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Shopping in Cuba during COVID-19

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https://havanatimes.org/diaries/paula-henriquezs-diary/shopping-in-cuba-during-covid-19/

 

Shopping in Cuba during COVID-19

By Paula Henriquez

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HAVANA TIMES – Once again, I woke up to go hunting, as we (not) so affectionately call the hard task of trying to find food recently. That’s because finding anything nowadays puts all of your skills, resistence or mental capacity to deal with what awaits you, to the test. I say this because lines outside stores really are completely unpredictable.

Let me explain: ever since September 1st, the State has imposed a curfew from 7 PM until 5 AM, as one of the government’s measures to try and stop COVID-19 infections from spreading. In other words, anybody caught outside their home during this time takes home a hefty 2000-3000 peso fine, which is quite a lot if we bear in mind what regular Cuban wages are.

If you decide to go out shopping, you have to do it at dawn, always respecting the curfew from the day before. People begin to take their place in line hours before most shopping malls, kiosks, stores, etc. open.

Like the law-abiding citizens we are, we have to leave home at 5 AM and head for the nearest store, some 10-15 minutes away. When you get there, you might find 30 or 400 people in front of you.

You wonder what time people have started to line up when there is a curfew… but that’s not the best part. The last person, in front of you, normally comes with several people, and so does everyone in front of that person and so on…

In the end, when you’ve done the math and security agents start to give out turns, you go from being amongst the first 40 to number 287, literally… This is on a good day. On the worst day, social indiscipline and a complete lack of respect for your fellow citizen turn any regular line into a true battlefield, a real fight that even the authorities can’t keep in check.

The situation was a lot different a few months ago, when you could buy anywhere. But now, with the restriction of not being able to go and buy from stores outside of your municipality of residence, this has all changed. This limits your chances a great deal.

Everybody knows that some municipalities are more privileged than others, where you don’t only find a greater variety of items, but they are also stocked more often. These large shopping malls are unfortunately outside of the municipality I live in. The measure may have been well-intentioned, but it is discriminatory and stifling in practice. Without any study beforehand to guarantee its success.

On the other hand, there are people who have taken advantage of the most different and adverse situations Life throws your way. There are people who see a long line like this and see it as a goldmine where they can extract this valuable material. These miners are the line-sitters and resellers that take advantage of people’s needs to fill their pockets by hoarding and then speculating with the few items that are sold at these stores.

“This is supply and demand,” one of these individuals once told me, whilst trying to sell me a packet of chicken thighs for almost three times the price. It goes without saying that I have had no other option to buy this and other things with a surcharge. This, because it is so hard to find food through the traditional retail channels. I’m not exaggerating.

Here’s another example: I took my place in line at 5:07 a.m. Turns were handed out at 9 a.m. and I could only buy two small packets of hot dogs at 4:45 p.m., because the little chicken they were selling was gone before the first 40 people in line were seen.

Really? That’s the question I ask myself. Twelve hours standing in line, putting up with all kinds of unpleasant situations, keeping an eye on the shrewd ones who constantly take advantage, and also exposing my family and myself to COVID-19, just for two measly packets of hot dogs.

Is it really worth it? If I don’t do this and I can’t buy things for twice or triple the price, what can I do? I have found myself at this crossroads, more than once.

Sometimes I think the only option is to go out hunting on alternate days at 5 a.m. I strive to not come home empty-handed so I can feed the family. Other times I realize that I’m just wasting my time. I often come home empty-handed, anxiety weighing heavily on my chest.

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Thanks for sharing Prez.  Any suggestions on how we can help?  Recommended relief organizations we could donate to?

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1 hour ago, busdriver said:

Thanks for sharing Prez.  Any suggestions on how we can help?  Recommended relief organizations we could donate to?

It is damn hard mate. Others may have an idea but my remittance sources have recently been closed down. 

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Communism results in Capitalism with twisted market forces created by and condemned by the leaders, crazy

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My wife and I where lucky to think ahead before COVID hit.  Given the length of time and the situation the people of Cuba are in is very sad. Wish they could source their own food such as hunting and fishing but I guess when your stuck not leaving your area it would make it 100 times worse. Would be nice to help from where we are!

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This truly breaks my heart to read.  Humanity should be better served than this.  While there will always be those for whom Misery is a feast (and they will, at some point, be faced with their malevolence by their Maker), nation-states are, I believe, doing what they feel is right at a time when NO country knows how to fight the pandemic.  Show me one country, just one, that has this nailed.

