A Conversation with a Cuban Woman Evicted From Her Home

by Vicente Morin Aguado

From her window Odalis discusses the situation with the head of the Popular Power Council.

HAVANA TIMES — “When all is said and done, the State has the power and sets down the law. I can come here with Special Forces and put a stop to all this, even if people don’t agree. We can do that and not a thing happens.” (Mr. Fraga, Chair of the People’s Power Council of the municipality of Contramaestre).

Odalis Guerra Gomez, a 43-year-old nurse, lived in a home she had almost finished building through her own efforts, located on Calle 50, between Carretera Central and 1ra Cruce de los Martires, Contramaestre, Santiago de Cuba.

“It was June 23. The day before, people in the neighborhood were saying they would soon come to evict me. I’d shut myself up with my whole family. There’d just been one of those summer downpours that hammer down on the hills.”

So, that morning, the authorities showed up with the paperwork telling you they were going to confiscate the property?

“Nothing of the sort. When I woke up, the house had been surrounded by patrol cars, an ambulance, firefighters and officials from the Anti-Drugs Department (DNA). They even cordoned off the street.”

What were people saying?

The eviction truck.

“You can imagine. Everyone was out on the street. There was nothing they could do against so much law enforcement, but they were saying it was abusive and unjust. I’d been building my house for ten years, I hadn’t finished the floors, bathrooms and part of the kitchen.”

Who came to evict you, to persuade you to leave without the use of extreme force?

“Mr. Fraga, the Chair of the People’s Power Council. We know each other from the hospital, the only hospital in town. He spoke to me of relocating us, placing us somewhere else, some things having to do with the Ministry of the Interior in Santiago de Cuba, the District Attorney’s Office. According to them, it wasn’t negotiable and the best thing was to cooperate.”

So, were they confiscating your property or relocating you?

“There are videos. Fraga spoke to me of relocating us. He told me to continue appealing to the authorities, that they were willing to give me back my house.”

How do they justify such an extreme response?

“Juan Carlos, the father of my children, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for drug trafficking. They played dirty. They found a person and pushed him to go near my house, then they forced him to declare the marihuana in his backpack was for him (Juan Carlos).”

Example of the state of the roof and walls of the abandoned apartment they wanted to move Odalis and her family into.

It all happened like that, all of a sudden?

“They’d carried out two searches in my house and one in the house of Juan Carlos’ mother. They didn’t find any evidence. Not even the dogs smelled anything, but they managed to detect – heaven knows how – 0.0012 grams of marihuana. That’s what the documents say.”

I read “Resolution No. V_01/2015”, signed by Rene Mesa Villafaña, from the Ministry of Construction, on March 13, 2015. The document mentions the 0.0012 grams of marihuana. Let us assume Juan Carlos was really trafficking cannabis, what connection is there between the money earned selling “weed” and the house under construction?

“Juan Carlos served a prison sentence between 2006 and 2013. The paperwork for my house is dated November 2004. When he got out of prison, I supported him, letting him set up a shoe repair workshop. He started living in the house because of this. Not a year passed before they arrested him again. He only spent 2 of the past 11 years in this house. I have all the paperwork and testimonies attesting to how I built the house on my own.”

Despite that, Decree Law 232 is severe. We’re talking about drugs. Tell me about your eviction, or, as they call it, “relocation”.

“Fraga told me that I don’t have a property title for my house and that I’ll never have it. That they were moving me to a three bedroom apartment.”

Did you agree to this?

“I’d doused the house with alcohol and kerosene, but I had to think about this carefully. I have an 8-month-old grandson, a 10-year-old son and a stepfather who’s 77 and diabetic. Incidentally, my stepfather is a member of the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution (ACRC). He fought for the revolution. My daughter and I are nurses and, to top things off, we were still grieving my mother’s death the month before. So I went with my sister-in-law and the Vice-Chair of the People’s Power Council to see the apartment.”

The photos speak for themselves. Odalis doesn’t yet live there, and I don’t think any family could live in a place like that.

“It’s a pigsty. They gave me the keys. I said to the Vice-Chair: I’m not willing to have my kids get sick over someone’s whim.”

