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Should Mailen Diaz be an Eternal Slave to Gratitude?

Mailén Díaz, together with her husband, denounced the medical neglect she suffers. Photo: screenshot.

Should Mailen Diaz be an Eternal Slave to Gratitude?

6 / julio / 2022

Mailen Diaz Almaguer is a survivor; the only survivor of a plane crash with 112 fatalities in May 2018, in Havana. It isn’t thanks to something that people survive these kinds of events, but rather despite something. Her recent public complaint on social media – in which she explains the lack of medical attention she’s received – has triggered a broad and incredible range of reactions.

Mailen was transferred from the site of the accident to the hospital with another three persons still alive. Only she survived the accident that happened because the airline leased by the Cuban State hadn’t trained the crew properly; which could have led to mistakes in weight and balance calculations, and the low operational standards revealed during the flight, among other reasons.

Mailen survived despite Cuban state institutions involved failing to do their job and verifying Global Air’s practices and management, whom they had contracted to cover the Havana-Holguin route. Mailen survived despite the fact that, while no “evidence proving the defects or poor functioning of the aircraft” that could have contributed to the accident, was found, Global Air had lapses in good maintenance practices, as was highlighted in the accident’s final investigation report.

Mailen doesn’t owe her life to the Cuban State, the Revolution or the Communist Party. In reality, the Cuban State, Revolution and Party owe Mailen compensation, at the very least, for being responsible for the accident that put her in the condition she’ll have to spend the rest of her life in. Mailen survived the accident, but she was left paraplegic and one of her legs had to be amputated. She also needs medicine and special attention to ensure her quality of life.

But the Cuban State doesn’t only owe Mailen compensation, but also safeguards to practice her human rights – just like they owe all the Cuban people. These safeguards have always been uncertain for some rights – especially civil and political ones – and they have gradually been diluted down with those rights considered conquests by the Cuban Government: health, education and sport.

Rights can be won over in societies where safeguards for them don’t exist. But human rights are preexisting and independent of these safeguards. Safeguards for the exercise of all human rights aren’t favors made by the State for its citizens. It is the State’s duty, and they must do this as part of their job.

Final report on the airplane crash in Havana published

The final report of the aeroplane crash, that took place on May 18th 2018, confirms that the most likely cause of the disaster was the loss of the plane’s controls which were the result of a series of errors, most of which were human.

Mailen decided to demand the Cuban State fulfill its obligations. She has acted as a citizen, as the State’s creditor.

Many have called her ungrateful because of this. Among the people who have called her this, some haven’t hesitated to say they wish she was dead, like the rest of the passengers. All because Mailen dared to complain about shortcomings in her health care (problems getting medicine and catheters). Mailen has decided to complain to the leaders, to the Communist Party and the Cuban State, which is her right by Law. She has decided to demand the safeguards she needs to fully enjoy her right to health.

Those who are unable to forgive Mailen for her demands, basically understand rights as something that only exist in the form and limits the State provides. Those who call Mailen ungrateful don’t understand standards. They don’t see healthcare as a basic right, but as a conquest of the political party that has been in power for over 60 years. A conquest which, according to them, Cubans must be eternally grateful for, regardless of the quality of the service being offered. A quality that promises to continue to decline given the rise of another less-publicized conquest, but just as helpless: the hotel industry.

Those who call Mailen ungrateful ignore the fact that the right to health isn’t just the right to healthcare.

Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognizes that everyone has the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. According to General Comment No. 14 by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the reference “that in article 12.1 of the Covenant, States parties recognize “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health” isn’t only limited to the right to healthcare.” The Committee acknowledges that the right to health embraces a wide range of socio-economic factors that promote conditions in which people can lead a healthy life, and extends to the underlying determinants of health, such as food and nutrition, housing, access to safe and potable water and adequate sanitation, safe and healthy working conditions, and a healthy environment.”

Those who believe Mailen is ungrateful think this way because they believe she owes her life to the system that has the duty of guaranteeing healthcare. They believe that she should use a size 18 catheter when she needs a size 16 because, after spending over 60 days at the “General Calixto Garcia” University Hospital, it’s a lesser evil that she should tolerate in the name of gratitude.

Those who reproach Mailen for her demands think of rights as gifts. Gifts that Cubans wouldn’t have if they lived under a different State.

This kind of thinking not only reveals the mental slavery that many Cubans live with, but also the indignity that we’ve been reduced to after decades of indoctrination. Criticizing Mailen, and preferring her dead for her alleged ungratefulness means forgetting that we are all human beings with rights. It means comparing ourselves with slaves subjected to the will of a depersonalized being that we owe our obedience and devotion to.

Mailen thanked everyone who supported her, the doctors who saved her life, at the time. Mailen was grateful. But this gratitude isn’t what her detractors expected from her. Mailen’s detractors want her eternal gratitude for the people who saved her and the system they work for.

Mailen’s detractors can’t stand that she dared to act like a citizen and no longer as a slave.

This article was translated into English from the original in Spanish.
Eloy Viera Cañive
Cienfueguero ausente. Graduado de Licenciatura en Derecho en 2011. Abogado de la Organización Nacional de Bufetes Colectivos hasta 2017. Director legal del Colectivo+Voces. El Derecho sigue siendo mi esperanza, pero he renunciado a ser un abogado que solo recomienda paciencia y fe.
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