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Great Article that explores the many facets of life today in Cuba. 

 

A Happy Day’s End for a Hunter in Cuba

By Pedro Pablo Morejón

https://havanatimes.org/diaries/pedro-pablo-morejon/a-happy-days-end-for-a-hunter-in-cuba/

La-caza-cotidiana-en-busca-de-alimentos.

HAVANA TIMES – A friend of a friend, who lives in Pinar del Rio city, agreed to sell me 10 pounds of rice via my friend, for the reasonable price of 15 pesos per pound. I say reasonable because this precious grain has already shot up to the ridiculous price of 30 pesos.

For a year now, finding rice has become even more difficult than meeting that 10 million tons of sugar target during the famous 1970 sugar harvest (before I was born, I must say). This is why I couldn’t let this opportunity slip.

The problem?  Pinar del Rio’s capital city has been closed off for a month now, because of the serious COVID-19 situation there. There are checkpoints at every entry point.

Since I work in the city, I had to apply for a permit that allows me to enter and leave, but the difficulty lies in getting there, because transporting people to the city implies a 2000-5000 peso fine for drivers. Plus, I don’t have a sign on my forehead that reads: I have a permit, and almost nobody stops to ask.

This is why I go to work with a colleague who has a car. This time I couldn’t ask him and I found myself still on the side of the highway at noon almost.

A young man left town in his father’s Buick. A young 23-year-old man who makes a living by giving lifts for a price, doing “business”, enjoying earthly pleasures, and working towards his dream of leaving Cuba one day. Going to a place with better opportunities. When he saw me, he stopped, I got in and we carried on our way.

Six kilometers up ahead and we arrived at the checkpoint. It just so happened that he didn’t have a permit! What he did have was a great dose of daring. Luckily, there weren’t any police officers there at the time, just a Transport inspector and a Public Health official. Before handing over my permit, they asked him for his. He lowered his mask and told the inspector:

“Look at me. Don’t you recognize me?” He was quiet for a moment and continued. “We worked together in Transport for 6 years and you don’t recognize me?”

He shook his head as a sign of annoyance, while he made a gesture with his face which we call “frying an egg” in Cuba. He huffed, lifted his mask and drove off as if nothing had happened. I turned my head and saw the inspector left stunned, as if he couldn’t believe what had just happened.

Well anyway, I got to Pinar, I called my friend and he brought me the rice. I needed to buy some chicken and decided to swing by one of those stores that were created for people who can pay in what the government calls MLC (Freely Convertible Currency), which is just dollars and euros. Only people who have FE (faith) have it, not in God though exactly, but in Familiares en el Extranjero (Relatives Abroad)

The rest must buy their dollars for around 50 pesos per Dollar on the black market. The official rate is 24 x 1, but no banks are selling dollars.  Luckily, there wasn’t a line at the store. I went in and bought a packet of four chicken breasts for 6.55 USD. That’s to say, approximately 327 pesos (at 50 per USD) for four sad pieces of chicken.

While getting home was another odyssey, I was happy. Happy just for managing to get some rice and a bit of chicken. Because this is what our life is now. Hunting. Like cavemen chasing after mammoths in prehistoric times.

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1 hour ago, nino said:

Great piece about the absurdities in Cuba - I mean driving to PdR to buy 10 lbs of rice ....
JFC what a waste of energy and manpower socialism can be. Unf###believeable.
 

Unf###believeable pretty much sums it up, Nino.  A country with all of the natural resources to feed itself... and it can't.  

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2 hours ago, NSXCIGAR said:

I saw this title and thought they might be down to hunting squirrels and gophers for food with a homemade bow and arrow.

I thought it meant hunting for cigars in the LCDHs.... ?

