Santiago de Cuba Stops the Sale of Food in Pesos and Dollars From Friday to Sunday

La Plaza shopping center, in Santiago de Cuba, closed. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Francisco Herodes Díaz Echemendía, Santiago De Cuba , 15 January 2021 —  All state and private businesses that surround La Plaza de Santiago de Cuba dawned this Friday completely closed. The shopping center, one of the three that sell food products in freely convertible currency (MLC) in the eastern city, has had its doors closed since the beginning of the year due to an outbreak of Covid among its workers.

Now that the city has regressed to the local-transmission phase, the authorities imposed 58 measures in response to the unstoppable increase in infections. Among the measures, they determined to close all establishments from Friday to Sunday. Only essential services in “health, death and production” will be maintained.

The sale of food in foreign currency stores was another anguish for many people from Santiago. However, these stores are where there are more products, especially meat, which is scarce in state shops that sell in pesos. continue reading

“What appears the most is ham, cheese and ground meat. The Ten Cents store recently opened and began selling food,” a customer explains to 14ymedio, “the other stores in MLC, all they have are toiletries and home appliances.”

In Telegram and on social networks groups have been created to keep up with the supply in these stores. “I understand that they closed La Plaza. Do you know if there is some meat in the others? I am from Palma Soriano and I would not want to go to Santiago unnecessarily,” asked a young woman in a local Facebook group on Tuesday. “In Cubalse they have chicken breasts for $6.55 but there is tremendous line, so come prepared,” another user replied.

The most commonly repeated question in these communication channels is “What’s there?” Many cautious people prefer to inform themselves first before going to the stores at their pleasure, as they are almost always without products or run out quickly. And they also prefer to play it safe and not spend more than 50 pesos on transportation, the average it takes to move around the city today.

“If Santiago was expensive before, after January 1, the salt has rained down on us,” says an anguished housewife living in the town of Boniato, who, in order to buy unrationed food must travel to the center of the city. “The price of station wagons and motorbikes, which are essential to travel urgently, have skyrocketed to the point that if you don’t have 50 pesos a day for transportation, it’s better to not go out.”

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The Sweet Potato Has Become a Luxury Product in Cuba

In Santiago de Cuba sweet potatoes are sold only through the ration book and only to people over 80. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Francisco Herodes Díaz Echemendía, Santiago de Cuba, 14 January 2021 — The scandalous prices, which have multiplied since the new measures that took effect on January 1, have reached Santiago de Cuba. And they have materialized in a traditionally cheap product, the sweet potato.

“Yesterday I went to the state agricultural market El Avileño in the center of the city and there were sweet potatoes on the stands. I was surprised that the police were not controlling the lines and everyone wasn’t shouting frantically to enter first in case the food runs out,” a man from Santiago tells 14ymedio.

“I went into the place, asked if the sweet potatoes were for sale and I was surprised by the employee’s response: the sweet potatoes are sold under the ration book and are for people over 80 years old. I asked him if he was joking and he said no, that was the order,” the resident said, still surprised. continue reading

For the man, who grew up in the country, the sweet potato “was always the food of guajiros, humble people and pigs.” Now, he adds, “it’s a luxury thing, it doesn’t appear and when you find it, it’s super expensive or rationed.”

The price of sweet potatoes about two years ago reached a maximum cost of 9 pesos. Of the little available this year, private merchants in Santiago de Cuba sell it for more than double that, and in other provinces, such as Cienfuegos, it is close to 30 pesos.

The indignation of the man grows even worse just a few minutes after leaving El Avileño. Walking about 800 meters down busy Enramadas street he enters another establishment where they are selling yogurt, cream cheese and some variants of cheese. He asks for the prices.

“Instantly the clerks clarify to me that everything that is sold there is only for children between 1 and 8 years old, and I have to present a ration book and an identity card,” he concludes indignantly.

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A Covid Patient in Santiago de Cuba is Beaten Over a Bar of Soap

The capital of Santiago capital returned to the local-transmission phase this Tuesday due to the rise in covid figures. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Francisco Herodes Díaz Echemendía, Havana, 13 January 2021 — A young man sick with Covid received a beating this Wednesday in the isolation center where he is located, in Santiago de Cuba, just because his family tried to pass him a bar of soap.

According to family sources speaking to 14ymedio, the patient, Daniel Argüelles Estévez, did not have soap for his personal hygiene and his father, Daniel Argüelles Figueredo, tried to send him one, but the guards of the site did not allow it.

