,” Manuel Castro, a resident of the Chicharrones neighborhood, told CubaNet.
Even more alarming is the presence of high levels of toxic metals in the water, such as lead and copper, which can lead to serious health problems.
In June of last year, Liudmila Rodríguez, the director of the Aguas Santiago Company, attributed the “high levels of turbidity” to the “inflow of water into the Quinteros 1 and 2, Parada, and El Cobre purification plants,” amid the abundant rains in Santiago de Cuba during those days. Additionally, the official stated that dealing with the water’s dirty aspect was very challenging because it required large amounts of aluminum sulfate, better known as alum, which in excessive amounts can cause severe intoxication.
“Despite the scarcity of chemical products, we manage to reduce the turbidity of the liquid at its entry into the treatment plants, but at values well above the established norm,” Rodríguez informed the local newspaper Sierra Maestra.
However, two months later, complaints about the poor quality of water persisted, even though the period of intense rains in the area had already passed. Santiago resident Keisa Calderin shared images on Facebook of the water coming through the pipes in the José Martí District. The water in the photo was caramel-colored, and there were traces of dirt on the surface. In the same post, other users reported that in neighborhoods like Martí, San Pedrito, Marimón, and Quintero, they had also received the water in these conditions: “disgusting and foul-smelling,” many described.
Many Cubans often boil the water as the easiest and safest way to neutralize any viruses, bacteria, and parasites that may remain after inadequate purification.
It’s worth mentioning that other provinces have also joined the protest over the poor state of the vital liquid: Camagüey and Las Tunas among the main ones. Sancti Spíritus also stands out, as in August of last year, there was a significant increase in cases of diarrhea. In just the third week of that month, more than 200 cases of gastrointestinal disorders had already been reported in the area, some with severe manifestations.
In November 2021, it was reported that over 70 people were poisoned after consuming contaminated drinking water in the Centro Sur Popular Council, belonging to the José Martí Urban Center in Santiago de Cuba. Initially, about 16 people suffered from a diarrheal outbreak and needed urgent care; then the number continued to rise, as officially recognized at that time.