By Fabian Flores (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — For the Cuban medical doctors who traveled to Venezuela in the hopes of obtaining a home upon their return from their internationalist mission, dreams have turned into nightmares – nightmares in Las Tunas, to be more geographically precise.
A group of 36 medical doctors from the municipality of Puerto Padre, Las Tunas, have approached Cuba’s official press to publicly condemn the disastrous condition of the apartments they were given upon their return from Venezuela, a situation that has only worsened over time without any response from local government authorities
The reaction of these physicians from Las Tunas was published by the newspaper Trabajadores under the title of Institucionalizar el caos? (“Are We Institutionalizing Chaos?”), after the doctors received a letter from the Provincial Housing Office in Las Tunas demanding mortgage payments.
“We have been complaining about the poor constructive quality of most apartments through the national and local media for more than five years,” Dr. Maricela Grass Santiesteban states in the letter sent to the newspaper on behalf of her colleagues.
According to Dr. Grass’ complaints, the tenants have to deal with leaky ceilings, unfinished water tanks, deteriorated walls, inadequate water facilities and a lack of urban infrastructure in the area.
The tenants had already written Trabajadores on October 3, 2011, explaining the structural problems of the apartments they’d been given.
In his article, journalist Jorge Perez Cruz acknowledges that these medical doctors are justified in their anger and in demanding answers to their questions.
“Where are the resources allocated to finishing our apartments? Why have they been letting the assigned budget expire every year? Why are they making us pay for our homes in a single year, in two installments, on threat that, if we fail to do so, we will be forced to lease the apartments, when all others have more than 15 years to do so?” the letter asks.
The problem surfaced after the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry for Construction and Cuba’s Central Bank issued a series of resolutions aimed at granting title of these homes to health professionals who had worked in Venezuela, and guaranteeing the payment of these homes in cash or through bank transfers.
The resolutions were published on November 12 last year in a special issue of Cuba’s Official Gazette.
According to the banking provisions, the owners may pay for the homes assigned to them through deductions from wages or other incomes, on the basis of the exchange rate in effect in the country. The document specifies that “should tenants fail to comply with the agreed payments, the bank shall notify the pertinent Provincial Public Health Office so that appropriate measures may be applied.”
The measure has given rise to concerns not only in Las Tunas but among all medical doctors who have been assigned homes because of their work abroad. These are complaining about the high price of the properties, which are poor in terms of their finishing, expansion or remodeling.
Shoddy Construction Work and Crime
The government program conceived of these homes as an incentive for medical doctors sent to Venezuela, who were offered adjusted prices that were to be covered using the money earned abroad.
More and more criticisms have been voiced, however, in response to the poor quality of the construction work.
“Needless to say, enforcing that decision is a crude way of accepting poor practices, shoddy work and who knows how many arbitrary practices that border on the criminal. Five years has been more than enough time, not only to respond to our complaints, but to find solutions to our problems as well,” the article in Trabajadores concluded.
The government, however, is intent on collecting unpaid installments among the population.
Last week, the Council of Ministers stated it would adopt measures to strengthen controls aimed at curbing misdemeanors, including false income statements for household sales and rental services, and that it would apply a more restrictive policy on the transfer of ownership over housing assigned by the State or basic dwellings built using State subsidies.