Did they officially confiscate your house? Did you sign any papers?

The deplorable state of the apartment’s kitchen.

“No, it was all word of mouth. We taped the whole thing. I took the building materials, cement, floor tiles and other things from my house to the apartment, all with the help of my relatives and friends. To date, August 26, no one’s bothered to fill any paperwork. Maybe they’re waiting for me to cool off.”

What are your thoughts at the end of this whole tragedy?

“I continue to appeal. There’s no reason to evict us, even though they want to present it as a drug trafficking case. On the night of June 25 – not two days after I was evicted – there was already a family living in my house.”

Angel Salgado, the 77-year-old stepfather, a veteran of Cuba’s revolutionary struggles, says:

“They brought over Manuel and his family. They call him “Candy.” He bends the elbow quite a bit, and I don’t mean to drink the water from the Contramaestre river, where they lived in an abandoned hovel. Other neighbors say his wife is named Belkis. Then came a young woman named Marisbel and her two kids from Camaguey. Two kids joined them in recent days.”

Confiscation? It doesn’t look that way. Relocation? That was the word used by the highest municipal authority, but forcing people to relocate to an abandoned apartment in critical condition leaves a lot to be desired.

The unfinished house on Calle 50 is an unfinished story.

Vicente Morin Aguado: [email protected]

48 thoughts on “A Conversation with a Cuban Woman Evicted From Her Home

  • Well Informed Consent, a working week has passed and Tom has been unable to respond.
    The supporters of the Castro family regime and the Communist Pary of Cuba are unaccustomed to being challenged by those with knowledge of reality of life in Cuba for the average Cuban and Tom is typical.

  • Five days and still counting. I think Informed Consent that Tom is lost for words, he doesn’t have answers. When faced with reality, socialists duck!

  • Four days and counting – you and I informed Consent should have a metaphoric celebratory drink! Mavbe this Tom is the one who “stole a pig and away he ran.”

  • Three days have passed and no reply from Tom – maybe he needs a glass or two of Havana Club to loosen his tongue (or to get his pen in an erect position for recording his response).

  • Two days have passed and no reply from Tom! He must be shy!

  • Bohemia was banned by Batista and was only published in Cuba after the revolution had triumphed. You know that as I have corrected you before. I don’t know why you feel the need to repeat such blatant propaganda.

  • I forecast now Informed Consent that he won’t answer the two questions where I quoted Fidel Castro. People forget that the revolution was not declared to be communist until afterwards and that people like Huber Matos were fighting in the believe that the objective was liberty for the people of Cuba, not a replacement dictatorship.
    What about those who disagreed with Castro. Matos served 20 years in jail – the same one where Batista incarcerated the Castros before giving them an amnesty (no such luck for Matos).
    “Besides, the number of henchmen we are going to execute will not be more than 400.”
    Fidel Castro Ruz: 21 January, 1959.

  • Great comment. I look forward to his reply.

  • So Tom, you are a foreign investor living in Cuba? You then have benefits denied the average Cuban, quick and easy access to this site is one of them. Are you paying the Cuban government for your employees? ….you do know what they get in return, right?

    As far as the Castro’s are concerned, they could give lessons to Batista on repressive control. Life under Batista (“el tiburon”) thug that he was , was not as tightly controlled as under the Castros. Publications, like the famous Bohemia magazine were able to publish interviews with the rebles and publish their manifestos. The Universidad de La Habana was, at the time, considered inviolate. Era un “hormiguero” of anti-Batista sentiment, with student groups like el FEU actively working against him. And Batista did not dare intervene there. It anti Batista groups included

    And if you, as you say, live in Cuba, you’d be more carful About comparing Cuba to a brothel in the 50’s ….look at it now! Walk the streets, go to a club, it looks like everyone is for sale!!

