14ymedio, Havana, 29 June 2023 — A fire devastated the commercial area of Santa Clara known as La Candonga on Wednesday. The fire destroyed between seven and ten sales kiosks, according to the first official report, and the cause of the fire is being investigated.
The event became known a few hours after the death of seven people in Havana in a fire caused by the explosion of two electric motorcycles. In the Santa Clara incident, however, there were no injuries, but the losses are valued at millions of pesos for the self-employed who sell in the kiosks.
They were, precisely, the first to arrive to try to contain the fire and prevent its spread. Subsequently, the firefighters, the president of the municipal government, some cadres of the Communist Party and authorities of the territory arrived.
The people of Santa Clara reacted to the news, released by the official journalist Yunier Javier Sifonte Díaz on his Facebook page, with regret for the losses of the merchants and a place where “one can find everything or almost everything he needs.” There was widespread relief that the event left no injuries or deaths.
“The situation is very difficult, but that place has no conditions for anything, it looks like a shop in a favela,” one user highlighted. Another agreed with his opinion and denounced the potential insecurity of the area. “It’s time for them to make La Candonga a place for selling, but with kiosks made by the State, with electrical and health safety, all done aesthetically.”
Another commentator pointed out that the unfortunate event provided an opportunity to renovate the space “in areas with the same conditions, for example, the underutilized Los Pilongos.”
La Candonga Las Flores is located in front of the Arnaldo Milián Castro hospital in Santa Clara. In that commercial space, hundreds of self-employed are grouped with the tacit consent of the authorities, although the activity is not legal, since its sellers offer products imported through mules.
The authorities have on numerous occasions accused the candongueros of inflating prices, selling in high quantities and originally in CUC [Cuban convertible currency pegged to the US dollar and no longer in use]. During the pandemic, the place was closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which led to a successful displacement to social networks.
The trade group on Telegram exceeds 4,000 members, and that of Facebook has more than 11,400 followers, although one of the rules, to avoid having problems with the authorities, is the prohibition of publishing messages of a political nature or that go “against morality.” Those who incur such prohibitions are eliminated immediately.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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