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This is a very short excerpt of the recent article in The New York Times, “Cuba’s Reward for the Dutiful: Gated Housing,” which casts a critical look at recent developments in the revolutionary country, including recent efforts to expand housing for some sectors. [Many thanks to Michael Connors—photographer, author, and expert on Caribbean architecture and antiques—for bringing this item to our attention.]

[. . .] The new housing, a basic necessity in extremely short supply across the island, looks to many Cubans like another attempt at favoritism. According to government figures, the military’s construction budget has more than doubled since 2010. When combined with the Interior Ministry (often described as a branch of the military), the armed forces are now Cuba’s second-largest construction entity.

Project Granma — named after the boat Fidel Castro took from Mexico to Cuba to start the revolution — is one of several new military housing developments around the country. Its equivalent in Santiago de Cuba, where the Castro revolution began, has come under fire from Cubans struggling in rickety homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy. But as an attempt to match the private sector, or life in other countries, it is perhaps no accident that the colors and architecture of the Granma, in the same neighborhood that Raúl Castro calls home, give it the feel of a Florida condo complex.

At its edge, there is a baseball field. Inside the gates, streetlamps resembling classic gaslights line the sidewalks, while cars, another perk, fill lots.

At a building with rounded archways, where a movie theater, market and health clinic are meant to go, one of the project’s engineers said several thousand people would eventually call Granma home. Sweating in green army fatigues, he praised the plan, noting its imported, prefabricated design that allowed walls to be assembled quickly, like puzzle pieces. He failed to mention what a security guard had pointed out: Most of the workers painting were prison inmates.

Several residents said they were thrilled to live in what Mario Coyula, Havana’s former director of urbanism and architecture, called “the first gated community in Cuba since the 1950s.” Some said they had been living in cramped quarters with generations of family.

Support for Raúl Castro’s economic changes seemed strong here among those willing to talk. “It’s necessary,” Mr. Rodríguez, the official among the first to arrive at Granma, said as he sat outside with a cigarette. “If you’re cold, you put on a coat; it’s just what makes sense.”

But in the push and pull that has defined Cuba’s economic policies over the last two years, the government has often struggled with when to let the market function and when to protect the Communist establishment. The authorities, for example, recently cracked down on private vendors selling clothes and other items, widely seen as an effort to help the state’s own retail network.

Mr. Dámaso, who spent 32 years in the military, said that the country’s leaders, while longing for economic improvement, mainly want to preserve the Cuba they know. “If you have a business run by military officers, when there’s a transition, you’re not going to get rid of all these people,” he said. “This is a way to maintain a space for established powers in a future Cuban society.”

For full article, see http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/12/world/americas/cubas-reward-for-the-dutiful-gated-housing.html?hp&_r=1

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