    I love foreigners like you talking about Cuba when you have only the most superficial understanding of its history and people

  • Firstly Tom, as one living in Cuba, I welcome your comments as unlike Mr. John Goodrich, you have knowledge of reality.
    But Tom, Batista is dead and long gone. Cuba’s problem is that one dictator replaced another and dictatorship of the right or of the left is evil denying the people that they hold power over and control, the right to determine their own future.
    You are correct in indicating the evils of the Batista regime. Nobody is arguing about or debating that.
    But what of a dictatorship that denies freedom of the media, denies respect for individual human rights and of thought, of democracy and of liberty to elect their own governments> That is the record of the Castro family regime.
    Somehow although in Cuba, you have access to the Internet and I wonder how. Until he recently ceased contributing in a huff, there was a fellow named Gomezz who claimed that his amigos in Havana all had the Internet, but he was somewhat obviously an amigo of the regime and of the opinion that Cubans shouldn’t comment upon shortages of toilet paper as their culture doesn’t require it. How does one obtain Internet in Cuba? We can’t get a landline telephone despite the RAFIN SA investment in ETECSA.
    Politicians don’t like criticism and the Castro’s are no exception. You are incorrect in saying that I have “hatred’ for the Castros. I do however detest dictatorship and the Castro family regime is a dictatorship bolstered by the Communist Party of Cuba.
    Let me quote Fidel Castro Ruz speaking on the 16th March, 1959:
    “There can be no danger, if we do what Cubans want, if we provide social justice and solve the social problems of all Cubans in a climate of liberty, of respect for individual rights, of freedom of the press and thought, of democracy, of liberty to elect their own government.”
    Do you agree with what Fidel Castro said then, or with what he did subsequently. It is not possible to agree with both!
    On the 14th December, 1959 at the trial which Fidel Castro personally conducted of Huber Matos, he said:
    “They have no right to accuse the revolution of being communist.”
    Was he correct or cynical?
    I don’t think that the Castros are responsible for my being in Cuba. I give the credit to my wife.
    So Tom, I think I have given sufficient basis for the reasons that I detest the dictatorships which have so impeded the opportunities of the good people of Cuba. I think that they merit the liberty which Fidel Castro spoke of all those long weary years ago!

  • I don’t live in the States, and I am proudly not American I live in Cuba and have a business here. I detest your hatred of the Castros. If it were not for them you would not be here, Cuba would be a morally corrupt brothel – look at Batista my friend then make comments about the Castros.

  • What is the social net in Cuba worth… 33cents per day? If your lucky you may end up in a Potomac Villahe of a foreign built and run retirement home

  • The millions who have come, and thousands who have died in the Florida streights trying to reach our hamster wheel would beg to defer.

  • Cuba protects “human life” the same way a US federal prison protects human life. I’d rather be free to be able to engage in conversation with you on this site, which the average Cuban is unable to do. So speaking of brains engaging…..

  • I am not going to comment on the usual stuff, but stick to observing that the pictures of the apartment being “offered” are truly awful beyond belief.

    That is not a place to live in, it is just horrible.

  • Where do these “many Cubans” who you know and claim to have returned to Cuba from the USA actually live?

  • You are obviously fixated on the USA which you apparently dislike and even detest. But this is the Havana Times – which I ask you to note, is about Cuba. So raise your head up for a moment from the scrap heap where they turfed you and address your concerns where they belong – The New York Times?

  • My concern is about Cuba. This is the Havana Times. As you regard yourself as a hamster I can only commiserate!

  • Why would I read more about Cuba when I live in its reality? My home is in Cuba, my wife is Cuban, I am related to 67 Cubans – and you from the depths of the US think you know more about Cuba than I do? When were you last stopped by the State Police when walking with your wife? When did you last have to talk to the CDR?
    Do you really think that every Tom, Dick or Harry can pontificate from far away about the reality of Cuba? How long have you spent in Cuba? Come on, put your facts on the line!

  • You obviously have deep experience of the USA. Your concerns for Americans living under bridges has resulted in what action by you?

  • You Americans always have to drag in the USA. These are the pages of the Havana Times and are about Cuba. As you obviously have the conceit to think of yourself being mentally superior I will leave you to wallow in the murky waters of self-admiration – watch your fingers and stop them wandering about under water!

  • The US is not Cuba. My concern is about Cuba. What do you think about the plight of Odalis?
    When Castro passes on (I hope you mean both of them), the socialists will wax poetic and the believers in freedom for humanity will give a sigh of relief!