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"Relax, we're with the government and we're here to help."   I don't care what govt you compare. They are all lethargic wastefull entities. I see it everyday in the U.S. Anytime the Govt has the checkbook out there is massive waste and fraud involved. I had several friends that were in the Air National Guard and Air Force with my sister as an officer in logistics. I noticed every year they built new hangers and buildings etc. I thought some of them were dated and needed it but it never stopped. Expansion, added new buildings, swapped out the fighter wing from A7 Corsairs to F16 Falcon and then starteed with all new buildings etc. I finally asked a few people I new, Chief of Security, my Sister that was friends with the base commanders daughters growing up and they were also in Logistics. "They have to use up the budget they use each year or they will not get their budget approved next year and may face a budget reduction." I saw that in my years in the Army with equipment we would order around inspections, budget time etc. I would see contractors with us upgrading our launchers from Lockheed Martin and we would have other contractors that were sub contracted from another sub contractor that was contracted by another contractor. Well, how many people are getting paid to not do any work but to just make a phone call and get someone else to do it for less? 

I thought the $20,000 toilet plunger was a thing of the past until a couple years ago. My cousin that is a machinist by trade thats built parts for the TItan Missile, B1 Stealth, Buelle Motorcycles, Hewlett Packard etc. I was at his shop one day after he got back from a local Air Force Base gathering where they let base contractors go in and buy a few items before who knows what happens to those items. He came back with 8, 4x6 hurricane windows for his new shop building he was putting up at $200 each. I know from being a property damage adjuster that was just a fraction of what those things cost. But what really got my attention was a box he had fulll of B1 Lancer Bomber gas caps. There were about 50 in the box. They were still in the plastic and had the nomenclature order paper in the bag. I opened one up and started looking over the sheet. My jaw hit the ground, $30,000 each!!!! he had about $1.5m in gas caps! I asked him whats so special about them. "Oh nothing really, they have a certain thread design that lock down with one single rotation of the cap. I asked how much coupld he could maching one from scratch for. Maybe $1500 if Iook my sweet time on the first one but get 10 into it maybe $1000 each. 

The budgets I see now is not just military but even small government departments trying to do the same thing. Keep spending that budget to justify their existence. 

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Happens all the time in business too. Back when I was a project manager, I was always told to never come in under budget. On one project, I was going to blow out the budget by 50%, just paying for man hours, I came up with a solution that not only saved the project time but also shaved off $600k of my $3.6m budget. At the end of the project, I handed back just under $700k of my original allocation. Did I get a pat on the back and a congratulations? Yep. But I also got handed another much harder project, with a much smaller budget, and asked to do that thing I did with the other project to save money. Problem was, there was no way it could be done. So I blew out the budget by 25% and took a hit on my KPIs.

Just because you can come under budget, doesn't mean you should, especially by a significant margin. You'll just be punished with a smaller budget and more work.

And besides, all those military contracts buy lots of votes come election time.

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Such an amazing country with fertile soil and hard working people.

If unleashed I am sure they could provide for themselves and thrive, but not with the gov standing over like an evil stepmother.

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Things are tougher than normal in Cuba at the moment. I was talking to a friend of mine in Havana on Sunday. She was standing in line to buy food at a market. They gave out tickets to the first 100 people. The market was to open at 10am, she got there at 5 am and got ticket number 76.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

This what "hunting" for a Nicaraguan visa looked like last week, no social distancing, huge lines & crowds for blocks in Miramar - the gvmt is happy to let people go, by air, raft or whatever, legal or not and the people continue to vote with their feet.

No idea what Nicaragua offers to Cubans ( except being closer to the US border ) but even in Uruguay Cubans line up to demand their money back from a Visa scam last week ...

 

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So my aunt's husband asked me two years ago for $2000 USD to get himself a visa to Uruguay. Not to be a cynical sob but I passed... this wasn't a visa for my aunt. He was supposed to head to Uruguay and find work then send for my aunt, while promising to cancel his debt to me. I had no guarantees this man wouldn't take my money, and forget about paying me back... but what if he never sent for my aunt? Long story longer, he managed to get the money some how or another only to find out he had been scammed out of the money. Generally if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. My aunt never pressured me for the money knowing there was risk. It's tough living in Cuba these days. 

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