Jimmy Roque Martínez
HAVANA TIMES — The scandalous clearing of trees in Havana’s Central Park, which is right in front of the new and luxurious Manzana de Gomez Hotel, has been reported on several alternative media platforms.
As a member of the El Guardabosques (Forest Rangers) environmental group, I arrived at the site to check whether these trees had in actual fact been cut down. Plus I was able to verify that these trees didn’t affect the pavement or an electricity or telephone cables.
So, I began my investigation to find out who had been responsible for cutting these trees down, and what their reasons were.
At the Communal Services company in the Old Havana neighborhood, an office which is responsible for looking after and maintaining parks, they clarified that “Communal Services is united in every municipality, apart from Plaza and Old Havana, where Communal Services and Aurora operate. Aurora does the job and Communal Services pay for the service.”
So I went to Aurora’s offices, at 363 Aguiar Street, because as you can see, Community Services didn’t know anything about the subject. However, at Aurora, they told me that they had nothing to do with it, that it must have been Puerto Carena.
But, I decided to leave the circuit of uninformed municipal offices to get answers from superior bodies, which might be better informed. Therefore, I went to the Ministry of Agriculture a couple of days later to see what I could find out from Cuban Forest Service officials.
They didn’t have any answers at the Ministry either and they told me to dig around at the Provincial Cuban Forest Service office, at the Provincial Office of Agriculture, located in the Boyeros municipality.
The Director there explained to me that “they give the permission. But, whoever did the job must have been from Green Areas, who are the ones who work in this area.” Nevertheless, the official promised me he’d probe around with the person responsible to “see if any authorization was given”, referring to the Cuban Forest Guide, and he took down our contact details so he could give us an answer.
We are still waiting.
On April 27th (nine days after our first visit), we activists went back to Central Park and we saw that another tree had been cut down and another one had been severely pruned, neither of which were causing damage to the pavement or an electricity or telephone cable.
There were some laborers taking out ornamental plants that day in the park. We approached them to ask about the trees that had been cut down and they told us:
“The things is you’re talking to floor and marble polishers, we’ve been relocated because we didn’t have any work, they sent us here to take these out. About the trees… we have no idea, I think it’s because they’re going to replant some when the hotel is inaugurated or to get rid the mosquito breeding ground in front of the hotel because this is full of mosquitos inside.”
We went to the City Halls of Old Havana, Revolution Square and Boyeros and we still don’t know who the woodcutters were who cut, and continue to cut down trees in Central Park.
Everywhere we went to ask questions, we were always asked where we came from. Government officials, businessmen and bureaucrats in Cuba aren’t used to citizens questioning their decisions.
We suspect that the cutting down of these trees is indeed linked to the inauguration of the luxurious hotel which was renovated by workers brought in from India and with French money. During our last visit to this hotel, the entrances to the hotel’s corridors were being monitored by policemen in uniform and plain clothes.
As we can see here, capitalist interests are better protected in “anti-imperialist and communist” Cuba, they can even despoil the surroundings however they wish, as the Cuban authorities will always be there to repress the people if necessary, in order to protect national and foreign business interests on the island.