“My dad called my brother to tell him that he couldn’t get him the soap,” says Daniela, the sick man’s sister.

As the boy came out of his cubicle to take the soap, three agents, two in civilian clothes and a uniformed man, according to Daniela’s account, began to shout that the patient had escaped and they cornered him. “One of them hit him a lot, hit him on the chest, on the back, gave him a slap and then they all fell on top of him,” she details. continue reading

The father of the patient was arrested shortly after the incident and taken to the police station located in Micro 9, in the provincial capital. “My father was taken to jail because they accused him of spreading epidemics and disrespecting authority,” says Daniela. “They already released him but they gave him a 30 peso fine for disturbing public order.”

Meanwhile, her brother Daniel is still without soap. “They don’t let anything pass,” Daniela complains, “only sanitary pads for women.”

The facilities of the old school of Social Workers, which today belongs to the University of Medical Sciences, have been an isolation center since the beginning of the pandemic. The quarantine of travelers arriving in the province of Santiago de Cuba from other countries begins there, as does that for the doctors returning from Venezuela.

Faced with the uncontrollable situation due to the new infections, and with the other crowded isolation centers, the Government set up the facility to care for the sick and those suspected of having Covid. The health authorities informed the local press that they adapted the “school” to create a “hospital.”

Santiago de Cuba woke up this Wednesday to 153 new infections, a record that raises health alarms, which have been active for two months. Indigenous cases began to proliferate when commercial flights arrived at the Antonio Maceo Airport. Of the cases of this day, about 138 constitute local-transmission infections.

In the province, which is in phase one of recovery, there are a total of 489 active cases and the municipalities with the highest infestation rate are Santiago de Cuba, Mella, Contramaestre, Palma Soriano, San Luis, Songo-La Maya and Segundo Front. There are 279 open outbreaks, of which 103 were caused by contact with foreigners.

Meanwhile, the Santiago capital returned to the local-transmission phase this Tuesday and is where most of the sick are concentrated. The outlook there is increasingly gray, with several quarantined areas, suspension of various services, a prolonged food shortage and a curfew that forces residents to be home between 7:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.

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Despair Grows in Santiago de Cuba with the Closure of Commercial Areas

Part of Victoriano Garzón Avenue in Santiago de Cuba is under quarantine. (Facebook / Sierra Maestra)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Francisco Herodes Díaz Echemendía, Santiago de Cuba, 4 January 2021 — The Santa Bárbara Popular Council, one of the most commercial and busiest areas of the city of Santiago de Cuba, has been in quarantine since this Sunday due to the increase in the numbers of people infected by Covid-19. Some 4,123 inhabitants were isolated in a 23 block areas which contains 1,235 homes.

Among the closed areas is a large part of Victoriano Garzón Avenue, where there are many offices providing different services, as well as shops, butchers and markets. Among the closed stores is the Panamerican chain at 4th and Garzón Street, one of the few establishments that sells in pesos.

Among the measures imposed by local authorities, it was decided to close all services that generate lines, with the exception of the ration stores, where the “basic basket” can now only be bought by a family member.

The Government also emphasized that it would impose the “immediate” criminalization of complaints against international travelers who fail to comply with measures restricting movement in the city. continue reading

In addition, in Santa Bárbara, one of the neighborhoods where there are many houses rented to foreigners, this activity was shut down and in neighboring areas travelers from the United States, Haiti, Mexico, Suriname, United Kingdom and the Dominican Republic are limited to one month contracts.

The city of Santiago de Cuba has not had a break since October when commercial flights were restarted. With the arrival of international travelers, Covid spread throughout the province, even in municipalities that in the first months of the pandemic remained free of the Coronavirus.

Meanwhile, locally transmitted cases mark daily life. The authorities have insisted on blaming the “indiscipline of travelers and residents,” although they have also recognized, bit by bit, fissures in the health system. They have even imposed sanctions  on healthcare workers, according to local media.

In addition to the tense health situation, which has caused the suspension of schools and the closure of childcare centers for more than two months, the desperation of the people of Santiago to find food is complicated by the severe shortages that are hitting the country.

During the end of the year and the first days of 2021, some residents expressed their discomfort at the deployment of the black berets, special troops of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and agents of the Ministry of the Interior, who guarded the huge lines that formed during the holidays to buy food.

