Housing In Cuba / Somos+, German Gonzalez

Somos+, Germán M. González, 11 November 2018

Absolute power equals absolute responsibility: the socio-economic situation of the country is disastrous, party & government admits it: Who will answer for that?

In the final days of this October, several references to the subject of housing appeared in the official Cuban media. Published first is that Pinar del Rio lacks more than ten thousand homes in order to fully recover from “prior hurricanes,” we are talking at a minimum of at least 10 years, and later, in the public version of a meeting of the council of ministers the “president” announced the proposal of building homes at a rate of 50 thousand per year. Let’s look at some background.

The universal right to decent and adequate housing is reflected in international and multilateral documents and agreements, as well as in the legislation of many countries, including national constitutions. Recognized in this manner, the human right to adequate housing — and its environment – is of fundamental importance for the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights. Let’s look at the current situation in Cuba according to official sources.

The official newspaper Granma (January 25, 2018) reports that 47% of homes are inadequate, only exceeded in Latin America by Brazil (64%) and far higher than Argentina (22%) and Chile (23%). In addition, in the latter two countries, due to their climate, considering a home adequate implies many more requirements than in our sub-tropical archipelago. continue reading

The pace of construction has declined in the last twelve years, from more than 111,000 units in 2006 to fewer than 22,000 in 2017 (denying the claimed efficiency of the raulista term of office) according to the Cuban Statistical Yearbook (AEC), the smallest amount since statistics became available. Graphic view:

In its June 1st edition, Granma offers chilling data:

Housing pending solution: Grand Total/Total Collapses — Hurricanes prior to Sandy (2012): 42,000/25,000; Hurricane Sandy (2012): 36,000/14,000; Hurricane Matthew (2016): 8,000/7,000; Hurricane Irma (2017): 115,000/15,000.

In total, there are 201,000 homes affected; of those 61,000 were total collapses; 42,000 and 25,000, respectively, occurred before 2012.

In summary, if the pace expected by Díaz-Canel is reached, it would take four years to replace the homes affected by hurricanes and then ten years to repair the “not adequate” ones, plus an indeterminate period for impacts from new hurricanes and the currently adequate homes that, due to the passage of time and the poor quality of construction of the last 60 years, will inevitably deteriorate.

Add to this that the projected Diaz-Canelian pace is 2-1/2 times greater than what was achieved in the last five years as an annual average, plus the aforementioned unpredictable destructions and deteriorations, and the hopes of decent housing for most Cubans is more than remote.

A problem without a solution? For sure, under the current mandate of the “five” and their dogmas that are only effective for maintaining power.

The liberalization of the economy, the creation of a real estate market with modern credit system included, and above all the restitution to millions of Cuban diaspora members of their civil, political and economic rights with the consequent financial injection would surely give better results — in this and any other socioeconomic spheres — than the diffuse Díaz-Canelian dreams, which are nothing more than a badly copied version of the thousands of similar promises made by the Castro brothers… and look where we are after sixty years of listening to them.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

The ‘Chicken’ of ‘Rice with Chicken’ / Somos+

Somos+, Germain Gonzalez, 13 October, 2018 — There’s a certain surprise in digital media over the active participation of the Cuban population in the “debates” about the project of the constitution. The surprise is valid because in reality the “revolutionary” enthusiasm is minimal. The “electoral” processes as well as in the status reports from the delegates, the meetings of the organizations of the masses in the neighborhoods, workplaces and schools can be characterized by their formal structure. The population attends and completes this necessary process for the inspections carried out in their vicinity in order to get a job, scholarship, promotion, trip abroad, etc. The religious services of all creeds usually show greater attendance and happiness among the parishioners.

What’s certain is that Cubans, even with the extremely limited amount of information offered by the media, which is also scarce, biased, incomplete, and generally untruthful, feel anxious since something could improve or worsen. Like Pánfilo, the popular television character, who searched fruitlessly in the tabloid of project information for the quota of chicken or other rationed foods. continue reading

What’s certain is that the assemblies and their “debates,” just like the elections turn out “bread with nothing.” The uncomfortable explanations — of having something — stop right there, the media spreads only the favorable ones, and the chicken [i.e. not chicken but a substitute] of ’rice with chicken’ isn’t even mentioned: the “superior guiding power of society and the State” party, article five that takes away all validity from the rest of the monstrosity, if it had any.

Therefore the discussion of the rest of the article ends up an intellectual exercise. The referendum having taken place, and the final version of the thingamajig approved, in the first meeting of the political executive committee that presides over it throws out an idea, it’s approved — unanimously — the formal party processes are carried out (secretariat, full central committee), it’s presented to the National Assembly of Peoples Power (ordinary or extraordinary session according to the urgency), and this most docile parliament in universal history will approve the changes to the recently debuted constitution — unanimously — or simply as today they will do whatever is a good idea, taking notice of this.

Does anyone doubt it? Here goes an example:

On September 10, 1993, the political executive committee agrees on the creation of the Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC) from the state-owned agricultural entities affected by gigantism, inefficiency, not economically and environmentally sustainable in the new situation created by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the European socialist camp the loss of the subsidies they gave to Cuba.

Ten days later Decree 143 is issued by the Council of State; in the next session of the assembly the Decree is approved, without questions and unanimously.

Regardless of being a terrible law, full of contradictions and incongruencies, it made available assets of billions of pesos, including 1.7 million hectares of agricultural land, hundreds of thousands of workers, and many millions of pesos of production, starting from the unappealable decision of an organ of power whose members have no practical nor theoretical experience in agricultural administration. Result: the cooperatives created are not profitible for the most part and agricultural production in clear retreat.

This example is not an isolated fact, the deterioration of the socioeconomic situation of the country is related to the system that gives ones man, or at most a small team, absolute powers for life, fulfilling the José Martí’s premonition:

Any wide and long-exercised power degenerates into caste. With caste comes interests, high positions, the fear of losing them, intrigues to hold on to them. The castes interweave, and they act tough to each other. (O.C. t9, p 340)

For example, the cooperative is master of production but had to sell it to the Company that the State designated at fixed prices, so for this reason, is it or is it not the master? The necessary supplies are received in the same manner, the rules for their functioning are so bureaucratic that there is almost no difference from a state entity, in short, all of the principles of cooperativism are violated.

Among the elders is the defenestration of the sugar industry; the “battle of ideas” with the creation of a super ministry, in the practical fount of corruption and waste of resources; martial decisions of great magnitude even for a power with interference in the internal affairs of other states or in conflicts between sovereign nations, etc.

In the brief historical existence of “real socialism” similar catastrophic actions abound: the forced collectivization of Stalin, the great “leap forward” of Mao are examples of absurd decisions that caused millions of death by hunger.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

Which Jose Marti do Cuba’s Rulers Read? / Somos+


“I feel like they murder a child of mine each time they deprive a man of the right to think.” –José Martí

Somos+, Germán M. González, 29 January 2018 —  In Cuba, there is an urgent need to restore, rehabilitate, revive, reconstruct, rescue, all familiar terms in the party/government media. The sugar and coffee agro-industries, livestock breeding, the fishing and merchant marine sectors–all are barely surviving at less than 30% productivity. Also at risk are intangibles such as culture, the transmission of our history–in short, everything.

But for Cubans, both in and outside the Island, there is an urgent need to rescue José Martí, our Apostle, because his thought is proving today–in the shadow of our civic extinction and the battered state of our national pride–an indispensable guide. continue reading

They combine Martí with incompatible things, starting with his appeal that heads up the current Constitution: “I want the first law of our Republic to be the cultivation of Cubans towards the full dignity of Man”–negated when the supremacy of one small part of the society over this Republic, and the state, is proclaimed in Article 5–wherein additionally he is mixed up with characters (“…follower of Martí and Marxist-Leninist…”) who were antithetical to the ideology that can be noted throughout his entire body of work. The following maxims are representative examples:

A Constitution is a living, pragmatic law that cannot be constructed out of ideological elements. José Martí Complete Works, v. 9, p. 308.

On the “candidacy commissions” during “elections”:

 The Republic is lifted on the shoulders of universal suffrage... Op.Cit., v. 1, p. 91

On considering Marxism-Leninism to be an exclusive ideology:

To know diverse philosophies is the best way to free oneself from the tyranny of some of them… Op.Cit., v. 15, p. 91

On eternal socialism:

The right of the worker cannot ever be hatred of capital: it is harmony, conciliation, the coming together of one and the other. Op.Cit. v.6, p. 275.

On thousands of executions following extremely summary trials lacking procedural safeguards:

(…) capital punishment is unjust for it quenches in the body (…) the rage roused by the crime of the spirit. Op. Cit. v.21, p. 25.

On the plans for massive scholarships:

There is great danger in educating children away from home, for it is only from parents that the continuous tenderness flows which should water the youthful flower, and that constant mix of authority and affection–ineffective, owing to the very domination and arrogance of our nature, but that both proceed from the same person. Op. Cit. v.5, p. 260

On the medical missions and emigration that break down the family:

 (…) so necessary in the family home is the father, always dynamic, as well as the mother, always cautious. Op. Cit. v.4, p.275.

On intervening in the internal affairs of and conflicts between sovereign nations:

Nothing so imprudent there is as to perturb with their own rancors–given that there are unfortunates who hold them–the peace of a foreign people: (…) Op. Cit. v.4, p. 137.

On the abrupt eradication of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses and farms:

A nation is rich that includes many small proprietors. Op. Cit. v. 7, p. 134.

The finest citizen is he who cultivates a large tract of land. Op. Cit. v. 7, p. 164.

On heavy bureaucratization:

A country of paper pushers is headed on the wrong path. Op. Cit. v. 15, p. 391

On the absolutist State:

 (…) from being a slave of the capitalists, as is said today, would a man go to being a slave of the functionaries. Op. Cit. v.15, p 391.

On the absolute and lifelong power guaranteed by the current political system:

All power that is fully and prolongedly exerted degenerates into a caste. With the caste comes the vested interests, the high positions, the fear of losing them, the intrigues (…) Op. Cit. v. 9, p. 340.

On the militarization of the economy and society:

What in the military sphere is a virtue, in the government sphere is a fault. A country is not a battlefield. In war, to command is to bring down; in peace, it is to raise up. No known edifice exists that was built upon bayonets. Op. Cit. v. 13, p. 129-143.

On caudillismo [Spanish or Latin American-style autocratic government]:

 A Revolution is still necessary–that which does not make of its caudillo a President, that revolution against all revolutions: the raising up of all men of peace (…) so that neither they nor anyone else will ever see him again!  Op. Cit., v. 6, p. 360. 

Let us rescue Martí–the true one has been hijacked–and we need him.

Translated By: Alicia Barraqué Ellison