14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 22 October 2020 — Several members of a family, including small children, have been sleeping in the porches in front of the Capitol for more than a week, for fear that the building where they live will collapse. The building is in very bad condition, and is located on Paseo de Martí between Dragones and Teniente Rey, in Old Havana.
Yosniel Enríquez Suárez, one of those affected, tells 14ymedio they made the decision to move to the porch with all their belongings for fear of being crushed by the debris that falls from the ceilings every time it rains. “The situation up there is red hot, the stairs are falling, they have them propped up”.
“Since the problem has not been resolved, we all went downstairs. When the repairs began months ago, in the block near where the Teatro Payret is located, the authorities came to show us photos and videos of some apartment buildings that were being built for us, according to them, but that’s not how it ended up, that proposal was left up in the air,” he stated.
Enríquez explains during a phone conversation that, to date, the Government has only offered them accommodation in shelters. “All very bad, without bathrooms, without any basics.”
“What has the greatest impact on me about all this, in addition to the fact that people lose their belongings and their houses, is that they are kept imprisoned and can barely move, plus nobody reaches out to them.
“That’s why I’m not going to go anywhere. My mother, my sister, my uncle and my uncle’s children live with us. Our family is living on the porch because we are the most affected. The building can fall on us at any moment. Other buildings are also in bad condition, but our neighbors believe that nothing is going to happen to them, so they stay upstairs. Our apartment is on the second floor, the main damage is to the roof and the staircase, and when it starts to rain, water seeps through everywhere,” Enríquez Suárez states.
The indignation not only spreads among those affected, it extends through residents of that area of the capital with historical infrastructure problems and overcrowding, who also reject the surveillance operation organized by the authorities that prevents anyone from physically approaching the family.
“What strikes me the most about all this, apart from the fact that people lose their belongings and their houses, is that they are kept as prisoners in the place, where they practically can’t move, and no one approaches them, in order to prevent them from talking about what or why it happened to them,” decries a neighbor of those affected, who prefers not to be identified for fear of reprisals.
“The background that the authorities’ position is such a terrible thing, but so terrible …,” laments the woman talking about the number of similar stories that she has had to witness in recent months in the city.
Dozens of families in the capital, who are already living in anguish over the complicated health situation in the face of the coronavirus outbreak and difficulties obtaining anything to eat due to the shortages in the city, have added to their daily concerns the uncertainty of not having a roof over their heads, for fear of their living quarters collapsing.
In the capital, the latest concentration of building collapses has taken place in Centro Habana and Old Havana, the latest one, leaving several people dead. Two women died last month, one on Calle Cuba, between Luz and Acosta, and the other very near there, in a multi-family building at Calle Amargura #319, between Aguacate and Compostela.
This newspaper reported the plight of several families in a three-story building on Calle Lucena, between San Miguel and San Rafael, in Centro Havana, which collapsed on October 14th. The residents of the building have spent whole days on the street, in the open and surrounded by a strong police operation.
Translated by Norma Whiting
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