Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

Havana Isn’t Feeling So Good

Isbel Diaz Torres

basura-esquina-de-e-y-19-vedado
E and 19th Streets in Vedado.

HAVANA TIMES — As we’ve already verified in several posts published here on Havana Times, nothing changes in Havana with regard to its already dirty tradition. At times, I’ve thought that this problem is inherent to Cuba’s capital, and that those of us who live here should embrace such a situation like the one we find ourselves in as part of our “identity”.

Nevertheless, it’s good to know what the authorities responsible for this are doing, besides blaming the population with the well-known phrase “social indiscipline”.

On the Libre Acceso show, the provincial TV station dedicated the second part of the program to “Environmental Hygiene” in the capital, where a group of bureaucrats once again gave excuses disguised as “statistics” and “strategies”.

In such a way, we found out from a citizen interviewed that it’s been 21 days since Communal Services haven’t come to pick up the garbage in a neighborhood belonging to the San Miguel del Padron municipality, while there’s a garbage dump in San Francisco de Paula that has been growing existentially for more than 15 days.

Officials recognize the fact that San Miguel del Padron, Arroyo Naranjo and Habana del Este are the most critical municipalities in Havana; and they refer to problems with equipment, but especially to how the work is organized.

“They aren’t following the strategy,” said one of these officials on TV and notified us that out of 50 trips daily, garbage pick-up teams are only doing 25, and furthermore, not to full capacity. He’s referring to the fact that garbage trucks arrive at dumping sites with less garbage than the amount established in line with the amount they can collect.

In the San Miguel municipality, there have only 60% of their equipment working, but the problem is widespread across the capital. More than 20 garbage trucks are currently out of order in this area; that’s practically half of them.

They try to repair them at the Ministry of Industry’s workshops, but the truth is that these same trucks come back quite frequently, one of the managers interviewed on the program claimed.

Meanwhile, Central Havana, which carries out three nocturnal collections and one during the day in one of the country’s most densely populated areas, has suffered a three day setback.

On another level, according to what a viewer told us (and which those of us who live in Havana can confirm), Communal Services employees don’t have the basic equipment they need in order to do their job and protect themselves in the process, such as gloves, boot and shovels.

However, the manager claimed that these accessories do exist. Employees at Communal Services receive boots twice a year, gloves 3 times a year and shovels once a year; moreover, they receive a broom and appropriate clothing. The problem is a “lack of accountability and control,” he stressed.

The La Cotorra Park in Guanabacoa.
The La Cotorra Park in Guanabacoa.

However, the garbage container situation seems to be at its all-time best. This year, the garbage container importing plan stood at 3,000, however they brought 4,619; and this is on top of the 7,500 produced nationally, which is why officials trust that the plan to have 13,000 new garbage containers in 2016 will be met.

It’s worth saying that the Military Industry Unit that manufactures these containers in Cuba, and who also repair parts of this equipment, such as trucks and tractors for collecting solid waste.

With the strategy outlined by the Havana’s local government (which also includes funding on a national level), that is to say, with this equipment and containers, bureaucrats believe that the situation will significantly improve, as it will ensure that 60% of the capital’s solid waste will be collected.

And what will happen to the 40% of garbage that isn’t collected?

In the package of solutions that the system offers is the well-known measure of changing local leaders. This is what happened in Habana del Este where they changed the entire administration, although they’re still only doing 50% of garbage pick-up collections.

On the other hand, almost at the end of the show, they mentioned, all of a sudden, the fact that foreign firms want to work in the garbage collection sector, however they didn’t name these firms or what their participation in these projects might be.

Meanwhile, the Recycling Law announced years ago still hasn’t been established, and Havana citizens who scavenge seem to be the ones who are most concerned about hygiene in a city which, as Frank Delgado’s song says:

Havana is very dirty,
Havana has lice,
Havana has giardia,
It’s pretty trivial
to make it a song.
Havana isn’t feeling so good.

  • Brenda

    Havana has rats too. Please clean up Havana It is such a beautiful city, otherwise.

    • Griffin

      “Havana has rats too.”

      Yes, and their names are Raul & Fidel.

  • Moses Patterson

    Until the garbage collection problem reaches the Punto Cero municipality, it will likely remain unresolved. (The Castros live in Punto Cero)

  • Gerard Matthews

    Rubbish! Mr Castro has to ensure that his workforce are provided with correct equipment to carry out their job to a good and hygienic standard. Uniforms, gloves, boots, and proper vehicles. What sort of impression is this having on tourists and the economy? It sends out the wrong message or does Mr Castro not care what message he sends out to potential visitors? I for one would not wish to visit a city that is coming close to resembling a rubbish dump and possibly a health hazard! Come on Mr Castro and supply the workers with all the tools they require to do their jobs properly!

  • bjmack

    Punto Cero, google it and see how the elite live in Cuba. There’s a discrepancy with those living very well and some who would risk their lives to leave a depressing and sad world outside of where the top echelon reside. Not good and as access to information trickles down to the masses the demise of a broken system is inevitable.

    • Cubakingone

      The ELITE live very well in Canada but many on welfare are living on the street – Si !!!

  • Cubakingone