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“The Rice from the Bodega is So Bad I Don’t Even Want It for Free and It’s Six Pesos”


The elderly suffer the most from the price increase in Cuba since January 1st. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, Luz Escobar, 7 January 2021 —

“It’s 130 pesos,” Lucinda Torres, a resident of Havana’s La Timba neighborhood, heard the clerk say, as she finished her shopping at the rationed market for the month of January on Wednesday. “Before I came with 20 or 30 pesos and my rationbook and it was enough for almost all my purchases. The prices have multiplied by about 10 times and my retirement has barely increased four,” Torres calculates on the fly.

“I don’t understand what they are doing to us, they want to implant capitalism in us, but in communism,” she says.

This first week of the year has been a headache for many Cubans, but especially for the elderly, who now have to shell out hundreds of pesos to take home the basic basket that the Government sells in the ration stores. Rice is between 6 and 10 pesos a pound, beans are between 14 and 16, minced meat at twenty, one bread roll for a peso, it all adds up to an account that does not make ends meet.

An employee with more than 20 years of experience working in front of the public in a ration store in the municipality of Plaza de la Revolución explains to 14ymedio that what causes the most concern are the high prices compared to the quality of service and products.

“Since I hung up the sign with the new prices, people have not stopped complaining, most of all the elderly,” he says. “They are partly right. For example, the rice that came this month is so bad that I don’t even want it for free; it’s broken, dirty and wet. If you’re going to pay a few pennies for it, that’s fine, but not six or seven pesos.”

Similar complaints also came to the ‘normed’ bread sold in bakeries, an 80-gram roll was 5 centavos before, now it’s one peso. Due to its poor quality, this staple food has been the main target of criticism from the population for decades, since it went from the ‘liberated’ (unrationed) market to the rationed market in the 1990s.

In some localities the bread sits on the counters unsold, thus illustrating the displeasure of many. In Ciego de Ávila in recent days, state trade officials reported that they had to “redefine the destination of some 8,000 rolls” of bread because the customers would not buy them.


Prices established by the Ministry of Internal Commerce for the ‘regulated’ family basket in the ration system. (14ymedio)

In that same province, the director of the Business Group of Commerce, Reinaldo Frómeta Romero, explained to the local media that the new food prices in the Family Attention System (SAF) have resulted in many of those registered in that system have not been helped in recent days. In these facilities, many elderly people who survive on low incomes eat their daily meals there without having to spend large sums of money.

In Havana, at the SAF establishment located on 39th Street, in the municipality of Plaza de la Revolución, an employee told this newspaper that almost no one has visited the premises since January 1. According to official data, this project serves 1,445 establishments throughout the country with a total of 77,661 registered users, including 36,298 retirees, 6,251 people with disabilities and 12,773 on social assistance.

“I know almost all of them, they come here every day in search of their lunch and their food. Nothing we sold was more than one peso and now it costs several pesos.” The man shows the price list and the ration of rice that used to cost 20 centavos is now two pesos and the bean ration is three, “a figure that most of those who come here cannot pay daily,” he says.

“Pensions went up, it is true but it happens that many of my clients do not even have a government salary, they survive doing work under the table or collecting raw materials that they later sell,” he adds.

According to official data from the Ministry of Internal Trade, the new menu costs between 8 and 13 pesos, that is, between 496 and 806 pesos per month.

The head of that ministry, Betsy Díaz Velázquez, speaking the Roundtable TV program, said that five provinces reported a reduction in visits to these facilities, due to the increase in prices, among them Santiago de Cuba, Las Tunas, Cienfuegos and the Isle of Youth. In the case three of them, more than 50% of those surveyed did not come to buy food, and in the last two the number was 49%.

The minimum pension that the Government has set starting January is 1,528 pesos but the prices for electricity, gas, transportation, fixed-line telephones, water and other basic services also increased.

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Cuba Closes State Stores That Sell Unrationed Bread


In a tour of several stores in the municipalities of Centro Habana and Plaza de la Revolución, this newspaper found that all state outlets for unrationed bread are closed. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 January 2021 – With a bag of bread now costing 35 or 40 pesos, the so-called “Ordering Task” has left many children without a snack this week.

“There is no unrationed bread in any state bakery, in the private ones they offering some but not every day and also it is very expensive. The package of 8 buns that cost 25 pesos now costs 35 or 40,” says Leonardo Álvarez, the father of a boy who attends the fifth grade in a school in Centro Habana.

“We are making a tremendous effort so that my son can take a snack to school every day,” the man complains. “Meanwhile, at the hardware store on the corner they are selling electric motorcycles for $1,500. What do those who run this country think that we are going to eat, motorcycles? ”

“I can’t find anything that I can afford. Yesterday my son had to take some sugar water for a snack and just the bread from the ration store. A yogurt costs 30 pesos, a drink is 35, the bakery crackers and breadsticks are 30, the small package of sweet cookies is 115 and soda is 90. I can’t do that,” he laments.



In private businesses, the bag of 8 buns is priced at 35 or 40 pesos, a situation that has left many children without a snack this week. (14ymedio)

In a tour of several stores in the Havana municipalities of Centro Habana and Plaza de la Revolución, this newspaper found that all state outlets for unrationed bread are closed.

