No Beating Around the Bush

Veronica Fernandez

Housing project apartments in Havana. Photo: Irina Echarry

Sometimes so many things disappoint me that I don’t feel like writing.  Then I get my rhythm back and return to writing for Havana Times, which comforts me spiritually.

A short while ago I got together with a friend who’s been working for a state-run housing-construction “micro-brigade” for 12 years, though he’s still far from acquiring an apartment legally through that route.

Like him, there exist many people across the country without a descent place to live; consequently, they’ve had to give up their jobs to take part in this program in which they work directly in construction.

While participating in these micro-brigades, they also repair or construct properties for doctors, the military and key state facilities (such as hospitals, polyclinics, hotels and parks).

Though the years drag by, the situation of the members of these work crews continues to be the same as the first day when they joined the micro-brigade – when they were brimming with hope and feeling like their objective was close at hand.

After 12 years of painstaking work, my friend told me that at this point he was emotionally broken, tired, with a worse family situation and now without hope.  There’s a saying that hope is the last thing you lose, but there are people like him who no longer have even an ounce of hope.

Our conversation took place on one of those gray but still hot and humid days that usually occur this time of year in Cuba.  I noted that his soul was the same way, reflecting no glimmer in his sad eyes and with drops of perspiration still all over his body, since he had just left from another of those long days he’s had to face as a construction worker, day after day.

He told me, “I’ve sent letters to all the authorities about the situation of me and my comrades, but they only tell us that there isn’t any land available for us to build our housing.”  Arguing his case to me, he added, “There’s always land to build housing for other people.  I’m sick of these lies. We’re not little kids they can trick.”

My friend explained that the director of his state-run micro-brigade in the East Havana “demands only production and more production to satisfy the higher-ups, his bosses.  He doesn’t care about the problems of his workers or how we’re getting more and more dissatisfied.”

At this point, I realized that this man was upset because no one had listened to him.  I went home thinking about what he had told me.  Once again I understood that lies don’t get people anywhere…that it’s necessary to speak to people with sincerity and that people have to look for ways to solve the problems of the workers so that their work days are productive, with positive outcomes and results.

You can’t beat around the bush.  I also noted the great quantity of land that it isn’t taken advantage of in this municipality.  East Havana is the most extensive area in the Cuban capital, so the excuses are not compelling – “when you want to you can.”

Why is it Ok for some and not for others?  Aren’t we all equal?  Why is this right deprived of those who have sacrificed and given everything, even those who have become recognized as “national vanguard workers” in their field?  It’s the famous “law of the funnel”: the wide part for some and the narrow part for others.

Housing is one of the most pressing problems that exist in Cuba and one in which the state has been immersed in trying to solve.  However, this involves more than the effort and political will of its leaders; it’s about everyone moving forward on the same track, including the mid-level managers who so often block the true results.  But we must also identify those who must be opposed.

Why don’t they take severe measures against the managers of these organizations that affect us as much or more than the United States blockade itself?

I often say that the blockade has been erected by us ourselves from the inside, and that we shield ourselves from the economic situation of the country by not solving what I’m sure we could solve with a greater degree of agile and objective administration.

Managers like these cannot continue to exist.  How long are we going to permit negligence, abuse and the pilfering of state resources?

Production demands of employees can only be effective when there’s mutual respect, when moral standards exist, but never with a boss who is discredited before the mass of workers.

Veronica Fernadez

Veronica Fernandez: I was born in the town of Regla, on the other side of Havana Bay. Over the years, many people from Regla have gone to live in Cojimar, fleeing the contamination from the petroleum refinery in Regla. That's what my family did when I was just four years old. Since I was a little girl I have been drawn to the arts and letters. Poetry and narrative writing are my favorites. I had the good fortune to study philology, a branch of the human sciences dealing with language and literature, at the University of Havana with top notch professors. As a Capricorn, I adore organization, people who are mature, the romantic things in life and the lack of self-interest that is the backbone of these times. I enjoy our typical Cuban food, (white rice, black beans, pork and yucca with garlic sauce) and also Italian food. I also like chocolate and drinking a mojito (rum cocktail) in the historic center of my city.

2 thoughts on “No Beating Around the Bush

  • I have always admired your tenacity in the written word and being able to articulate exactly the issue.

  • The bureaucracy (any bureaucracy, anywhere: capitalist or otherwise) continues with its corruption & obtuseness because, 4 1 thing, these people R not elected from among the same people they represent ‘from below’. True socialist democracy is based on the ability of workers 2 get immediate results from the people they place trust in — or those people *will* B summarily replaced by someone who will. Pronto. But besides that: every neighborhood should B in charge of most building projects which take place in its jurisdiction — & all projects should B prioritized, according 2 fair criteria & urgency. Therefore, building materials, 4 instance, should B equitably distributed by councils of councils, etc. & so even a huge backlog would B reasonably tackled within a reasonable period of time, neighborhood by neighborhood.

    As things stand now, those with the most ‘pull’ get what they want — & the Revolution falls further into danger by falling more & more into disrepute.

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