Jorge Milanés Despaigne
HAVANA TIMES — After two years of requesting a State subsidy to finish some construction work at home – work I’d been unable to complete for financial reasons – the municipal government in Habana del Este finally approved the aid, for a value of 48,394 Cuban pesos (or US $ 2,419).
This is “prioritized financial aid” assigned by the Cuban State to low-income people, aimed at helping these repair homes that are in poor condition. It includes the assigning of building materials, transportation and construction workers.
On receiving official approval, I headed to the bank, as is established and, the next day, went to the place where construction materials are sold, known in Cuba as rastros. I found out the prices, forms of transportation and how the process works. The receptionist, a woman named Niurka, detailed the procedure to follow to buy the materials, but I decided not to buy or put anything on reserve that day. I waited for the steel rods to arrive first, and was able to buy these without any problems.
The next day, I got a call at work from my neighbor, who informed me concrete blocks had just arrived at the rastro. I got there in 20 minutes but, despite having literally run to the place, it was too late: all blocks were already spoken for, or so Belkis, the woman in charge of the warehouse, told me. At the entrance, I asked some people waiting for other materials (who had also received subsidies) some questions.
On my way home, I saw some men selling concrete blocks out of a trailer. I asked them whether they had been to the rastro and they said they hadn’t, that they could take the blocks to my home at 10 Cuban pesos the unit, if I was interested. I said no, because I have to buy these at the rastro at the subsidized price, which is cheaper.
The next day, I was the first to arrive at the rastro and wait for the concrete blocks to arrive. While I waited, I asked the people there (including the “tricycle taxis”) some questions. “If you don’t keep a constant eye on the blocks, you’ll never get your hands on them, because they haven’t come in for a while and, when they do, they’re already spoken for,” were some of the comments I got.
With thin information, I took a break from work for a few days, to give the matter my full attention (lest the roof of my house collapse on top of me).
I was at the entrance to the place, located in Cojimar, at seven in the morning, waiting for the truck to arrive.
At 11 in the morning, I went to the market located four blocks away for a few minutes. When I got back, the blessed truck loaded with concrete blocks had already arrived. When I went into the office, Belkis, the warehouse lady, told me that, since I wasn’t there when the truck arrived, they had sold all of the blocks to a woman who was already there. She pointed at her with an almost threatening look so I would approve of her misdeed, as subsidized cases are a priority.
To be continued…