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Jimmy Roque Martinez: I was born in Havana in 1979, and it seems that work has been my sign. Custodian, fish farmer, lens carver, welder, glass maker, optometrist, have been some of my trades. But none consumes as much of my time as caring for my family. For many years I’ve faced the least pretty face of this society, and I try to be happy while I transform it. I am too shy. I like silence, sleep, theater and movies. I hate injustice and arrogance, and I can hardly contain my anger when it happens in front of me.

Who Cut Down the Trees in Havana’s Central Park?

May 11, 2017 |

Jimmy Roque Martínez

The cutting down of beautiful shade trees in Havana’s Central Park, across from the new Manzano de Gomez luxury hotel.

HAVANA TIMES — The scandalous clearing of trees in Havana’s Central Park, which is right in front of the new and luxurious Manzana de Gomez Hotel, has been reported on several alternative media platforms.

As a member of the El Guardabosques (Forest Rangers) environmental group, I arrived at the site to check whether these trees had in actual fact been cut down. Plus I was able to verify that these trees didn’t affect the pavement or an electricity or telephone cables.

So, I began my investigation to find out who had been responsible for cutting these trees down, and what their reasons were.

At the Communal Services company in the Old Havana neighborhood, an office which is responsible for looking after and maintaining parks, they clarified that “Communal Services is united in every municipality, apart from Plaza and Old Havana, where Communal Services and Aurora operate. Aurora does the job and Communal Services pay for the service.”

So I went to Aurora’s offices, at 363 Aguiar Street, because as you can see, Community Services didn’t know anything about the subject. However, at Aurora, they told me that they had nothing to do with it, that it must have been Puerto Carena.

Unnecessary heavy pruning.

But, I decided to leave the circuit of uninformed municipal offices to get answers from superior bodies, which might be better informed. Therefore, I went to the Ministry of Agriculture a couple of days later to see what I could find out from Cuban Forest Service officials.

They didn’t have any answers at the Ministry either and they told me to dig around at the Provincial Cuban Forest Service office, at the Provincial Office of Agriculture, located in the Boyeros municipality.

The Director there explained to me that “they give the permission. But, whoever did the job must have been from Green Areas, who are the ones who work in this area.” Nevertheless, the official promised me he’d probe around with the person responsible to “see if any authorization was given”, referring to the Cuban Forest Guide, and he took down our contact details so he could give us an answer.

We are still waiting.

On April 27th (nine days after our first visit), we activists went back to Central Park and we saw that another tree had been cut down and another one had been severely pruned, neither of which were causing damage to the pavement or an electricity or telephone cable.

There were some laborers taking out ornamental plants that day in the park. We approached them to ask about the trees that had been cut down and they told us:

“The things is you’re talking to floor and marble polishers, we’ve been relocated because we didn’t have any work, they sent us here to take these out. About the trees… we have no idea, I think it’s because they’re going to replant some when the hotel is inaugurated or to get rid the mosquito breeding ground in front of the hotel because this is full of mosquitos inside.”

We went to the City Halls of Old Havana, Revolution Square and Boyeros and we still don’t know who the woodcutters were who cut, and continue to cut down trees in Central Park.

Everywhere we went to ask questions, we were always asked where we came from. Government officials, businessmen and bureaucrats in Cuba aren’t used to citizens questioning their decisions.

We suspect that the cutting down of these trees is indeed linked to the inauguration of the luxurious hotel which was renovated by workers brought in from India and with French money. During our last visit to this hotel, the entrances to the hotel’s corridors were being monitored by policemen in uniform and plain clothes.

As we can see here, capitalist interests are better protected in “anti-imperialist and communist” Cuba, they can even despoil the surroundings however they wish, as the Cuban authorities will always be there to repress the people if necessary, in order to protect national and foreign business interests on the island.

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  • Bill Plummer

    Of coarse the Hotel owners paid workers to cut these beautiful old trees down, they paid off the ten cent Cuban officials and thats they way it is always going to be, I think you hard working Cuban folks are asleep at the switch.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      On July 7th, 2013, the Cuban Dictator General Raul Castro Ruz gave a personal analysis of the social achievements of fifty four years of the Castro family regime. He said:

      “Thus part of society has come to see theft from the state as normal. There has been propagation of illegal constructions with relative impunity moreover in inappropriate sites, non-authorized occupation of housing, illicit marketing of goods and services, non-fulfillment of working hours, illegal cattle rustling and slaughter, capture of marine species in danger of extinction and utilization of the art of fishing, FELLING OF FORESTRY RESOURCES INCLUDING IN HAVANA’S MAGNIFICENT BOTANICAL GARDENS, the hoarding of products in short supply and OF BRIBES and their resale at higher prices, participation in games outside the law, price violations, THE ACCEPTANCE OF BRIBES AND PRIVILEGES, preying on tourism and infraction of established regulations related to informatics security.”

      Who can argue with Raul Castro Ruz’s succinct analysis? It is impossible to pursue the wanton destruction of hacking down trees in Central Park without the State Police being aware of who the culprits are. But because the regime approves the destruction, nobody will be prosecuted and both those who paid the bribes and those who received them will go unpunished.

      This is a glaring example of corruption at the highest level! Where is the criticism by Raul Castro Ruz? Whose palms were greased?

    • Andrew Beardo

      The hotel’s owners are Gaviota – the tourism arm of MINFAR.

  • JennyC

    The cutting down of large trees in parks is not only happening in Havana! I have visited Bayamo and Niquero recently and been shocked to see that all of the big, lovely trees have been cut down. Is there a problem with some kind of tree disease?

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      Oddly Jenny, I noticed when visiting Artemisa in April, that the trees lining a boulevard there had been savaged, leaving only stark skeletons. no disease.
      So maybe somebody has issued an order of some kind.
      But the trees in Central Park have obviously been cut down to satisfy some whim of the Hotel developers – and in Cuba that means somebody got their palms greased!