- By mid-1992 the Cuban government had active agreements with more than 200 foreign companies to create joint ventures.
- By late 1994 Cuba was in negotiation with Mexican firms concerning the Cuban telecommunications system, and the country had signed a deal with Lloyd Aereo Boliviano, the national airlines of Bolivia, for economic, technical, and management aid in place of joint ownership in the Cuban airlines.
- In the area of petroleum exploration, Cuba signed a deal with the French firm Total following preliminary evidence of offshore oil deposits.
- Other oil exploration agreements were finalized with Petrobas, the Brazilian state oil company, and with Canada’s Northwest and Sweden’s Taurus companies. There was also an agreement with Tehran.
Direct foreign investment impacted Havana at the neighborhood level. It especially affected the section of the city known as Miramar.
The Miramar district was one of the few areas of the city that had the amenities and infrastructure required to accommodate new corporate headquarters.
Miramar has long been attractive to foreigners.
- Until the mid 1920s, the area was separated from Havana’s core by the Almendares River.
- In the 1920s, engineers bridged the river and the oceanfront district developed as a suburban bedroom community for affluent habaneros.
- In 1957, a tunnel was completed, further facilitating travel to and from central Havana.
- After the revolution, a large outmigration of the district’s residents left many homes vacant. The government used these empty dwellings as student boarding houses and as lodging for foreign technicians.
- Empty homes were also turned into protocol houses (casas de protocolo), government ministries, foreign embassies, and houses for Cuban Communist Party officials.
At the outset of the Special Period, the oceanfront district still housed some of Caribbean’s finest Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Modern designs, and it remained one of the thickest, tree-covered sections of the city.
As foreign investors poured into Havana after 1994, Miramar was well-positioned to accommodate the renewed demand for prime real estate.
Soldiers, literacy campaign volunteers, students, and government officials were ofter rewarded with homes or apartments in this coveted section of Havana . . . . Class, race, and occupational skills mattered little when it came to assigning housing.
Now, in Miramar, rental market development and property renovations have taken place at unprecedented levels.
New investment is not directed towards the traditional socialist thrust of providing new housing. Instead it is designed to attract and retain overseas investors.
In fact, there is a now a duality within the neighborhood itself that distinguishes foreigners from habaneros.
. . . Miramar is again becoming a highly segregated social space. Not only is there a growing number of foreigners there, but the area is heavily patrolled by Tourist Police and regular police. When power blackouts strike, the roars of gasoline engines that serve as power backups identify which buildings are foreign owned. The contrast between the illuminated and freshly painted foreign structures next to the darkened homes of Miramar residents — patiently waiting on their porches or front steps for power to return — is a strong reminder of the new segregation taking hold. The contrast of Miramar with the broader structural changes sweeping Cuba is perhaps best illustrated by the motto of a foreign tourist company posted on Quinta Avenida: The Ultra, Inclusive Exclusive Resort.
The duality within Miramar extends also to the city (and country) as a whole where the Special Period has brought an increase in inequalities.
- Jobs, particularly, are a problem since the country’s policy of full employment ended in 1992.
- Over 180,000 Cubans — primarily in the cities — are now self-employed out of a working population of 3 million.
- Efforts to find a real solution for Havana’s housing problems have been exacerbated by the problems of the 1990s.
- The city currently has 60 squatter settlements of more than 50 dwellings each as well as 100 slum focuses with less than 5o dwellings each. Approximately 2 percent of the city’s residents live in these settlements which are concentrated in Marianao, La Lisa, and Arroyo Naranjo.
The government states that
116 of these unstable neighborhoods (72.5%) were inherited by the revolutionary process.
Changing patterns of migration during the Special Period have complicated this condition.
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