“The GDP will grow by more than 4 % this year.” – Raul Castro
HAVANA TIMES — Garbage collection efforts have entered a higher phase of decline in the Cuban capital. The issue has been touched on numberless times in Havana Times. I want to address it once again to show how the situation has worsened over the past few months and to propose a solution to the problem.
In Alamar, the neighborhood at the outskirts of Havana where I live, the garbage truck used to come by every three or four days, and that was already too little. Nowadays, it comes less than once a week and it’s a genuine disaster. This complicated situation is worsened by the dilapidated state of the garbage containers.
The garbage bins passed through three stages of gradual deterioration.
First they lost their wheels. People with no “social discipline” steal these for their carts or to sell them in the spare-parts market.
Then they lost their lids, which were far too fragile for the daily mistreatment they are subjected to.
Finally, the containers themselves gave way, of old age and exhaustion, I suppose.
Now, the locals leave the garbage on the ground, to the contentment of rats and the merriment of flies. Regular garbage trucks can’t lift the garbage off the ground this way and they have to come get it with a bulldozer and a dump truck.
The spectacle is grotesque, foul-smelling and unhealthy, but, even with the shit up to their necks, the locals don’t move a thumb.
THE PEOPLE SPEAK
To know what people think about this problem, I read several Havana Times articles and their respective comments. I also asked people around the neighborhood.
What the average Joe or Jane thinks is behind the problem, and how they think it can be solved, can be divided into three major groups. We have:
- Those who believe Cubans have become accustomed to living in filth thanks to the revolution.
- Those who blame the corrupt bureaucrats and politicians who embezzle fuel and laugh in the face of a community that is completely idiotic (in the Greek sense of the word).
- Those who think everything is caused by the US embargo and things of that nature.
All three groups are partially right, but all ignore one crucial factor. From my point of view, the tragedy of Havana’s domestic garbage problem is today closely related to the world economic crisis and the irreversible decline in fossil fuel supplies.
The situation could improve slightly with the lifting of the embargo, but such an improvement would not last long.
Overcoming the garbage problem would be easy with the right mental attitude, but, as it happens, the right mental attitude is sometimes the hardest thing to achieve.
In towns in Cuba’s interior, domestic garbage is taken to small, local dumpsites using horse or ox-drawn carts. During the Special Period, peripheral neighborhoods in the capital resorted to these methods. Why not do so again?
If Cuba’s political leaders publicly admitted that the crisis is NOT temporary, the community would surely wake up from its coma and look for the solutions within reach. But no, this is precisely the time when our leaders have decided to dream of expansion, development, prosperous socialism, investments, free trade zones and privatization.
In all public speeches and addresses, they repeat the same, magic words ad nauseam: “development and growth.” They’ve repeated them so much that they’ve given many people hope.
When a horrible epidemic breaks out, we will finally understand they have lied to us again and again, but by then it will be too late. We will pay for this moment of peaceful alienation before the storm with the lives of our loved ones.
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