14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 17 May 2023 — The ‘Special Period‘ in Cuba is remembered for the long blackouts and food shortages, but also for having been a time when vandalism and robberies reached alarming levels throughout the Island. Light bulbs disappeared from schools and hospitals, toilet fittings remained in place barely a few hours after being installed, electrical outlets were yanked from the walls of medical offices, and even railroad ties were converted into pig pens. Electricity pylons were dismantled piece by piece and used as gates for houses, while the wheels of garbage containers ended up on wheelbarrows to carry water. The looting spread throughout society and looters came to enjoy the category of “heroes” to imitate, for their abilities to support their families with the fruits of their plunder.
In this new crisis we are experiencing, the power cuts have returned, as have the long lines to buy food and, it couldn’t fail, the ongoing theft of everything that can be stolen. This Tuesday, someone removed and took two sheets of glass that are part of one of the windows in the corridor on the 14th floor where I live in Havana. The panes had been there since this ugly concrete block opened in May 1985, even managing to escape unscathed during the predatory rage of the 1990s. However, someone calculated that with their 85 square centimeters each piece could be converted into some 5,000 pesos, and so they took them away. The operation must not have been easy: remove the aluminum beads, remove each sheet and take care not to cut yourself with its sharp edges. In front of the window, the door of the facing apartment could open at any moment and someone surprise the thieves, who would have had to have been more than one person for such a complex theft.
A mistake made caused one of the corners of the windows to break off, but the looters were not intimidated and took it. They loaded up the loot in broad daylight, leaving a large area of our corridor unprotected from the wind and rain. At more than 160 feet up and in a country with an intense hurricane season, the loss of this part of the windows creates a risk for those of us who live on this floor. The solution, for the moment and given the high prices of the glass, will be to cover both holes with some boards and entrust ourselves to luck, hoping the crooks do not want to also take a couple of old pieces of wood. The problem goes far beyond a hole and the dangers of a cyclone arriving before it can be covered.
Uneasiness spreads among all the neighbors affected by this plunder. No element seems safe in the face of the fury of the robberies that are shaking the entire country. The corridors have been left in the dark again because the lamps are dismantled with speed and skill, the granite steps of some buildings are uprooted to end up installed in a kitchen, and the wood of park benches ends up as furniture or charcoal. Nothing is safe in public spaces or in the common areas of buildings, nor can people breathe easy inside their homes. Cuba is a nation where the guajiros can’t sleep a wink because their animals are stolen, mothers have to watch the clotheslines because even the baby’s diapers are taken, and in the classrooms students can’t take their eyes off their backpacks,
A feeling of insecurity runs through our lives. Nothing and no one is safe. What would have happened if, yesterday, leaving my house, I had run into the thieves of the two panes? Would they have run or confronted me? What would have happened to one of the old men who walk these floors if they discovered the crooks at work? I don’t even want to imagine it. As in that crisis of three decades ago, we live in a permanent heist, with the anxiety that the hand of an assailant can emerge from any corner, and we the insatiable prey of a thief.
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