14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 21 December 2021 — Elderly people who go to buy bread in a nearby store, customers of an adjoining shop, students coming or going from school on the popular and central Monte Avenue at the top of Águila Street, all are among the potential victims of the ‘guillotine’.
Neighbors have given this name to the side wall of a building because of its resemblance to the French artifact invented more than 200 years ago to behead inmates sentenced to death. “At any time, the guillotine could take its toll on one of the old men who stand in line to buy bread,” Ramón, a resident of the area, explains to 14ymedio, pointing out that the store puts out bread twice a day and many older people wait in front of the door for hours to buy.
This situation means that at times the line is so long that many people are standing just below the structure that is in danger of collapse.
The hustle and bustle generated by traffic, the honking of vehicles and the din of passersby who walk past the stalls of the self-employed, from portal to portal, make the imminent danger that lurks silently over the heads of many go unnoticed. The neighbors, aware of the risk, demand a solution from the authorities before a misfortune occurs.
This Monday, around four in the afternoon, a line formed outside the Monte Nuevo bakery. Julio, a 67-year-old retiree, said he was unaware of the guillotine. “I have been coming here for months to buy bread, and I had not noticed. Now I won’t walk under that place anymore,” he says without further ado.
“The miserable pension that I collect, the pandemic and the crisis that this government has caused have wreaked havoc on my mind. Survival in these times is very difficult for ordinary Cubans, while they [the rulers] live like kings.”
Julio remembers that a few days ago, about 200 meters from the bakery, a man lost his life due to the collapse of a building that had been under a demolition order for 15 years. “Do you know when they are going to come running to repair or demolish that? When it collapses it will cause another death. Another Cuban squashed like a cockroach,” he says while pointing his index finger at a small group of high school students, who are passing underneath the structure in poor condition. “I hope I’m not one of these guys,” he adds.
“Apathy” is the first word that comes to the mind of the person in charge of putting chlorine on the hands of those who frequent the Panamericana Monte and Águila store when asked why the ‘guillotine’ is not fixed or demolished. “Luckily, everything indicates that the building is in good condition. The only bad thing is that side wall,” he told 14ymedio.
The worker says that a long time ago the adjoining building was dismantled, leaving the side out in the open. Corrosion has affected the wall for years, causing it to fall apart and to begin to show structural damage on the corner.
The huge crack that originates at the base of the first floor and reaches the roof of the third floor of the building at Máximo Gómez (Monte) and Águila provides less and less support for the structure.
“At other times large pieces of concrete have fallen, but, fortunately, no one has been injured,” continues the store clerk. “Then someone from the Government appears and orders that tape be installed to prevent people from walking underneath,” he explains, although, as the days go by, “the tape disappears again and people trust it and pass by.”
About six meters from the wall there is a bathroom that receives hundreds of people every day, but the self-employed person who manages it understands perfectly that his chair should be located “as far as possible from that wall, in case it collapses.”
Next to him, another retiree who survives by selling plastic bags sums up the situation: “What we are experiencing is a disgrace, because that problem with the wall can be solved in a moment if they close the passage under the portal, or in a couple of days if they come and demolish it.” According to him, there are many who avoid the danger zone, however, “there are more who pass by, fleeing from the sun.”
“We know that it is possible, because in the collapse of the other day, in less than 24 hours they had cleaned and propped everything up,” he adds. “Of course, all this was done quickly because there was a death and that does not suit the leaders, because it is bad publicity for the tourists. They do not fix the ‘guillotine’ because, simply, nobody cares.”
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