A local store in Mayabeque, Cuba, boasted of rewarding first responders for helping extinguish the largest fire in the history of the nation with a meager supply of chicken, deodorant, soda, and cooking oil this week – basic goods that have for decades been considered luxuries for many suffering under communism.

The Castro regime took nearly a week to eliminate a fire that destroyed over half the area of its largest storage facility, the supertanker oil base in northern Matanzas, Cuba. Communist Party officials claimed that lightning struck an oil storage tank and set its contents on fire on August 5, resulting in the complete destruction of four of the eight storage tanks. Tanks continued to explode well into the week after the lightning strike, and “oily” rain was reported as far from Matanzas as Havana, 65 miles east. Castro regime officials are still assessing the extent of the damage at press time; unidentified human remains were discovered in the immediate vicinity of the fire on Tuesday.

Authorities said the fire had officially been extinguished on August 12. Authorities confirmed only two deaths but 130 injuries. Unofficial reports suggest that dozens may still be missing at press time.

The Castro regime refused aid from the United States, preferring to use the event to launch an anti-American campaign urging an end to sanctions on regime elites. It instead used as first responders young men performing their mandatory military service, many reportedly teens and few with any experience firefighting – or reason to believe they would have to engage in firefighting as a soldier. The disappearances of young men from neighboring provinces have inflamed anti-communist unrest already widespread across the island, manifesting in nearly incessant protests since the nationwide rebellion against the Castro regime on July 11, 2021.

In an apparent attempt to quell outrage from the families of those cast into the fire as first responders, a local regime-affiliated store chain in Mayabeque – between Havana and Matanzas – called Tiendas Caribe posted an update on Facebook last week that went viral this weekend, showing alleged first responders receiving small bags of what appear to be chicken leg quarters in gratitude.

“The La Colosal Shop in Bejucal donates food supplies to firemen and other workers who participated in the large fire at the supertanker base in Matanzas,” the caption read.

The anti-regime outlet ADN Cuba reported that another store reportedly offered “a bag with personal hygiene products, food, and soft drinks to the firefighters in Cornado in their town.” according to a translation published Monday by the Cuban interest site Babalú Blog.

The Castro regime has made similar giveaways of basic food items, branding them as extraordinary rewards, in the past. A year ago, the local Communist Party in Ciego de Ávila, Cuba, published photos of a welcome party for boxing champion Ronny Álvarez in which the Party rewarded him for winning a gold medal at the Junior Pan-American Games qualifiers with hot dogs, cooking oil, and plantains.

“Congrats, champ,” the caption on the photos read. The original post has since been deleted, but Cuban journalists in the diaspora saved the photos.

Food shortages have become so acute that waiting hours in a ration line is no guarantee that a Cuban citizen will come home with food supplies, the product of 63 years of socialist mismanagement destroying the nation’s once-prosperous agricultural industry and the Castro regime investing nearly the entirety of its funds into the lavish lives of the Castro family. The independent outlet Cubanet published a video on Monday highlighting the nation’s poverty, showing elderly Cubans in Havana digging through dumpsters in search of something to eat.

Fidel Castro’s grandson Sandro opened a new luxury nightclub, “Illuxion,” in the city this week.

The images of the first responders receiving bags of chicken as prizes this week prompted significant outrage from Cubans online.

“The rescue and identification efforts for the dead firemen at the Supertanker storage base in Matanzas is still going on,” dissident and former political prisoner Ángel Moya commented on Facebook, “[the firefighters] faced the fire with courage, and the communist regime of Cuba pays the survivors with a bag of chicken thighs. … it’s more than mockery.”

“How would the mothers, wives, children, and friends of the dead firemen who have not yet been identified feel?” he asked.

“Seriously, aren’t you embarrassed to publish these photos?” social media user Gerald Sanchez Sanchez asked in a comment in response to the original Facebook post, according to ADN Cuba. The outlet noted that others described the post as “shameful” and “embarrassing.”

The official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, Granma, has flooded its pages with acknowledgments of the outrage: homages to the first responders and their families, an analysis concluding that the fire will leave “psychological scars” on the population of Matanzas, and reports acknowledging that finding the missing will be nearly impossible, as their remains are likely burned beyond recognition. At press time, however, the Castro regime has not accepted any blame for the fire, sticking to its lightning bolt theory. Growing reports have questioned if human error played a role in the fire erupting, or at least in the fact that it burned for nearly a week with little competent containment, leading to massive explosions days after the fact.

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