A Depressed Employee Among Empty Shelves, a Reflection of Cuba’s Misfortune

The Pan-American Store at Boyeros and Camagüey, in Havana, this Monday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez/Olea Gallardo, Havana, 16 January 2023 — A few years ago, through one of those entertaining TED conferences that spread like wildfire on social networks, Barry Schwartz popularized the expression “the paradox of choice” which can be summed up as follows: choosing between too many options produces paralysis and dissatisfaction, which can cause a kind of very negative stress in modern industrial societies.

None of this will happen to the customers of the Panamericana store on Rancho Boyeros and Camagüey avenues, in Havana, where the shelves looked almost completely empty this Monday.

“How come it’s like this!” a surprised customer remarked — one of the very few in the store which requires payment in freely convertible currency (MLC). An employee responded, sighing with resignation: “Do you see how it is? The last time there was a more or less decent assortment here was in December and we’ve been like this ever since.”

On the shelves there were hardly any very expensive products that people do not usually buy, such as beef that is unaffordable to the average Cuban, or Christmas munchies at 16 MLC, or the occasional wrinkled and expensive package of beans.

Gone are those images of the establishment in which the refrigerators looked full and the lines at the door stretched four blocks. That was in July 2020, just after the Government announced the sale of food and toilets in MLC, a measure harshly criticized by the population, a large part of which does not have access to foreign currency.

Although a year later the same market, one of the largest in the capital along with Cuatro Caminos, in Centro Habana, and 3rd and 70th, in the municipality of Playa, was in crisis due to shortages, it cannot be compared to its present state. .

“There’s nothing, this is stripped, let’s go,” a couple commented among themselves.

To explain the “paradox of choice” there are scientific studies that speak, for example, of the damage of an “overload of alternatives” in the brain if there are many options to choose from. Thanks to the Revolution, the Cubans’ brains are safe.


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