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Cuba Waits for Development

Cuba Waits for Development
December 3, 2014
Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — When the Cuban economy was given a boost at the beginning
of this century thanks to Venezuela, its revolution and its immense oil
puddles, the island’s leadership began to act as though finally, after
many blunders, Good Fortune herself had knocked on their door.

Like a poor person who wins the lottery and hurriedly throws out all of
their old junk – that’s how we acted when luck began to smile at us,
restructuring everything and putting on our Sunday best to welcome
longed-for development in style.

Some of the changes made were profound (like the Energy Revolution),
while others were merely cosmetic. The latter included the architectural
redesign of many State offices and establishments, with a view to
fitting them with air conditioning. Inlaid aluminum work, glass panes
and PVC panels came to replace the wan and battered pine-wood blinds.

People were jumping with joy, gawking at the new glass panes and
enthusiastically awaiting the arrival of their air conditioning – but
the cold didn’t last long for Cuba’s poor.

A decade later, the star of the Bolivarian revolution began to wane and
many of the investments and changes made in its wake were left
unfinished. Once again, Good Fortune made the Castros dress up for the
ball and stood them up.

Let us have another look at the air-conditioned offices. The ACs never
arrived, or were installed and broke down, or are still working but
cannot be used for very long because they make the electricity bill
skyrocket.

Neither air nor sunlight can get into locales that have been designed
like fish-tanks in any natural way. Lamps and fans that move the stale
air about must be switched on during the day. In my current neighborhood
(Alamar’s Zone 7), they restructured the market to fit it with air
conditioning units and today the place looks like a modern version of
Ali Baba’s cave. When there’s a power cut – as is often the case – it is
simply stifling in there.

The worst part is that it is now much more difficult and expensive to go
back to the humble pine-wood blinds of old.

In the course of a decade, the modernization fever spread across the
length and depth of the Cuban economy. The painful lessons learned
during the Special Period, the mental and material transformations that
took place under the reign of scarcity, were ditched out the window like
a dirty rag. Below are a number of examples of this:

From the construction of low-cost housing to the import of “petro-homes.”
– From urban agriculture and permacultural principles to a return to the
Green Revolution (transgenics included)
– From flesh-and-blood teachers from the community to video lessons and
intensively trained teachers brought from other provinces and placed in
a very different socio-cultural context
– From the collection of garbage by horse-drawn carts and the use of
small, local dumpsites to the collection of garbage by trucks and the
use of central, mega-dumpsites, plus the import of sophisticated
technology for waste treatment. Currently, both the garbage collection
and processing systems that are working at half-steam.
– From alternative, spiritual and personalized medicine to the use of
sophisticated equipment (such as those employed for physiotherapy),
operated by nameless technicians.
– From natural pharmaceutical products to biotechnological medication,
some of it disguised as “natural.”
– From old but reliable American and Soviet household appliances to
their Chinese versions – more fragile, less powerful and much more
difficult to fix.

What, then, are we to do now? Put our feet on the ground, face up to our
real situation and try not to forget the lessons of the past, so that
Cuba’s “Apostles of Development” do not con us once again.

Source: Cuba Waits for Development – Havana Times.org –
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=107709

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