Reports from Cuba: A year after the Hotel Saratoga explosion: ‘Everything remains the same’

Ricardo Peleaz reports from Havana via Diario de Cuba:

A year after the Hotel Saratoga explosion: ‘Everything remains the same’

‘I haven’t received any help, material or anything else,’ complains a resident of a building that suffered damage from the explosion.

A year after the explosion that destroyed the Hotel Saratoga in Havana, and several buildings around it, many of those affected told DIARIO DE CUBA, on a visit to the area, that “everything remains the same.”

The explosion, which occurred on May 6, 2022, and that the government attributed to a gas leak, killed 47 people, including several minors. 100 people suffered injuries.

The historic Hotel Saratoga has been under repair for several months, but, at first glance, no progress is evident. Hardly any workers are seen on the site, nor is there any heavy equipment.

The entire hotel is surrounded by a high metal fence preventing access to it. Meanwhile, in the semi-destroyed and vandalized building adjacent to it, no repair work is carried out, and the contiguous Baptist church continues to be cracked.

Yasmany is a community resident who was spending the afternoon drinking rum with friends by the fence of the Teatro Martí, another emblematic piece of Cuba’s architectural heritage damaged by the explosion. “Everything is the same here,” he said. “The work at the hotel is not progressing at all, and they say it’s going to be taken over by Vietnamese investors.”

In September 2022 the Havana City Historian’s Office said that the damage suffered by the Teatro Martí (theater) was greater than initially calculated, and that the work to refurbish it was one of the “most complex” that its heritage restoration company had faced. The theater reopened that same month. A school was also repaired.

“As for the residents who lost their homes, they continue to be accommodated at the Villa Panamericana, and they’ve mollified them with the story that they’re going to build them homes here in Old Havana,” Yasmany said.

In the nearby building on Monte 12, between Egido and Zulueta, Maria Elena Perez Mijenes, 66, who a year ago expressed her fear of a collapse due to the damage the building suffered from the explosion at the Saratoga, said she has not received “any help, material or anything else.”

“The residents, each with their own means, fixed the damage from the explosion as best they could. In my apartment the beam and the bathroom wall were cracked, and I had to pay someone to repair it,” added Pérez Mijenes.

“The building, in general, remains in very poor condition, with dust released whenever the trucks go by. Any day something terrible is going to happen, but I have nowhere to go but Columbus Cemetery.”

In the months following the blast, residents evacuated from damaged buildings reported the theft of belongings that the government forced them to leave behind.

“They broke down the door and stole everything from me. I came to get things from the kitchen and there’s nothing left,” said Barbara Tenreyro, a resident on the Calle Prado 69.

In addition to that at number 609, the explosion severely damaged the buildings at Prado 617, Zulueta 512, Zulueta 508 and other nearby ones.

In January the regime’s official press announced the delivery of eight homes to families affected by the explosion. It admitted, however, that the apartments, located on the Calle Vives and the Calle Carmen, in Old Havana, lacked electrical installations.

Two months later, the newspaper Trabajadores insinuated that the families did not want to move into the new and “comfortable” homes because they preferred to stay, “with all the advantages that this implies” in the Las Brisas aparthotel, at the Villa Panamericana. The publication did not ask those affected why they had not moved.

In any case, even if they were inhabitable, as Trabajadores contended, the eight homes would be insufficient. Some 30 affected families would still be waiting for a home.

The unresolved damage aside, the Government has yet to disclose the results of an investigation it announced into the causes of the Saratoga explosion.

4 thoughts on “Reports from Cuba: A year after the Hotel Saratoga explosion: ‘Everything remains the same’”

  1. What an inept country. What happened to the much praised, Oficina del Historiador de la Habana? Doesn’t Cuba have [according to the fawning MSM] a world class school and facilities to restore Havana’s valued architecture? The regime can’t restore a series of buildings that were damaged in an explosion, but presently, they are building new hotels all over Cuba. What misplaced priorities. In any normal country, damaged buildings would be instantly fixed. Look how France is moving sea and earth to restore Notre Dame Cathedral.

    • It’s simply a matter of priorities. Yes, the SOBs in charge are worthless in terms of doing their supposed jobs for “the people,” but their real jobs are to keep the regime in power.

      • That’s so true. The priority has always been to keep the regime in power at all costs. In fact, that’s the only thing that functions well and is maintained efficiently in that dystopian nightmare. Even ambulances that are donated to help the masses are repurposed by the police to detain people! Everything in Cuba looks LATRINE and Third World [uniforms are worn-out and dirty, people look tired–i.e. doctors are a perfect example], but you look at the repressive forces with their new cars, young, strong athletic men in well-fitted clean and professional uniforms, vicious full-breed German Shepards at hand, and guns in holsters and there is NOTHING Third World about them. They’re indistinguishable from the security forces in the US, Canada, Australia or Europe.

Comments are closed.