Cubans in Manzanillo Try to Collect the Garbage Themselves Due to the Apathy of the Authorities

Without trucks, the wave of garbage threatens to become a tsunami. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Matos, Manzanillo (Granma Province), 31 December 2023 — It has been so many days since no one has collected the garbage on the streets of Manzanillo that the mountains of waste already have a uniform, ocher color. Due to the effect of the salt air and the indifference of the Community Services, the stench is ubiquitous in this coastal municipality in the province of Granma. The trucks that should clean the town are paralyzed due to lack of fuel or lie in a kind of scrap metal cemetery, while the landfills have become a den for countless vermin. The situation, resident agree, has reached an intolerable point.

“The trucks piled up in a Communal Services parking lot give the measure of how serious this is,” Niurka, a manzanillera, tells 14ymedio in front of her house where guano, cans and cardboard boxes accumulate. She’s right. The rusty chassis of buses and the trash collection vehicles are reminiscent of large insects, lined up with martial rigor. In front of this scrapyard is a sign: “I will be another soldier with the people. Fidel.”

The logic of the dump, analyzes Niurka, is simple: “without fuel the trucks will not start, and without trucks, the wave of garbage threatens to become a tsunami that covers everything.” Currently, only one vehicle works to collect waste from the second most important city in Granma.

The scavengers do not lose sight of their objective, but they do not dare to go down until a “diver” examines the piles of waste. (14ymedio)

Manzanillo, a town that has always been green and rural, sees the crushing effects of dirt on nature, the woman observes. Arid fields, stagnant streams, roads blackened by liquid waste, mosquito breeding grounds – with the consequent “package” of diseases they transmit – not to mention the rats that already roam around the town at their liesure, Niurka enumerates.

Not only do the animals “eat” the garbage, but the poorest Manzanilleros do as well says Jorge, a 57-year-old retiree who lives near the Comunales parking lot, speaking to this newspaper. Between mice and cockroaches, many “dive” in the landfill looking for food scraps, he adds.

Despair and hunger eclipse any scruples, and what was previously exclusive to Havana or other highly populated cities on the Island, is now common even in the most humble hamlets. “Everything depends on the Government’s management,” Jorge criticizes. “If a realistic goal is set to solve the problem, a contingency plan, this could begin to be resolved,” he says, optimistically.

The State continues to pay for the scrapyard’s custodians, who sit there for eight hours “doing nothing,” Jorge emphasizes. “That’s corruption. Why don’t they use that money to pay for gas and pick up trash?”

In front of the scrapyard is a poster with a quote from Fidel: “I will be another soldier with the people.”

Everything has been left in the hands of the residents, who in some neighborhoods, like Nuevo Manzanillo, work on collecting the trash on their own. But the solution is limited, the retiree acknowledges. In the long run, a large-scale, organized and systematic mechanism will be needed to control the garbage dumps. “That day has not come,” he says. In another neighborhood, once called “Golden” for its opulence, neighbors make jokes about how indisputable the victory of garbage has been.

Meanwhile, the plague and unhealthiness are on the rise. The landfills “gain in stability and organization,” Jorge jokes, citing the weather report. Above a landfill near the parking lot – located not far from the Guacanayabo hotel – the man sees a group of turkey vultures flying over. The scavengers do not lose sight of their objective, but they do not dare to go down to examine the piles of waste until a “diver” leaves. At the moment, says Jorge, “the garbage dump is occupied.”


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