A Painful Cuba Housing Story

February 12, 2014 | Print Print |

Luis Rondon Paz

HAVANA TIMES — I hadn’t heard of any evictions in Havana or other parts of the country in a while. In my nativity, I had thought people in Cuba were forced to leave their homes only when these lacked the basic sanitary conditions needed to lead a decorous life, or that they were expelled from their place of temporary residence because they were unwittingly living in a forbidden area.

That’s what I thought until I got first-hand information that made me see these incidents in a different light and confirm my suspicion that Cuban reality is stranger than fiction.

A few days ago, I found out that a number of inspectors were looking into “irregularities” in the development area of La Taranquera, in the municipality of Bejucal (a neighborhood in the province of Mayabeque that borders Havana to the east and south) where most people build their homes through their own, individual efforts). This past Friday, January 31, these inspectors showed up at the house of an acquaintance of mine to verify the legal status of the property.

Houses built by people on their own efforts.

Everything is in order, he thought…until they left him a written document summoning him to again submit his property title to the Municipal Inspectors Office on February 3, telling him this was to decide what law (fine) to apply to him, as the temporary residence where he lives – built at the back end of the lot – does not have a certificate declaring it habitable and is thus illegal. This means he has to pay a fine or the house where he lives will be demolished.

“How is this posible?” He exclaimed. “We recently hosted the Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to set in motion a new social security system across Latin America. How is this even conceivable in our country? Are you threatening to evict me? Don’t you know the situation most people are in here in terms of housing?” My acquaintance said all this to the inspectors, who are now referred to as “comprehensive inspectors.”

As my friend was telling me this story, the following words were, for some reason, going around my head: “You’re so naive, pal, you really don’t know anything about the way things work.” His story really didn’t surprise me much, even though I felt very angry about what he described.

The development area where my friend is building.

I could only agree with his opinion about the poor communicative skills of “regulative agents”, or the evictors of the 21st century.

“If they knew how to address people properly, we’d have a different situation in our hands. What many of these people are after is money, something which is the result of the system’s imperfections,” I remarked.

“They want money, that’s what they’re used to,” he said to me. “I don’t bribe anyone and I don’t let anyone bribe me. Everything I’ve accomplished here has been through the sweat of my brow. Those incompetent thieves aren’t going to rob me of anything. They’ve already come twice to my house. The third time, they intercepted me in the street and insisted I had to go to the Housing Office to consult with the director there and see what fine was applicable. ‘It’s probably a 600-peso fine,’ one of them said to me. And, to add insult to injury, he said he could help me bring down the fine to 200 pesos.”

The inspectors office in Bejucal.

“Sounds like they’re set on laying a fine on you, eh?” I said.

“Well, they’re saying that everything will be cleared up on Monday and they’ll decide what infraction to apply to my case. They actually don’t know what to do with me, because I refuse to allow them to intimidate me,” he concluded.

From what this friend tells me, cases like these are very common in Bejucal – something to be expected from the prevailing administrative disorganization and corruption, which entails unscrupulous and opportunistic officials set on stepping on working people who build homes through their own efforts.

To be continued…


What's your opinion?

  • Informed Consmet

    All the promises of the revolution were lies. The ultimate goal was always to obtain power. The Cuban people just continue to suffer as the reality of this failure become harder and harder to hide. The Potemkin village crumbles on a world stage

  • CUBAQUS

    Housing apartheid is becoming a reality in Cuba.

    Gated compounds are created for the military and the subservient as rewards for their role in repressing the Cuban people and maintaining the regime.
    their shortsightedness and greed is exploited by the regime whose leaders profit even more from the system as the “playboy” Castro sons and Rolex / Gucci Castro granddaughter show.

    “Cuba’s Reward for the Dutiful: Gated Housing
    By DAMIEN CAVEFEB. 11, 2014″
    http://housingcuba.blogspot.ca/2014/02/cubas-reward-for-dutiful-gated-housing.html

    Lots of info on housing in Cuba at this dedicated site:
    http://housingcuba.blogspot.ca

    • Griffin

      A telling detail in that article you linked to:

      “At a building with rounded archways, where a movie theater, market and
      health clinic are meant to go, one of the project’s engineers said
      several thousand people would eventually call Granma home. Sweating in
      green army fatigues, he praised the plan, noting its imported,
      prefabricated design that allowed walls to be assembled quickly, like
      puzzle pieces. He failed to mention what a security guard had pointed
      out: Most of the workers painting were prison inmates.”

      Gated communities for military officers, built by slave labour. Welcome to Raul’s Cuba!

  • John Goodrich

    For Cubaqus,
    Informed Consmet (sic) ,
    Griffin,
    Maybe when the U.S. calls off its 54-year old war on the people of Cuba, things will get better.
    That embargo was put in place to make life so miserable for the people of Cuba that they would overthrow their evolution and go back to capitalism.
    The embargo worked in that it made life very tough for all Cubans as the article clearly shows.
    What the embargo did not do was cause the Cuban people to think that going back to U.S. style capitalism was anything they’d want to do.
    Been there, done that .
    The intent of the embargo is to make Cuba’s socialist STYLE ( not socialist) economy look bad so that other countries do not move towards democratic economies and societies .
    The embargo is the U.S.’s way of trying to force Cuba to do what most Cubans do not want to do .
    That’s totalitarian and it’s imperialist .
    You and your kind want to punish 11+ million Cubans for daring to defy the Empire .
    WTF is wrong with you ?
    Look up the word sociopathic.

    • CUBAQUS

      There is no “war” on Cuba on the part of the US.
      That is just propaganda.

      Food, medicines, remittances (5 billion), travel, … all flows freely to Cuba.
      The Cuban economic disaster is the result of the mismanagement of the Castro regime. Even Raul Castro admitted that Cububans should stop blaming the embargo and work. He also said the regime should stop lying about the facts.
      Cuba is the totalitarian country. Not the US.

      You should face up to reality.

    • Griffin

      A sociopath is someone who doesn’t care that the Cuban people live under a brutal dictatorship, so long as he can rant against the evils of capitalism and the bad ol’ USA, …which is where he is free to enjoy the affluence and human rights the Cuban people can only dream of.

    • Moses Patterson

      You are so blinded by your anti-US rhetoric that you fail to understand that criticizing the US is different than helping Cuba. Because you do not know or understand Cuban people and their daily reality, you simply believe that if the US would just go away and leave little Cuba alone, everything would go well in Cuba. Nothing could be farther from the truth. More likely, without US remittances, food sales, medicines, and ‘escape valve’ that the US serves for the disenfranchised in Cuba, life in Cuba would deteriorate more rapidly. The US embargo is the least of Cuba’s problems.

    • Informed Consnet

      The Cuban people’s evolution [sic] was stillborn when the Castros dissolved the first cabinate and consolidated power in themselves. But I do believe the Cuban Adjustment act should be scrapped. It has served only as a pressure valve for dissent on the island….the discontented simply move to Miami. That along with the repression on the island, and the fact that it is an island, have served to keep the Castros in power for over half a century.

      Communism on the island has all but destroyed traditional authentic Cuban culture. How sad

      …and you John? I see you are still peddling your lies and misinformation, just like you misquote facts and figures. I would have though you’d go back and at the very least correct the unemployment and poverty numbers you were quoting in previous stories.

      You are an apologist and enabler of a repressive regime that beats women caring flowers.