Gingerbread Houses III: The Battle

By Regina Cano

So as not to let the matter cool, I will continue telling the story of the Low Cost Housing Program, and without a lot of preamble.

I’ll pick up on the issue at the end of the 2005; a problem which I swear was and continues to be exhausting.

As the affected residents, we agreed to follow up on our complaints through three neighborhood committees that would attend to each phase of the complaint process, leaving an appeal to the Central Committee of the Communist Party as our ultimate step.

The first thing was to re-travel the steps already taken: we went to the construction company, the government and the communist party structure of the municipality to which we belong. We possessed solid proof that these entities knew our houses were poorly built and that they had the materials on hand to make the needed repairs.

With ten years having elapsed since the homes were constructed, the company said this was not its problem and insisted they could not solve it.  They asked us what we thought we would accomplish through this, after so much time having passed, and said they seriously doubted that we would prevail.

We choose then to begin a long but certain road.  We requested our city government conduct a technical study in which we would provide evidence of the magnitude of the real damage.

At that point another headache began.  Bureaucratic inertia had created a condition in which citizens were routinely disrespected; institutions still do not care about wasting your time and dont give guarantees to residents – they do what they want, when they want.

Consequently, they spent a year addressing our pressing concerns.

After that first year, the neighborhood committees hardly remained, and I walked practically alone.  The government’s inaction had confirmed to people that this protest didn’t make sense.

Peoples’ discouragement transformed their impotence into scoffing, blithe laughter, as they mocked me saying, “You keep insisting, young lady, but they aren’t going to give us anything!” without believing in the rights they had.

I gathered together all the papers and a file, which were presented at the provincial level: to the Micro-brigade Movement, the Provincial Assembly and the Havana City Communist Party (PCC).

We received a response from the municipality: they sent us three engineers to carry out the construction assessment, yet only after another year had gone by!

Trying Not to Become Jaded

During that time I became entangled in my own life and was a bit discouraged as well – because although you don’t want to, you begin to get jaded.

One fine day I presented myself to the provincial government and “eureka!” – after months having passed, the response that apparently no one was willing to give us finally came: The Municipal Council authorized and directed the Provincial Housing Investment Department to have the group of technicians determine the type and quantity of material that we needed.

They took heavy-handed positions when determining these resources, although many of my neighbors were satisfied with what were only the most serious and difficult aspects to solve.  It’s hard to admit, but we’re not accustomed to asking for everything that should be ours.

They took such a long time to prepare the list that there was time for me to undergo a surgery (I was outside the neighborhood for three and a half months).  In fact, it took a total of eight months, and in the end the documents were full of errors. I had to oversee the corrections, but when they provided them again, the officials threatened a reduction in the scope of work since the delivery of materials had already been authorized.

As I said in my previous article, this complaint process can be a pain in the coccyx.

At this point, several of my neighbors were interested in continuing with the steps to what now seemed effective.  One of them began going with me to serve as a witness – and to suffer the consequences – as a representative of the majority.

The threat of a partial failure without real definition began to freeze our blood, because when everything appeared that we had won, and after our having accepted the first reduction due to omissions made by the technicians, it seemed to us an extreme injustice that another 50 percent reduction in materials was ordered.

Who says the bureaucracy hasn’t wormed their way into comfortable positions?

One thought on “Gingerbread Houses III: The Battle

  • 2 issues:
    1: Scarcity of materials, period.
    2: The lack of soc. democracy in the process.

    The 1st thing involving your type of situation however, is: what could a neighborhood council give you, on-the-spot, on time — if there is nothing to give? Here is where the inertia really begins. So in that respect the only solution is to overcome material scarcity: no amount of good will can overcome the scarcity of bricks. Period. But then again: how much is the material scarcity of commodities hampered by the very inertia which their lack has caused? The demonstrated lack of dem. oversight of the bureaucracy certainly leads to the scarcity of goods in any one particular neighborhood. However, people afraid of losing their jobs if they don’t ‘jump to it’, or show disrespect or arrogance or fiat would be mightily moved to see to it that things get done. On time.

    & don’t think we don’t have these problems in the West: there’s just more material available to the highest bidder.

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