14ymedio, Mercedes García, Havana, 28 October 2021 — The sale of 12 Samsung brand automatic washing machines for $388 raised quite a stir this Wednesday in the vicinity of the La Habana store in the city of Sancti Spíritus. Everything ended with the arrest of two women and a blackout, which forced the suspension of transactions at the cash register.
“The situation was terrible. There were two lines, I was in the one that was for normal products and the other was to buy the washing machines,” explains Esperanza, a woman from Sancti Spiritus who has had hard currency (MLC) account for months, some “reserve” dollars.
“A tremendous brawl broke out” and quickly the line “was filled with policemen” but the agents preferred “not to get into the fight and stood to one side to wait for the women to finish beating each other.”
“One of the police officers initially said: ’We are going to let them be, no one is going to stab me like the one in Havana’,” says the woman from Sancti Spiritus. The uniformed woman mentioned the police officer who was wounded with a knife and kidnapped by a man for several hours last Tuesday. “Once the discussion calmed down a bit, the women were arrested and taken away,” she sums up.
Esperanza’s bad time, she says, only started with the fight. Already inside the store she experienced the daily life of a Cuban. If she felt sorry for seeing two women “hitting each other” by a washing machine, she was more frustrated when she entered the establishment and found it “so short of supplies,” she says.
“I went through this store to see what food they were selling, what was available, but there was nothing,” she complains. “The only thing they sold was a few pieces of beef at 45 dollars and that fortune was not going to be spent,” she said, confirming that on the city’s black market this type of meat “appears” at 70 pesos a pound.
Esperanza looked the shelves up and down, over and over again, and decided to buy two cans of anchovy-stuffed olives for $1.80 each. She had to spend 40 minutes in the line due to the lack of a connection with banks to be able to approve magnetic card payments. And just when her turn came, she stumbled again with the harsh reality day-to-day life in Cuba: “The power went out. You know!”
The shop assistants were running around like crazy telling the customers they had to leave. “Until the power comes on, we cannot continue to sell, there is very little [diesel] oil left in the generator and electricity cannot be sustained in the store,” said one of the state employees.
Finally her card was accepted by the bank reader and she was able to buy “informally,” says Esperanza with relief.
Little supply, very long lines and a collateral business of resellers mark the days in foreign exchange stores, the most criticized in the country and, however, the only ones that still — given the severe economic crisis that the Island is going through — have more than a dozen of products on their shelves.
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