Cuba: They shouldn’t have died

By Abel Tablada / From La Joven Cuba

Those brave rescue workers and citizens trapped under rubble shouldn’t have died. This isn’t an accident, just like a car crash isn’t when a car dodges a large pothole on the highway.

These events are the result of a long list of wrong decisions that need to stop to prevent new deaths and building collapses.

Havana has many trained experts to carry out technical surveys and lots of buildings have been declared unfit for human habitation because of their awful and dangerous condition. But not a lot is done after these surveys.

The facts show a lack of building reinforcement, or evacuations and demolitions of buildings that can’t be repaired. That’s because even when a building is evacuated, it can still be a danger for passers-by if a part of the building collapses onto the street, like has already happened so many times.

Urban reform that took place on October 14, 1960 were very popular because 200,000 families who had been renting were given a home. But on the other hand, owners of multi-family residentials who were responsible for their upkeep were evicted from their properties, so the State had to take on this responsibility for every housing unit and apartment building in the country.

Why did they carry out this urban reform? Was it to establish a fair and sustainable system to distribute housing or to favor low-income groups for a short period of time?

A reform or program that only benefits a part of the population for a couple of decades, and isn’t sustainable over time, which not only keeps existing housing in a good condition but also creates new revenue to cover growing needs as the population increases and their quality of life, may be fair in the beginning; but as time passes by, sticking to it becomes unfeasible or irresponsible, especially knowing that it isn’t really effective, and there is a shortage of innovative and revolutionary alternatives.

It’s every capitalist’s dream to accummulate assets and land to increase their earnings, but they know they have to keep them productive and the system needs to work, otherwise they’ll go bankrupt.

But the socialist State took away a large amount of properties in one go, and wasn’t able to maintain them over time, thereby harming hundreds of thousands of citizen’s quality of life and health, as well as the image of this still beautiful city.

If the State – that defines itself as socialist – doesn’t want powerful landlords dominating the real estate market and setting house prices like they did in Cuba before 1959, which is what happens in many cities all over the world, then you have to create a comprehensive and sustainable housing program and take on the responsibility of both the housing deficit that continues to grow despite the mass exodus of Cubans abroad, as well as the unfortunate events that lead to fatalities.

They talk about housing plans that are never met, about a few poorly built houses after a hurricane in some town in Pinar del Rio, but reality is a great cause for concern and there doesn’t seem to be a convincing or realistic program in sight to keep this serious problem in check, which begins with a weak building materials industry, great technological backwardness in the construction sector, and especially, widespread poverty of Cubans who can’t even afford to fix a window.

Both biotech breakthroughs, and the housing and agricultural crisis in Cuba are the result of arbitrary, centralized and unpragmatic policies. We won’t have a failed State, but we will have a State with different failed policies, a State that owns almost everything and is responsible for almost nothing.

I already wrote about this over a year ago, but time is passing by and buildings continue to collapse and people continue to die, while thousands continue in refuges or even in parks and under cardboard like they do in Los Angeles and in many Latin American cities. These symbols of unfair and unjust capitalism, that include garbage diggers, are on many corners of this city full of slogans, like the one I saw on a crumbling wall in Marianao next to the rubble, broken sidewalk and anything else ugly and rotten.

While all of this is happening in the city, to its people, while the US blockade continues to play its hand in sinking us even further into poverty, the State or one of its corporations is using its limited foreign currency to play a game of irresponsable capitalism, and invest in something that isn’t a priority (new hotels), something the citizens didn’t choose, which isn’t generating wealth to make up for the effects of the blockade.

Most Cubans aren’t tolerating these contradictions in both speeches, as well as actions anymore, and that’s why events like the deaths of young and brave rescue workers that shouldn’t have ever happened, are even sadder, more annoying and a reason for people to be more unhappy.

There are people responsible for these incidents and if we can’t identify or sue them because we don’t have a respectable media and someone who truly represents the people’s interests, or an empowered population, the least the State can do is announce what they’re going to do to stop doing whatever it is they’ve turned Havana into, and we don’t want to hold onto.

Translation by Havana Times.