Rebeca Monzo, 26 July 2016 — As random comments from ordinary citizens on the streets suggest, we are going through a new Special Period, though the government repeatedly denies it in media statements, calling it “a difficult situation from which we will recover.”
For confirmation, one need only observe the bus stops crowded with people anxiously waiting for the next vehicle to take them to their jobs, the hospital or the beach. The lack of fuel and spare parts are the main causes of these “bottlenecks.” For this reason, many people feel forced to turn to boteros, or private taxis. Though expensive, they are a solution to the problems of urban mass transit, for which the government is responsible.
Another situation impacting us — apart from the unbearable heat and famous Sahara dust storms — is the shortage of consumer goods and lack of air conditioning in so-called hard currency stores.
In some of thee facilities, especially the smaller ones, the lack of air conditioning is leading to longer lines and greater dissatisfaction in the population.
The employees of these businesses, who work for eight hours a day in sweltering conditions, have to limit access to two people at a time in order to be able to wait on them. Once inside, customers run into another big hurdle: no shopping bags. This drags out the shopping process, causing discomfort and protests from those waiting their turns.
Given these circumstances, one would think that there ought to be some compensation in the form of reduced prices due to the lack of customary amenities such as air conditioning and bags in which to carry purchases home, factors which would logically affect the value of an item. Then there are the difficulties associated with the sometimes raucous reggaeton background music, a telephone customer being left on hold or, in the case of city buses, the drivers’ choice of music in vehicles overflowing with a disgruntled and sweaty public.