Special troops of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and agents of the Ministry of the Interior, guarded the huge lines to buy food that formed over the holidays in Santiago de Cuba. (14ymedio)

Residents of the Altamira Popular Council informed 14ymedio that in the lines at the shops in that part of the city the presence of undercover agents of the political police is becoming common, and their role is to stop or detect rebellious comments, fights and public manifestations of dissent.

On the other hand, the important La Plaza shopping center, belonging to the Cimex Corporation, which for months has been one of the many establishments that sell in freely convertible currency (MLC), is also closed due to positive cases of Covid, as confirmed by this newspaper.

The difficult health situation covers the entire country, which woke up this Monday with a record of daily infections, registering 316 new cases, of which 172 were contacts of confirmed patients, 127 arrived infected from abroad and 17 are without a specified source of contagion, according to the Ministry of Public Health.

Santiago de Cuba announced 22 new infections on Monday, almost 50% imported and more than half in the capital. With more than 400 active cases, the eastern province has registered the fourth most infections in recent hours, after Havana (76), Matanzas (66) and Villa Clara (31).

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Customers Protest the Seizure of Vendors’ Merchandise in Santiago de Cuba

Customers in Santiago de Cuba protest the seizure of products from private-sector vendors.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Francisco Herodes Díaz Echemendía, Santiago de Cuba, November 28, 2020 — Authorities were confronted with outrage, criticism and rage from residents of Santiago de Cuba’s Barrocones neighborhood on Friday after they confiscated a privately owned truck, alleging that vendors were using it to sell meats and vegetables for exorbitant prices.

“They were selling bananas for 20 pesos and avocado for 15. They also had lettuce and tomatoes, none of which are easy to come by these days,” said one outraged resident, who was no longer able to buy what he wanted on the corner of Carlos Dubois and Procesa streets, where the vehicle had been parked.

“The government only sells low-quality products, which are also expensive. And that’s when they have them, which nowadays is not very often,” claimed the customer after the vendors had been shut down. continue reading

Government inspectors and uniformed police officers had tried to convince the sellers to lower their prices. After failing to reach an agreement, however, authorities decided to seize the contents of the truck, which was being used to transport onions, garlic, lettuce, tomatoes, chiles and cabbage.

“Here in the city the only way you can buy food is through the merolicos [self-employed street vendors], so people became angry and surrounded the police who were preventing them from operating,” said the resident.

Food shortages as well as increased prices for the few items that are available have led to a growing sense of despair among local residents. The tension has been exacerbated by a new outbreak of Covid-19 in recent days that put the region one step away from new restrictions intended to control transmission of the virus.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

1024 “Gigs” of Racism in Cuba /Hablemos Press, Francisco Herodes Diaz

GiGA Magazine
GiGA Magazine

Hablemos Press, Francisco Herodes Díaz Echemendía, Santiago de Cuba, 11 September 2015 –Let it be known that in Cuba there is no law about or against racism. According to those who concur with Fidel and Raúl Castro, racism is a capitalist thing, found in racist regimes like that of South Africa, or of pre-1959 Cuba. Also, according to the fundamentalists of the Communist
Party of Cuba, “the Revolution did away with racism in Cuba.”

But the fact is that in light of this assertion by the regime, which so poorly governs the destinies of the country, there is daily evidence to the contrary in the streets. There, at times hidden, at times evident, racism can be seen in all spheres of society. And it is always the same thing, be it in the cultural sphere, in higher education, in public health (more than 60% of physicians are white), and even in the dramas aired on Cuban television.

gigas 2For the first time, after more than half a century of the opposition denouncing cases of racism on the Island, the regime has had no other option but to deal with this topic on national TV. But it did so in a somewhat furtive way, blaming social customs that were common in Cuba before 1959.

gigas 3One does not have to be a great observer to perceive racism. For example, in several issues of GiGA Magazine, the official publication of computer science in Cuba, there is not a single ad, publicity announcement, or other graphic example in which cannot be seen signs of racism. Despite the fact that 60% of the Cuban population is made up of blacks and mixed-race persons, there can be found no photo or graphic in which a white person does not appear, including the comics and illustrations. And on the front and back covers of the magazine, the models, male and female, are all whites.

Any Cuban is invited to search through a newspaper library or other place where this publication can be found, to confirm what this article claims, and thus you can arrive at your own conclusions. In the personal opinion of this writer, in Cuba as well as in the computer science magazine, there are more than 1024 “gigas” of racism.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison