Every night when Bisaida Azahares Correa goes to bed and looks at the ceiling, she is afraid that when the sun comes up she will have leave the house where she lives with her two children. This dwelling in the Siboney neighborhood is her only chance of not ending up sleeping on the street, but its walls are also the source of her major headaches.
The phrase “forced extraction” makes this well-spoken and straight-talking woman shudder. The first time she read those two words together was six months after her husband, Dr. Nelson Cabrera Quesada, left on a medical mission to Saudi Arabia. Since then her life has been turned upside down.
Life in the converted garage revolves around the impending eviction. A situation that contrasts with the large mansions and opulent chalets – where life seems almost bucolic – that surround the modest home of the family.
Analysts estimate that the country has a deficit of 600,000 homes, but in the last decade housing construction has fallen by 20%
A few yards away, the presence of bodyguards betrays the place where Mariela Castro lives, the daughter of the Cuban president. Nearby is also the spacious home of Armando Hart, former Minister of Culture. All are Bisaida’s neighbors, but they are not aware of the drama that defines the life of this almost 50-year-old woman.
The Cuban authorities have recognized that the housing problem is the primary social need in Cuba. Analysts estimate that the country has a deficit of 600,000 homes, but in the last decade housing construction has fallen by 20%.
In the midst of this situation, the so-called “forced removals” of those who have occupied an abandoned state “shed,” a property closed for years due to the emigration of its owner, or who have erected a house on vacant land, are frequent. But Bisaida’s case is different.
An official notification recently ordered the family to leave the property because it is owned by the University of Medical Sciences. The woman vehemently questions that statement. She says that in 2005 she settled in the house with her husband and their children to care for the doctor’s grandmother.
After the death of the lady, the couple did everything possible to regularize the situation of the house that had been given to Cabrera Quesada’s grandfather in 1979 when he worked as an administrator in the department of International Relations at the university. After living there three years, the teacher won the right to have the property separated from the institution and turned over to her
Among the worst moments Bisaida remembers is the day they showed her husband a document that declares they are illegal occupants
The law recognizes that “at the end of a housing claim” after a tenant lives there for 15 years, “the municipal Housing Directorates issue a Resolution-Title of Property in favor of the persons with the right and who agree to pay the total in 180 monthly payments.” In this case, the family says they have settled the debt with the bank.
However, the twists and turns of the bureaucracy made the legal transfer into the hands of the family impossible. The grandfather ended up retiring and emigrating to the United States, although his wife remained as the principal resident of the house until her death. Since then the family has repeatedly tried to obtain the housing papers, but they have only received threats.
Among the worst moments Bisaida remembers is the day they showed her husband a document that declares they are illegal occupants. They were given fifteen days to leave the house. Although the doctor wrote letters of complaint “to all levels,” the answer to his claim can be summed up in two intimidating words: “no place.”
The woman, who is recovering from breast and uterine cancer, says her husband “has not had the support of any of the ministries involved in his case nor of the University.”
They fear that once outside the house the authorities take advantage to block the access or place an official seal on the door
“All I want is justice, my husband’s grandparents lived here for decades and we’ve been here twelve years,” complains Bisaida. She is not demanding a gift or violating the law for her own pleasure. She only wants the house to be passed on as personal property, as stipulated in Resolution No. V-002/2014 of the Minister of Construction, Regulation of Linked Homes and Basic Means.
Their situation forces them to live virtually locked up.
“We are afraid to leave,” the woman laments. They fear that once outside the house the authorities will take advantage to block access or place an official seal on the door.
“I did not enter this house through the window,” says Bisaida. She shows the address that appears on her identity card and that matches letter by letter with the location of the small garage.