There is a new wave of public health workers whose job is to visit homes looking for infestations of the aedes aegypti mosquito. Almost all of them are older and retired. In many cases they have backgrounds in the communist party or armed forces, and seem to have taken their task very seriously. These people can show up at any time from morning to evening, and get especially upset if someone cannot or will not let them in for any particular reason. They then ring the doorbell obsessively, pound on the door frenetically, and even make threats in a loud voice so that everyone else hears them and takes note.

I have a friend who lives alone and is recuperating from an accident. Her apartment is on an upper floor of a beautiful building from the 1950s in Vedado. For two weeks one of these infestation inspectors, as they call themselves, have been visiting her, insisting that she open the door and let her in to inspect the apartment. My friend has told her through the door that she cannot open it because she is alone and has problems with mobility. This woman nonetheless becomes enraged and has threatened her with fines. She even had the nerve to come back on more than one occasion, either alone or with a member from the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), to try to get her to open it. Since she has not been successful in these attempts, she has filed complaints with the CDR branch of the building in question. My friend has remained firm in her decision and, on the advice of people who respect her, has  gone to file a complaint with the medical authorities at the neighborhood clinic to which she belongs, asking them to respond to these inspectors.
While I was at home today — I don’t open the door for anyone I don’t know when I am alone either — someone was aggressively ringing the doorbell. Thinking it must be a very close friend, I came out of the bathroom covered only with a towel and looked across the balcony without being seen. It turned out it was one of those inspectors, now so common in the area, who was insistently pressing the doorbell with, let’s just say, a certain fury. He could not see me, but I could see him, so I went back to finish my interrupted bath while the man in question kept pressing the doorbell as if he were attached to it.

These scenes are repeatedly continually in any given neighborhood. Besides being useless exercises, they amount to an unacceptable form of persecution. The authorities do not realize that illnesses such as dengue, which used not to exist in our country but which have now been uncontrollable for three decades, are a result of an unhealthy environment, urban decay, the accumulation of trash and debris everywhere, and inadequate or almost non-existent garbage collection, especially in neighborhoods where there are no trash cans and people hang their bags of waste from the trees or simply toss them into corners. Furthermore, since the situation is impacted by the lack of products to combat epidemics, the inadequate and almost non-existent control of stray animals, the clogging of sewers and drains, the lack of cleanliness on city buses and in parks, cafes, farmers markets, and which steadily worsens all the time.

The state should set an example before being allowed to make demands on the population. Before persecuting and threatening people with fines, it should create conditions which promote good hygiene and insure the health of all the citizenry. Rather than sanctioning and harassing, it should educate by example and provide the necessary products and means at reasonable prices commensurate with people’s salaries. Only in this way will we be freed from this relentless persecution.

October 15 2012

Advertisements