  • Who mentioned anything about gun laws, what about the countless murders in the States at the hands of knives, drugs, other weapons…..really do you expect anyone to buy your argument. One thing is true, when Castro passes on he will have had more international honors bestowed upon him by world leaders and respect from the the global community…and will be more fondly remembered than anyone than any US leader….hang on George Bush may qualify – what do you think?

  • Of course the logic is difficult for you to follow MacDuff…it seems you are not the brightest knife in the drawer…I was making the point you seem so intent on berating the Cuban regime when in fact it protects the most vital thing of all human life. I don’t see that sort of protection in the States when you can get shot on air….. have a deep breath, pop a pill, do whatever but process that thought for a second and let your brain engage before your fingers…

  • I know many Cubans of late who have been to the States and were glad to be back….keep enjoying the pointless run….

  • I don’t see anyone living under bridges Carlyle, I see thousands in the States in that predicament…where is the decency now… bad house is better than no house. Seems you live a very privileged arm chair critic life…experience the real work before opening your mouth and contributing to global warming with nonsensical rubbish….

  • MacDuff, oppression is your view of the situation, many Cubans don’t see the world through your dark glasses. Suggest you do a little more reading on the topic and get with the times with narrative that cuts through, presently its lie being flogged with warm lettuce!

  • What is it worth in the USA when you are turfed onto the scrap heap and there is no social net? What is a human life worth in the States when you can’t afford health care. Time our little MacDuff pulled theiir head out of the sand….his/her contributions are all feathers and no meat!

  • To the Castro family regime, a human life is worth 33 cents per day! That is the average per capita!

  • Dani, you are correct in saying that the majority of properties are privately owned. You ought to have added “now” because what you omit saying is that that has only been the case for three years.
    As I have observed previously, Raul Castro Ruz is full of street smarts. By changing the law so that occupiers of property now owned them and could by and sell, he shifted responsibility for those deteriorating homes from the State to the individual.
    I was careful not to comment about the allegations regarding drugs or planning permissions. My observations were about the living conditions which the regime thought were suitable. The pictures show those conditions – similar to those which I see in our own city in Cuba.
    You may recall that I have previously suggested in these pages, that a suitable measure to take for foreigners wishing to help in Cuba is to finance housing for a Cuban family – as I have done! It is impossible for an individual to assist the whole of Cuba but it is possible to assist the individual family.
    We can express our different views, but my concern is consistently for the people of Cuba and a wish to see them enjoy the same freedoms that are our privilege. You and I are free to publicly express our differences as we are doing here! No such privilege is allowed for Cubans in Cuba under the repressive regime.
    The Castro family regime and the Communist Party of Cuba are not concerned about setting up a fund of the type you propose. Doing so would be to admit their own inadequacy.

  • So Brad, you consider that a US citizen shooting two fellow US citizens is reason to forgive the Castro family regime in Cuba for their oppression of the Cuban people. To me that is a difficult form of logic to pursue.
    When did you last see a Cuban news reporter out on the streets interviewing and Cubans being allowed to publicly air their views?
    The lunatic gun laws of the US have got nothing whatsoever to do with the people of Cuba. I do not fancy living in ‘the land of the free’, that is your choice!
    In short Brad, your contribution is irrelevant to the subject, which you may note is the pitiful housing offered by the regime in Cuba to Odalis. Obviously, you know no pity for the plight of Cubans trying to exist under the ruthless regime in Cuba. Dragging in a ‘dead cat’ subject illustrates a lack of comprehension or concern.

  • Wow…that really address the issue at hand, huh Tom? At least the hamster wheel 90 miles north of Havana works. That’s why Cubans are, literally, dying to come over and hop on out wheel.

  • You better look it up dani, as It really wasn’t much. For the most part we sold them some grain and they sold us some non ferrous metals.

