One more example of State capitalism, which uses empty slogans of revolution, equality and justice to spread its indoctrination methods to every corner on the island.
By Hans Carrillo Guach* (Cubaencuentro)
HAVANA TIMES — Reports of human rights violations in Cuba have been repeated in different academic and news spaces. And people’s rights to a home and related matters also appear in these complaints.
Having the right to a suitable living quarters is crucial for people to be able to enjoy all of their economic, social and cultural rights. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognizes the importance of this in Article 11, where it stipulates: “the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.”
This right also appears in Articles 17 and 25 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of their property.” “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of themselves and of their family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care.”
Although Cuba’s housing problem has been one of the alleged “revolutionary” Government’s failed promises, which dates back to the Moncada Program (of the 1950s), the situation today is still far from satisfactory for the population. Without mentioning the country’s housing deficit and poor state of housing, we can also discern a poor legal framework to ensure citizens’ rights over their property. Varadero is an example of this. In 2010, the government decided that it would no longer be an independent municipality and would become another town in the municipality of Cardenas.
Varadero is considered a special area, of great importance in the tourism sector, because of its contributions to the country’s centralized economy, which come from tourism and the opportunities it presents for foreign investment. As a result, Varadero has special housing regulations which are counter-productive not only for the abovementioned human rights, but also with some of the system’s own ideological principles which it supposedly defends and brags about in a hypocritical fashion.
Some of these regulations prohibit Varadero residents (owners of their properties) from selling and/or expanding their properties and also from dividing up their properties. This policy has led to the common existence of homes which have up to three generations living in them, with all of their contradictions and/or conflicts, and legal independence isn’t an option for them to resolve these (nor expansion, not even on the same plot of land). Cuban Law and the State impose themselves not to make rights and justice viable, but to stand as an obstacle in the way of their respective attainment.
However, the effect of these laws, which prove the authoritarian nature of Cuban politics, extend to other aspects of domestic life. Even a household’s finances, in this case.
A property where more than three generations live cramped together (which is common in this area), will have more electricity expenses since the per kilowatt rate goes way up with extra consumption. As a result, there have been many families who have had to pay up to 3,000 Cuban pesos or more, when the average monthly salary is only 740 Cuban pesos.
According to the loca Electricity Company, every property in Varadero can only have one electricity meter per registered legal residence. This means that it’s easier for families in Varadero to go over their kilowatt limit, which are paid at a reasonable price (300), in keeping with the country’s low wages. As consumption increases, costs per kilowatt also gradually increase.
This situation translates as an unfair increase in a family’s electricity bill, which could and should be avoided, for the sake of promoting justice and equality. Different age groups can live together in the same property and not use the same amount of electricity and, yet, many people are forced to pay more than what they consume because they don’t have any way to measure every group’s individual consumption within the property.
It would be fair for every group living in a certain space that results from a physical division of the property to have their own electricity meter, so that they can each pay for what they are really consuming. Thus, they won’t be forced to go over the kilowatt limit and therefore won’t have to pay the excessive price which this entails. The is the result of a poorly intentioned electricity policy in a country where the population was forced to increase the number of electrical appliances (and discard gas stoves) and where electricity prices were later hiked up using saving energy as an excuse. This is a vile manipulation strategy, through and through.
In the face of this situation, we need to ask ourselves: How can these citizens protect themselves from arbitrary laws which attack their rights over their homes? How can they protect themselves from absurd decisions and laws which attack their quality of life not only in a financial sense, but also socially and subjectively-speaking? Where can they take refuge up against a State which is attacking the implementation of equality and justice, instead of guaranteeing it?
These are some of the problems that people living in Varadero are complaining about today, however, they have also spread and can further spread to other places in Cuba, depending on the State’s situation and interests. In fact, other special areas have their own regulations which prevent citizens from exercising their rights and freedoms (moving within the area, for example).
None of the abovementioned problems are an example of socialism, except what is used as a tool to control and discipline the masses. It’s another example of State capitalism more than anything else, which uses empty slogans of revolution, equality and justice to spread its indoctrination methods to every corner on the island, making this example (and others) another dark side of Cuban socialism.
(*) Hans Carrillo Guach Sociologist and professor at the Federal University of Goias, Brazil.