Fines of 1,500 pesos for Cuban Retirees Who Sell Plastic Bags on the Street

Many elderly people supplement their meager pension by selling plastic bags. (14ymedio)

Plastic bags are rarely seen in the State’s network of retail stores, but they are also in short supply in hard currency stores

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 5 November 2021 — A commotion this Thursday at the corner of Hospital and San Lázaro in Havana. Residents and passersby reacted with outrage when they saw the police carting off retirees who were selling plastic bags.

“I’m pissed off!” exclaimed a customer who walked into a nearby barbershop to get a haircut. “They have taken the old men on the corner just for selling bags. How evil! I had to bite my tongue to not say anything to them. Why don’t they take the managers of the neighborhood stores? It’s easier to abuse the elderly,” he said annoyed.

The pushcart sellers are located in front of the El Lazo de Oro bakery and the residents know that if they need bags for their shopping they should go there, where they will find the retirees who offer the jabitas, as the bags are popularly known, and also their coffee ration from the bodega or a few pounds of sugar.

The police operation surprised vendors this Thursday. Some were able to get away and escape, but not all were so lucky. “This is what sparks sadness and grief. Those poor old people sell their bags and any other nonsense to be able to eat. Before they also sold homemade butter, but since the milk disappeared, not even that,” says a man at the exit of the bakery with bread in hand.

“They said they were going to apply fines of 1,500 pesos. I was saved because I was late today,” a local saleswoman tells passersby who ask.

Nylon bags are rarely seen in the state’s network of retail stores, but they are also in short supply in foreign exchange stores, and customers have to carry their own to avoid having to carry the their purchases in their hands.

Some retirees buy them at the few points of sale where they are available, to later resell them at the door of agro-markets, bakeries and other businesses, as a way to get extra income at a time when pensions cover less than ever. If possible.

According to area residents speaking to 14ymedio, on October 25 there was also a police operation in which the pushcart sellers who sell food and vegetables were fined.


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