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No Solution in Sight

While the military and repressors enjoy priority, families who want to build homes go without.

Los Ángeles

The right to adequate and well ventilated housing, of sufficient size and outfitted with plumbing, is included in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The Castro regime, marking its 59th year, violates this right, trampling multiple fundamental liberties, including economic ones.

Without private property, the Cuban economy was "Africanized" in terms of its poverty levels and dire housing deficiencies. Cubans do not eat well, nor do they have the "decent housing" that Fidel Castro promised them after the assault on the Moncada barracks, and that he reiterated upon entering Havana more than half a century ago.

Cuba in the 50s was one of the three countries with the highest per capita income in Latin America. Between 1950 and 1958, Cuba's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at a rate of almost 4% per year, according to the ECLAC. Its per capita GDP doubled that of Spain, and equaled that of Italy. Houses and large buildings were being built everywhere.

In October of 1960, however, the Castro government, through its Urban Reform Law, nationalized all the houses across the country. He did not give the properties to their tenants, but rather the right to be owners when they paid the State the value of the dwelling. The Government claimed a monopoly on the construction of houses, and became solely responsible for meeting housing needs.

In normal countries the State builds affordable housing for low-income families, but does not attempt to build all housing. In no First World country, no matter how rich, can a government build all the nation's homes. It is the private sector that sees to this.

Castroism recognizes a housing deficit of 883,050 homes, affecting 2.6 million Cubans, but everyone knows that it actually exceeds one million homes. In Havana alone the Government admits a deficit of 206,000 homes, and some 103,000 units in Santiago de Cuba.

And then there are the hurricanes. In 2008, Gustav, Ike and Paloma destroyed 63,000 homes, according to official figures. Then Sandy and Matthew hit, in 2012 and 2016, respectively. Sandy alone completely knocked down 30,000 homes, and partially destroyed another 210,608. The last one was Irma, three months ago, which damaged 158,554 homes, of which 14,657 completely collapsed, and 16,646 were partially destroyed.

The construction of dwellings slows, but without stopping

The regime even violates its own Socialist Constitution, whose Article 9 stipulates that the State must guarantee that "there is no family without a comfortable house."

In fact, the Government has never met the goals set down in any of its housing construction plans, not even through Fidel's invention of the "microbrigades." Between 1960 and 1970 32,000 apartments were planned annually, but only 11,000 were built. In the next decade the plan was for 38,000 homes per year, but just 17,000 were built.

When Moscow's subsidies increased in the 1980s, the regime slated 100,000 annual housing units, but never exceeded 40,000. The Castros preferred to spend the money they received on military actions in Africa. And now, the more the housing crisis worsens, the less is built, and the parasitic Castroist economy receives less and less cash from Caracas.

In 2007 57,607 homes were built; the following year, 44,775; in 2009 there were 35,085; and in 2016 only 22,106 were built, of which only 9,257 were constructed by the State. Analysts estimate that the Government is responsible for a shortfall of some 1.5 million homes over the last six decades.

Since 2015 the dictator decided that 70% of the homes in the country were to be built by the families themselves, through their "own efforts". But he does not supply them with the necessary materials. And, of the 30% of the homes built by the State, the general dedicates a good part of them to the FAR (Armed Forces) and the MININT (Interior Ministry), while millions of Cubans lack housing and live in overcrowded structures, or in unsanitary neighborhoods, suffering wretched conditions.

New neighborhoods, just for the military

As the dictatorship no longer enjoys broad political-ideological support as a foothold, and is sustained only by repression and military force, Castro II and his Military Junta want to ensure the loyalty of this support base, so the regime builds exclusive homes and neighborhoods, exclusively for the military and for its minions.

This tactic is reminiscent of how, after the coup d'état of September 4, 1933, Fulgencio Batista, quickly promoted from sergeant to colonel, and made the new head of the Army, built modern masonwork houses for his officers, sergeants and soldiers, and the "Military City" in the "Camp of Columbia" (military compound).

But there is a big difference, because during Batista's first authoritarian period in power (1933-1940), and after the coup d'état in 1952, until December 31, 1958, capitalism survived in Cuba. The Government had no monopoly on the construction of anything, and housing was built everywhere, at an impressive rate.

In fact, in the 50s, without political democracy, Havana saw the greatest construction boom in all of Latin America, producing dozens of enormous apartment buildings, and plenty of homes. These, six decades later, despite deficient maintenance, remain the best in the capital.

General Castro, in contrast, with his "socialist democracy," forbids free enterprise and only worries about keeping those who hold him in power happy, by building houses for them. He does not even deliver enough materials to those families who want to build their housing themselves. The military and repressors have priority. This had never happened before.

The Government argues that it cannot build more houses because it does not have the resources, blaming the "Yankee blockade". The people look on, however, indignant, as housing just for the military and the regime's operatives is built. These are large and well appointed housing complexes, which, on top of it all, are walled off to isolate them from the "populace."

There members of the FAR and the MININT and their families enjoy comfortable apartments, schools, supermarkets, children's clubs, cinemas, parks, sports courts, exclusive clubs and other amenities. Far removed from average Cubans.

No freedom, no solution

The truth is that without economic freedom, the housing crisis on the Island will never be solved. The country needs small and medium-sized private companies to produce construction materials, and independent construction firms selling those materials, providing transport, and doing quality, professional construction work.

The country needs entities that grant loans and financing to erect new homes, rebuild those that are in a dilapidated state, and put an end, once and for all, to its disgraceful shantytown-type slums.

Raul's authorization of the sale of houses does not solve a thing. It is just a recycling of existing homes. The shortage remains. In addition, with an average salary of less than $30 per month, property prices are astronomical, out of reach to all Cubans except those living abroad, or the nouveau riche.

The conclusion: Cuba's military regime neither builds housing, nor does it allow free enterprise to do so. Thus, there is no solution in sight.

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