Jorge Milanes Despaigne
HAVANA TIMES — The large bus substitute people in Cuba call “camels” – a means of transportation created in the 1990’s to address a critical period of shortages in the country – are a dying species. Once, Havana was teeming with these two-humped lorries with noisy doors which were always packed with passengers. Today, we see only the occasional survivor, coming to greet us from some province in the interior.
Some years ago, the Cuban Ministry of Transportation replaced those contraptions with the P-line, a series of buses manufactured in Byelorussia, if I am not mistaken.
“They look strong and resistant. For the kinds of transportation problems we have, they are marvelous!” I remember some of us said.
But the truth is that they are not designed for the kind of work they are subjected to (deteriorated streets, overloading and misuse by passengers, skipped maintenance cycles and many other factors which void the guarantee offered by the manufacturer and put the lives of many people at risk).
A while ago, I saw one of these buses catch fire like a match in the middle of the street and heard the hysterical screams of the passengers trying to get out, all at once, through the windows and doors, before the vehicle went up in flames. Apparently, the bus didn’t have a fire extinguisher or the tools needed to break the emergency windows. Who needs that, anyways?
“That’s the second one of these buses I’ve seen go up in flames,” I said in a low tone of voice.
An elderly woman said to me: “This is also the second accident like this I’ve seen in a week. Luckily, the firefighters actually do their job here.”
The one I saw a few months ago, this one and the one the woman witnessed makes three. So, am I to conclude the “camels” could rough it out but these buses can’t? Their reaction to being overworked seems to be catching on fire.