  • If you want me to comment I will. I agree with you that it is difficult to ascertain the truth of this actual case. And I agree that the conditions a lot of the properties are disgraceful. However as the vast majority of properties are privately owned the government isn’t directly responsible, though it is down to the general state of the economy and the low wages (which the government is partly to blame as I’m sure you are itching to remind me). My suggestion would be for the government nationally or locally to set up a fund to provide micro-loans, grants and expertise, which Cuban-Americans could also contribute. They should take a look at what exists in Marinaleda in Spain.

  • The only plight being experienced is that of the hamsters running on the endless tread-wheel wheel 90 miles north of Cuba….its a shame they don’t know it having been caught up in the whole dog eat dog system where a human life is not worth a pinch of #$%^

  • I see Carlyle MacDuff is back at his or her best – this is related to a different topic not American homelessness but news reporters recently being shot on live TV – something that does not happen in Cuba but the States. Apparently according to Carlyle Cuba is so bereft of any decency – where is the decency now? Still fancy living in the land of the free?

  • Just an observation regarding my comment about the regime supporters. So far, there has been no criticism of the living conditions offered to Odalis by the PCC.
    Mr. John Goodrich has as usual blamed the US ignoring the responsibility of the Castro family regime, but to his credit has abandoned the usual stuff about STATE CAPITALISM, Dani carefully avoided the subject – Terry Downey is avoiding criticism – maybe he has a conscience and rather than commenting prefers silence.
    Gomezz has retired to enjoy times with his colleagues living in the better parts of Havana and where he can continue to dream of having a house in Cuba with a car, a servant and internet – surprising material considerations for one purporting to be a socialist. He no longer will provide his vapid reasons for expressing his opinions as if a Cuban resident in Cuba, but actually living more than half his life in the comforts of capitalist Canada.
    Similarly we are no longer receiving the views of Dan the misogynist American Immigration lawyer.
    To such people, Cubans and their plight have been a temporary diversification, not a concern.

  • Check out what our trade was with the Soviet Block

  • Hahaha! You gotta’ stop making up numbers John. You are so busted!

  • I could say from the same sort of thinking that has the “Black Book Of Communism” placing the blame for every death in China during the Mao years to his “communist” ( in reality state capitalist) policies.
    But I won’t.
    If you don’t know where that figure came from, you SHOULD given your obviously unfounded claim to be Cuba knowledgeable.

  • The business of the USA is business. They trade with EVERY country regardless of whether it is fascist right or state capitalist .
    U.S. proximity and wealth make it a natural trading partner for Cuba and vice versa.

  • That’s rubbish. The US had trade with the Soviet Union and the soviet block throughout – from Lenin through to Gorbachev.

  • And what your ilk fail to realize is that Cuba, as a member of the Soviet trade block (read barter system) would never have been part of our economy anyways! …at most we would have just sold them more food.

  • Where did you get the $1 trillion figure?

  • Lacking an independent media to report these kinds of incidents, Castro sycophants drone on believing that it doesn’t happen in Cuba. By word of mouth, Cubans who live in Cuba know otherwise. I share Carlyle McDuff’s interest in waiting to read how the dictatorship’s supporters who comment here at HT will justify the regime’s actions.

  • People are poorer in Cuba than they would be if the U.S. embargo had not cost the Cuban society one trillion dollars over that 54 years.
    Just popping in a little reality that Cuba’s opponents never fail to not mention when discussing economic conditions in Cuba (as Carlyle above)

  • Left-wing parties in Spain and Greece made ending evictions a main plank of their prograamme. The Cuban government says it supports these movements. Draw your own conclusions.

  • Whereas it is impossible to know the truth related to the drugs or to know whether Odalis had made the necessary applications to construct her house, it is possible to look at the photographs of the apartment that the Peoples Power Council wished her to “relocate” to.
    Those photographs show the reality of living conditions that are all too common in Cuba. They demonstrate the type of conditions that are acceptable to the PPC.
    Now there is opportunity for the defenders of the Castro family regime and the Communist Party of Cuba to come forward and justify these conditions. Oh I know that Mr. John Goodrich, Terry Downey, Dani et al will respod by saying that in the US there are homeless people as if to justify the conditions shown in the photographs, but that only serves to demonstrate a lack of concern for Odalis and for Cubans – and these are the pages of the Havana Times, not the New York Times..

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