“I have only seen the State selling unrationed bread in seedy cafeterias, bread with cheese at 8 pesos, with mayonnaise at 7, with a spread at 5,” Álvarez concedes. “The thing is that I don’t trust what they put in the spreads and I don’t want to put my son’s health at risk, I prefer that he just have the bread.”

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Such amazing people, this reminds me of the "special period" days when I first started going to Cuba....except this seems worse in that the reforms and possible reforms could improve things so much.

Crazy world


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The latest bad news in English - Anything else you need to buy in Cuba from outside will be harder now ( and more expensive ) :


The ‘Mules’ Suffer Another Blow With the New Flight Restrictions in Cuba

Cubanos-importacion-Georgetown-Guayana-p Among the products brought by the ’mules’, the products that ’flew off the shelves’ were “coffee, soap, toothpaste, bouillon cubes, cumin and oregano, and hair care products.”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 January 2021 — Cuban commerce was just beginning to take off when it suffered another blow. The Government of Havana’s restrictions on the number of flights that can come to Cuba, which came into force on January 1, has been bad news for the mules who feed Cuba’s informal networks, and bad news for their customers.

“We thought that the reduction of flights was not going to be so hard but for Copa Airlines, of the 20 weekly flights they flew before, only three are left,” laments Randy, a 43-year-old from Havana who managed to travel in December, after the restart of regular flights at the José Martí International Airport in Havana.

“I flew out, I did a lot of shopping because I went with my wife, but the products flew out of our hands. People were like crazy,” he explains to 14ymedio. Randy details that among the products they brought were “coffee, soap, toothpaste, bouillon cubes, cumin and oregano, and hair care products.”

Panama is one of the most popular destinations for Cubans who shop abroad. In 2018, the manager of the Colon Free Zone, Manuel Grimaldo, acknowledged that more than 15,000 Cubans were arriving annually at that time and spending about 100 million dollars. In view of the success, the Panamanian Government authorized a five-year visa and multiple entries for residents of the island.

“I had already bought another ticket to go in the middle of this month, but I don’t know how my situation will turn out now,” he laments. “On the airline’s website they tell me that I won’t lose my money and that I can reschedule my flight until December 31 of this year, but my urgency was to go now because I left merchandise I bought there and they were orders from people who already paid me.”

Offers for many products that had returned to the classifieds pages with the reinstatement of flights are now sold out and advertisers are quick to warn interested parties that, until further notice or until travel is normalized, the situation will remain the same.

The eight months with Cuban airspace closed hit the informal traders hard in 2020. Many of them had to reconvert themselves into resellers of products bought in national stores, or into coleros (people who stand in line for others for pay), or messengers for food delivery businesses, using electric motorcycles imported from abroad.

The reopening of the country’s main international airport, which began on November 15 in Havana, was a brief relief for them. The rise in the number of cases of Covid-19, many of them caught from people who came from abroad, forced the authorities to make decisions. But this time, they chose not to cancel all commercial flights as they had in April, but to reduce the flow of travelers from the countries believed to be the main importers of the virus to the Island.

The Panamanian Embassy in Havana posted on its Facebook page, “The Government of Cuba reported that, given the current national epidemiological situation, the frequency of flights from certain countries, including Panama, will be reduced. As of January 1, 2021, the number of flights to and from Panama will be reduced, by virtue of a decision of the Government of Cuba. The frequency of flights will gradually resume when the Cuban health authorities determine it.”

In the list of countries that are most affected by reductions in the number of flights are the shopping destinations most visited by Cubans: the United States, Mexico, Panama, Bahamas, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. There are no restrictions for other nations that have appeared frequently in the statistics of imported cases of Covid-19 such as Russia. The United Kingdom and South Africa are countries with a new strain of Covid-19 on which there are strong international restrictions, and which is not in Cuba. The first is one of the main sources of European tourism to the Island.

Some airlines have done worse, such as Air Century, which has had to indefinitely suspend all the flights it made every Tuesday between Santo Domingo and Havana. “We deeply regret the inconvenience that this measure, beyond the control of the company, may cause in their plans. Affected passengers may reschedule their flight dates,” explained the company, which made several telephone numbers available to customers.

“My sister bought me the ticket from there to spend her birthday together and, incidentally, bring some merchandise, but she has been calling the numbers provided by Air Century for days and there is no way to communicate,” Lisandra, a woman from Matanzas, told this newspaper. She travels up to five times a year to the Dominican Republic to bring products. “I was left with a packed suitcase and no hope of traveling soon.”

With their luggage packed, the customers of the 20 weekly flights that the Mexican company Viva Aerobús has suspended have also stayed. “Passengers who have a ticket purchased on any of the suspended flights should contact the travel agency with which they made their purchase to be rescheduled to the closest flight and route with availability,” the company detailed on its Facebook account.

Mexico’s Viva Aerobús has substantially reduced its flights but maintains the connection between Havana and Cancun. The itinerary between Cancun and Camagüey will be flown only on Wednesdays, between Cancun and Holguín, on Tuesdays, and between Mexico City and Havana, on Saturdays.

“I had already booked the apartment where I was going to stay and everything,” explains a Cuban clothing and footwear supplier who, before the pandemic, made the itinerary between Havana and Cancun up to three times a week to supply his goods to the informal market. “Now I will have to wait, but the hardest part is all the dreams I had for myself. Go to the stores, eat a whole chicken or a good beef steak without lining up.”


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 I just don't understand. I feel deeply for the Cuban people.

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