Even the Stamps for Paperwork Have Disappeared From the Post Offices in Cuba

Line at the post office at Carlos III and Belascoaín this Tuesday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 29 November 2022 — A long line of people winds around the corner of Carlos III and Belascoaín and crosses the door of the imposing building located in that central point of Centro Habana. The reason for the tumult is not the purchase of frozen chicken or the much sought-after cigarettes, but to acquire stamps for processing paperwork, an increasingly non-existent product in the Cuban Post Offices.

“In recent days there has been a deficit of stamps for processing paperwork in the Cuban Post Offices, due to the increase in the realization of procedures by the citizens and state entities of the country,” begins a note released by the Tax Administration Office (Onat) and the Correos de Cuba Business Group (Gecc).

Both entities classify the situation as “unforeseen” and blame “increased demand” for the impact on the service. Although the text doesn’t mention the reasons for the increased interest in these stamps, everything points to the mass exodus that the Island is experiencing and the need for migrants to have documents such as birth certificates or criminal records for their departure, among other things.

“My son arrived at the United States border a few months ago. He has already managed to enter, and now he needs to prepare everything for when he has to appear before a judge for his asylum request. They asked him for several documents, including a birth certificate,” said Juan Carlos, a Havanan who this Tuesday passed through the Post Office on Infanta and San Lázaro Street in search of official stamps.

“They didn’t have any kind of stamp. The employees stood with their arms crossed but unlike other times, they didn’t put a sign on the door clarifying that there were no stamps of 5 or 10 pesos, which are the most sought after,” he explains. “In the few minutes that I was there, other people came in asking for the same thing, but we all left empty-handed.”

In its official note, Correos de Cuba has called for calm, assuring that this week “the existing reserves in the different territories have been circulated, in order to ensure a balance between them,” and that “a new stamp is being printed.”

To avoid hoarding and reselling the stamps, they have established strict rationing. “The limit of sale allowed per person will be up to three units of stamps of the denominations of 10, 20, 40, 50, 125, 500 and 1,000 pesos. For the stamps of 5 pesos the limit allowed per person will be 5 units,” they clarify.

But the measure has not managed to alleviate the despair of those who are against the clock in some paperwork that needs to be processed. “I have to present an exchange at a notary and I don’t have the stamps,” said one of the clients on Tuesday, who was waiting outside the Correos de Carlos III and Belascoaín, where the 20, 40 and 1,000 peso stamps were for sale.

“They are going to close at 11 and don’t open until 1:00 pm because they have to do the mandatory blackout to save electricity at that time,” a woman complained. “People are protesting because they say that, even without electricity, stamps can still be dispatched, but employees refuse, so I will have to stay until the afternoon, because from here I have to leave, no matter what, with the stamps.”

Correos de Cuba assures that in the month of December “the printing of another seven million stamps will begin, in order to stabilize the sale in all units,” and will have “the main post offices of each municipality” as the priority. But distrust in state institutions is deeply rooted.

Together with the General Customs of the Republic and the telecommunications company Etecsa, the Cuban Post Office is one of the entities least valued by citizens. The frequent loss of letters, the violation of the privacy of parcels, the delay in attention to the public in their offices and other ills have made their official announcements unbelievable.

“The one of 500 comes out in 1,000 and the one of 5 I have in 80,” explains briefly and quietly a young man with a folder, who hangs out a few feet from the post office in Centro Habana. “I’m already out of 50, but tomorrow I’ll bring it again,” he added to the interest of several customers who weighed whether to stay in the line or opt for the informal market to get that tiny piece of paper with its holographic band and its watermark in the light, indispensable for fulfilling their dreams.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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