Weather and neglect has beaten down the once majestic buildings of Havana. The Cuban capital also has a severe housing shortage—a deficit of more than 200,000 homes. The State Department blames socialism for Havana's housing crisis. U.S. officials have been campaigning against the socialist governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. The White House national security adviser calls them the “troika of tyranny.”
Defenders of the Cuban government resent the suggestion that socialism is entirely to blame and cite damage from U.S. economic sanctions. U.S. officials have spent decades and easily more than $1 billion trying to dislodge the Cuban government. The embargo against Cuba represents the longest, most severe sanctions ever imposed on any nation, Cuban officials say. After the U.S. renewed diplomatic ties with Cuba in 2015, a flurry of businesses opened in Havana. The streets bustled. Some residents began repairing their homes. That was a glimpse of the future if the U.S. ever lifts the embargo, a Cuban diplomat said. But for now, sanctions remain in force as Trump administration officials plan measures that they hope will cause further damage to the Cuban economy. Residents of Havana are caught in the middle of the dispute. Some remain in dangerous buildings even though the government has ordered them to leave. Manicurist Yuslemy Díaz lives in a building where the staircase collapsed.
“The moment it starts to rain and a little stone falls next to you, you think it was the building. You live with fear.”