14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 1 January 2023 — Cubans have started the year with the same drama as the previous one and all those that have passed since 1962: reading with concern and anxiety the news of the state press about the hated “regulated family basket” and the ration book.
Instead of facing the new year with hope, freedom of choice of consumption and full satisfaction of needs, Cubans cannot escape, even at this time, the destructive dynamics of the lines, the increasingly scarce food deliveries of poor quality and the continual running so as not to lose an opportunity to access what the communist state grants them.
They don’t expect anything new for this January 1st. In Havana you don’t breathe the same air of parties as in other capitals of the world during these holidays. There have been no blackouts, that’s true, but people have their thoughts on other things, and the few activities organized throughout the country are dedicated to celebrating once again the triumph of the so-called revolution, which exhausts people and increasingly separates them from their leaders.
Not even in the agricultural, gastronomic and opportunity fairs, which have been organized, have people solved their consumption needs, and since the food industry has closed one of the worst years in its history, once again it has failed to reach a level of supply that satisfies the population. There are not even small cans of guava anymore. Only a little more rice, fish products, beef and buffalo have been supplied, which is clearly insufficient for family needs.
The authorities have assured there will be alcoholic beverages, beer, cocktails, elaborate dishes and other affordable items for the popular recreational and dance activities that will be held until January 3, but people say that no one is interested in parties because they have other concerns, and most likely that stipend won’t reach the most vulnerable sectors, such as the older population, who, for health reasons, don’t attend a lot of parties and activities.
Cubans begin 2023 with great concern about the distribution of the regulated family basket for the month of January and are afraid of the worst. It’s true that in some areas of the country the delivery began on December 28, but the reality is that there are doubts that it will reach all citizens. And what is worse, the overdue distributions, such as coffee and preserves, are still in the same stagnation of oblivion, and no one expects them to be recovered at this time.
But, without a doubt, the protagonist of the regulated basket has been the delivery of the December chicken, which also includes the overdue distributions. Finding chicken on the closing day of 2022 has meant getting up early for many Cubans, to get a turn in the line and another turn for 7 or 8 in the afternoon, when they hope that quarter-chicken will last for a few days.
To think that most of that chicken comes from the purchases that Cuba makes from the United States every month! And the same happens with canned meats, picadillo and sausages; although, certainly, chicken has been the undisputed protagonist.
The anxiety of the people finds fertile soil because the regime announced recently that financial limitations in the industry caused delays in the import of raw material for the manufacture of the 2023 ration books. So it has been impossible to “manufacture the ration books” and distribute them in most provinces on a timely basis.
Yes. You heard right. Now ration books are not manufactured in Cuba. The model is completely destroyed and does not support fixes. Artemisa, Mayabeque, Matanzas, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Sancti Spíritus, Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey, Las Tunas, Holguín, Granma, Guantánamo and the special municipality Isla de la Juventud, and partially in Pinar del Río, Havana and Santiago de Cuba: all complain that the ration books are not there nor are they expected.
And although the authorities launch messages saying that the purchase of the products of the regulated family basket for the month of January is guaranteed, and also, if needed, in February 2023 by using the 2022 ration book, the situation has aroused a lot of concern among those who suffer from the permanent shortage that exists in the country.
Such is the anxiety of the population that instructions have been given for the notation of the products to be delivered in those months without ration books, to be done on certain pages of the 2022 ration book. The people don’t trust this with good reason, because it’s most likely that the affected products, such as meat and milk from the family basket, bread, fuel, or medical diets will not reach the shops under the conditions of last year. The delay may be greater than they think and not only due to the lack of ration books.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Internal Trade, responsible for the ration books not being made and for this anguish in the population, limited itself to reporting about the effects on the products and didn’t want to announce specific delivery dates. There was not a single assumption of responsibility on the part of any senior official in the department, despite the harm caused to the population. People scrutinize their old ration books to make sure they are valid on December 31, 2022.
The Ministry’s fixes cause alarm in a population that sees that when it rains it pours. While in other countries the New Year’s holidays are celebrated in freedom and with the required levels of consumption, in Cuba there is an anxious fight for a quarter of chicken, fearing that deliveries, in the absence of the new ration book, will not occur.
This is the actual situation, and no one understands how it is possible that voices of general protest are not raised against that old revolution, which doesn’t do anything but get older, without fulfilling a single one of its objectives. A national disaster. A bad beginning of the year 2023, and the worst is yet to come.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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