It's not that those whose job it is to watch over emergencies were wrong in their approach; the scope and breadth of this is so overwhelming as to be beyond understanding.  I would have thought that, in any given emergency,15,000 ventilators in storage would suffice for a major disaster in the U.S.  But this is far beyond what we know, and we are fighting blind.  Supply channels have broken down, countries are beyond broke, and the most suffering occurs where it always does-with the poorest of the poor.

The last major worldwide catastrophic pandemic was the Spanish Flu.  They didn't see it coming and did not know how to treat it.  We are there now.  Regardless of political affiliation, type of government or income gap, this is something we do not know how to fight.  Until we do, this is going to get worse before it gets better.  Serums for herd immunity?  That means 70% of 8.5 BILLION people worldwide.

Best to do what you can for the person next to you, show compassion and hopefully, part with a few sheckles and give to those whom might ease the suffering just a bit. 

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Forcing people to shop in their own district isn’t meant to fight Covid.  It’s to protect the well-off from having to deal with the lines and shortages.  It’s genius really, makes it look so fair and well intentioned.

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There is no way to send anything down to Cuba until they open up the international flights. Maybe in November. John

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Terrible.

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From my handful of trips I've taken to Cuba, I have found the locals to be resourceful and resilient. But what they're going through is just too much. Add in the embargo stupidity from the north and you have a humanitarian disaster.  With that said, there does appear to be a class system within Cuba's communist regime and that's not helpful at all.  But were they not communist, I don't see their lot improving much either.  Human nature is crappy regardless of ideologies and to paraphrase, absolute power will corrupt absolutely.   :(

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It’s so hard to hear this and not being able to do anything to help.

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It is not just on CUP stores that these lines form and waiting times are brutal.

Here is a video of a Cuban blogger a few days ago having same problems at MLC stores - only difference is that the stores are well stocked and looks like shoppers buy to re-sell.

No money - no food - Apartheid shopping in Cuba.

What a mess.

 

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On 9/28/2020 at 7:43 PM, 1LegLance said:

Communism results in Capitalism with twisted market forces created by and condemned by the leaders, crazy

Communism and economic restrictions--particularly rationing and price controls--lead to black markets, or the most hampered form of capitalism. Even in North Korea. Regimes tolerate it to varying degrees because black markets are still infinitely more efficient than central planning and actually keep the population relatively satiated. 

Every time things get rough in a socialist regime they fall back on the market to save them. 

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Another video and report from today, after Quarantine has been lifted in Havana, of Cubans waiting in long lines since dawn at the Melia Cohiba Hotel stores to buy Cuban coffee at 1,25 CUC per packet of 125 Gramms - coffee is "lost" (not available) in Cuban stores.

https://www.cibercuba.com/noticias/2020-10-01-u192519-e192519-s27061-habaneros-hacen-larga-cola-comprar-cafe-hotel-cohiba

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Managed to score this for my familia cubana:

 

Soya Oil Premium  ( 1 lt )Soya Oil Premium ( 1 lt )13.093.09Pradera Dairy Evaporated Whole Milk (500 ml)Pradera Dairy Evaporated Whole Milk (500 ml)23.687.36Mixed Seasoned Ground Meat (1.5 kg/ 3.3 lb)Mixed Seasoned Ground Meat (1.5 kg/ 3.3 lb)18.848.84Sweet potato (1.36 kg / 3 lb)Sweet potato (1.36 kg / 3 lb)12.382.38Chocolate Milk and Coffee (1 liter)Chocolate Milk and Coffee (1 liter)18.098.09Dairy Pradera Whole Milk (1 liter)Dairy Pradera Whole Milk (1 liter)15.745.74Malanga (5 lb)Malanga (5 lb)16.346.34DCballos Tomato paste (490 g)DCballos Tomato paste (490 g)21.903.80Black beans (1.36 kg / 3 lb)Black beans (1.36 kg / 3 lb)18.838.83Chorizo dough (1.5 kg / 3.3 lb)Chorizo dough (1.5 kg / 3.3 lb)112.0512.05Fresh Lacon (1 kg/ 2.2 lb)Fresh Lacon (1 kg/ 2.2 lb)111.2511.25

Some items overpriced, others not so bad.

It's almost like Instacart but for Havana through a Spanish site.

Reliability has been good too, surprisingly.

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