As a tropical island in the Caribbean that is also subject to seismic activity, Cuba is in the path of many potential natural disasters. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes can suddenly appear and wreak havoc. But that’s not what has destroyed Cuba. “Hurricane Communism” has been battering and destroying the island for over six decades.
‘Hurricane Communism’ is responsible for the housing disaster in Cuba, according to opposition leaders
Members of Cuba’s civil society told Martí Noticias this Sunday that the recovery of the housing stock in Cuba is not progressing as quickly as the people affected by the disasters need, even considering the official figures.
During a meeting this Saturday, in which ruler Miguel Díaz-Canel participated, authorities reiterated that Hurricane Ian left a total of 103,559 impacts on homes, including total and partial collapses and other damages, mainly in Pinar del Río, Artemisa, Havana, Mayabeque, Matanzas, and Isle of Pines.
“The official figures are by no means reliable. It’s not just my opinion; this was officially acknowledged years ago by they themselves. That is to say, we are working with data that is doubtful,” indicated Moisés Leonardo Rodríguez, coordinator of the independent organization Corriente Martiana, from Mariel, Artemisa.
“In practice, what we see is that progress is not happening at the pace it should be. But it’s not surprising, because it’s not only the homes that are affected during climatic events. It’s the neglect of the dictatorship that means homes are continuously collapsing, deteriorating, and we see that the number of Cubans whose right to adequate housing is satisfied is possibly not even half of the population,” emphasized the dissident.
“They [the regime leaders] talk about a deficit of nearly a million homes, but when you look around, you see situations where, for example, in my case, three generations live in a house that was built at the end of the 19th century, which has problems with the roof. We do not have the right to adequate housing satisfied for all of us who reside in it, in this case, six people.”
The Council of Ministers meeting revealed that Cuba has a deficit of more than 800,000 homes, and delays in the implementation of the so-called housing policy were discussed.
“You start to look around and you realize that much more than half of the population does not have that right satisfied,” Rodríguez pointed out.
“When we see the solutions they show on television, what do we see? Wooden houses, which, like in the story of the wolf, will also be affected as soon as the next event comes. From the start, they are using asbestos cement roofs, which are banned worldwide because they tend to cause cancer, but moreover, these roofs do not withstand the force of the wind,” he added.
“The solution lies in one thing: a change in the system. The system has demonstrated a total incapacity to solve some of the problems that they said would be resolved before they took power. We are facing yet another discourse: they analyze, acknowledge, but they don’t go beyond that,” Rodríguez emphasized.
According to authorities, in Pinar del Río, where Hurricane Ian damaged more than 100,000 homes, recovery is at 51%. The rehabilitation of partially lost roofs reports 67%. compliance, and those completely affected, 38%.
But the reality is that, for the majority of the affected, Ian is still happening, Esteban Ajete, president of the League of Farmers of Cuba, a resident of San Diego de los Baños, in Pinar del Río, added.
“I consider that some partial collapses have been recovered, but the majority of the total collapses are currently unrecovered.”
The Cuban government reported in early September that, one year after the meteorological phenomenon, only 43% of the over 100,000 damaged homes have been recovered, and only 427 properties of the 12,805 total collapses have been rebuilt.
“People have, by their own efforts, made temporary housing, meaning, with the same wood that remained from the affected home, they made smaller houses, and there they are living in inadequate conditions,” said Ajete.
“Here, in the province of Pinar del Río, the construction materials that are being obtained are through the black market and at exorbitant prices,” he noted.
As the leader of the League of Farmers of Cuba, Ajete has received complaints from farmers who are living in deplorable conditions, including those affected by hurricanes prior to Ian.
The dissident listed causes as diverse as the negligence of the authorities, the scarcity of raw materials for making construction materials, and the high cost of fuel.
“In Cuba, there is no construction industry related to supplies, materials, cement, aggregates, sand, gravel, steel. According to them, this shortage of raw materials is due to the ‘blockade,’ which is the justification they constantly use,” he emphasized.
“So, the little construction material that enters, there is an internal mafia in the ‘black market,’ where these materials, when they reach the delivery points, these people already have them paid at a higher price, and then the materials are diverted,” he lamented.
Ajete asserts that authorities did provide materials, although insufficient, but many of the affected have had to sell them to buy food.
“There are several factors that have influenced, issues that the government does not make known through mass media,” said the farmer.
“They have prioritized the agricultural sector in what are tobacco houses. They have diverted a lot of labor force, many materials, to rebuild the tobacco houses that collapsed, and they have left the residential sector aside,” Ajete added.
Of the 12,000 tobacco leaf drying houses affected by the hurricane, 3,816 have already been completely rebuilt, and another 1,180 are in process.
As another factor affecting the recovery of damaged properties, the farmer leader mentioned “low privatization, because now there are certain construction micro-enterprises, but they charge prices that most Cubans cannot afford for building a home.”
“Also, a small labor force because the people who work in the state construction entities do not want to work, because they earn very little for very strenuous work under the sun.”
“All of this causes delays, a slowness in the construction of homes, not just the weather, but it is precisely the communism hurricane, as I would say,” concluded Ajete.