Two Pieces of Cuban Red Tape and No Solutions (1)

Luis Rondon Paz

The main headquarters of the Aguas de La Habana water company.
The main headquarters of the Aguas de La Habana water company.

HAVANA TIMES — It’s been exactly a year now since I naively pinned my hopes on the Cuban bureaucratic system for the umpteenth time.

I’m sad to say it, but reality keeps giving me a slap in the face with the fact that companies, such as Etecsa (the state Telecommuncations monopoly) and Aguas De La Habana (Havana water dept.) which are institutions the Cuban socialist regime has created, should in theory/practice respond to the interests, demands and needs of the Cuban people.  But that’s not the case.

Many of you will ask, why am I either disappointed or surprised with these two companies?  Well, here I leave you two of my personal experiences. You can then draw your own conclusions.

For two years now, my part of the house has been undergoing modification works and other works to have its own independent sewage hook-up and drinking water supply. As our house is old, our water supply and sanitation are still connected to the main system. It was an urgent matter for me to separate these systems so my home would become independent and, consequently, gain a higher market value.

All of the work inside the house was almost done, I say almost done, because the only thing that needed to be done was to connect the independent water pipe to the water mains in the street.

In order to do that, I had to go the Aguas del Sur offices on the outskirts of my town and ask them for an installation order for my water connection.  That’s when things began to get complicated.

At the customer support office, they gave me 10 excuses for me not to do the red tape. One of the things they kept saying to me was that because of the low water pressure in the pipes, they were sure that even if they did the installation, I’d be in the same position as before. After voicing my arguments, they finally registered me in a book and gave me the order’s receipt.

I thought that this wouldn’t take more than 2 months, but I was wrong. For over 9 months, I was receiving water through tanker trucks and for a long time, my aunt and I had to fill up buckets and buckets of this precious liquid in order to fill up the tanks we had inside our house. As water was coming in through our neighbor’s supply connection, we had to wait for him to fill his water tank so that we could then receive water with enough pressure to be able to fill something other than the containers in my house.

I put these arguments forward to the president and government secretary of Popular Power in Boyeros, who had previously pressured the water company on several occasions to ensure the town’s water supply by tanker trucks. They already knew me as Luis the journalist, but knew nothing about the water connection and installation in my house.

A while afterwards, I found out that Aguas del Sur had been taken over by Aguas de La Habana in order to sort our the water situation.  A year had already gone by since I began this paperwork and I thought I’d have more luck with the new employees. That’s what I thought. However, when I got there, yes, two or three faces had changed, but there were even more bureaucratic procedures to fill out.

Their immediate solution was to continue sending me the tanker truck. According to the new Aguas de La Habana management in Santiago de Las Vegas, my case had to be consulted with the Physical Planning department so that they could first approve the installation of the new connection and then they could go on to revise the property of my house. If they then thought my house had the capacity, they would give the executive order to install the supply connection in my house.

A lot of people told me that there were people who for a 20 to 30 CUC payment would speed up the process. However, I refused to use this channel, as I believe that Aguas de La Habana has the obligation to serve me as a customer and citizen of this country, where I live and to which I contribute as a taxpayer.

I’m very disappointed in Aguas de La Habana, their incompetence and failure to manage their resources and services is very grave. Unfortunately, I had to resort to alternative channels, which are legal and just as efficient, to see if I’m better off having more luck.

The first piece of red tape was a total failure and I’ll tell you about the second piece, with Etecsa, in the second part of this article.

4 thoughts on “Two Pieces of Cuban Red Tape and No Solutions (1)

  • I don’t know Havana well, but in our town any pressure in the water system is dissipated by the leaks in the streets making it necessary to have a storage tank at street level and to use an electric pump to fill the secondary tanks on the roofs.

  • Lucky for you that they send those trucks. Many in Holguin wait for the rains and collect it from their rooftops!

  • Latin America has some of the worst red tape in the Western Hemisphere, but yes, Cuba seems to have developed its own special brand of bureaucratic hell. (Unless you’re willing to pay bribes, then almost anything is easily possible.)

    I too feel your pain.

  • One of a handful of things the modern world shares with the Castro dictatorship. The frustrations associated with dealing with civil servants and bureaucracy. Nothing can be worse than dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles in California. Even the offices are as close to third world environments as you are likely to find in government. I feel the Luis’ pain.

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