Cubans Subjected to Animal Behavior While Waiting in Line

A fight in a line while waiting to buy food in Managua, Arroyo Naranjo, where pregnant Ayamey González Valdés, dressed in blue, can be observed (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 July 2022 — Rumors started to spread, as has happened in recent months in Cuba, from some images published on social networks on Saturday. According to word of mouth, a pregnant woman miscarried her baby after a beating in a dispute between citizens and police in Managua, in the Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo.

The next day, official accounts and pages related to the regime rushed to deny the falsehood: the woman had not had a miscarriage and she was in good health. In a video shared by the official Mauro Torres, it is observed, in effect, how the pregnant woman, identified as Ayamey González Valdés, faints after a violent argument between several people. Later, the Police squad carried her out in their arms.

What those sources in support of the Cuban government did not say is, on the one hand, that the agents, after getting into a fight in a food line, ceaselessly beat several young people that were present. On the other hand, they also ignore the real drama: a system that reduces its people to behave in an almost animalistic way in order to buy food.

The regime prefers to put on a brave face for having “saved” the pregnant woman. Ayamey González Valdés, according to the Municipal Health Directorate of Arroyo Naranjo Twitter account, “was evaluated at the Enrique Cabrera Hospital. An ultrasound was performed, the fetus has good vitality, with a normal heartbeat and the mother’s placenta is intact. While she was being examined, her mother arrived, who was able to listen to the heartbeat of her future grandson’s heart.”

Depending on the sensitivity of the product being sold and how long the people have been waiting for it to become available, some clashes can be more aggressive

La cola* [the line], one of the oldest Cuban institutions linked to the chronic shortages the island has experienced for decades, has been transforming in recent years. The pandemic moved many of these lines away from stores’ main entrance, as a strategy to have more control over customer access, but the end of many health restrictions did not end this practice.

Now, the lines to buy food continue to form several yards away from the store, in a park, a square or a street, where consumers organize themselves and wait for hours until they are called, in groups of five or ten, to enter the store. This distance fuels suspicions of mismanagement by employees and is also used by those who do not want to wait so long and try to sneak in.

The fights are so frequent that many believe that there is no Cuban line without anger or shoving. Depending on the sensitivity of the product being sold and how long the people have been waiting for it to become available, some clashes can be more aggressive. Lines for frozen chicken, vegetable oil and baby diapers are among the busiest, but punches and bumps can also happen as dozens of people wait to buy hot dogs or bath soap.

No one knows for sure how much time the average Cuban spends standing in lines each week, but as the crisis has deepened, leisure time has become shorter. If the nights belonged to the family in the past, for watching television or going on a recreational outing, now many families start to prepare from the night before to start to form a line that might allow them to buy food the next day.

*Translator’s note: La cola literally translates as “the tail,” refers to a line.


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