14ymedio, Juan Matos, Manzanillo, January 16, 2024 – The authorities of Manzanillo, in the province of Granma, have covered the windows of the stores in freely convertible currency (MLC). In recent months, stone attacks on these shops have increased, because of the population’s discontent.
Covering the windows is a temporary measure that seeks to protect the premises and prevent damage to State property, official sources say. In the Primavera store, on Martí Street, belonging to the State Panamericana chain, the traces of these attacks can be seen: a piece of wood covers a broken window.
Now, with part of the outside light cut off, the premises look smaller and darker. This Tuesday, the customers of the El Dandy store, its windows covered by metal plates, walked around in semi-darkness in the rows of water dispensers and Chinese Cheerday beer, very little valued by consumers but one of the most abundant brands in those stores.
“The covered windows in the MLC stores show how afraid they are, because they know that at any moment a stone might kill them”
One of the street vendors who spent the night in the doorway of the El Dandy store, on Loynaz Street at Martí said “the covered windows in the MLC stores show how afraid they are, because they know that at any moment a stone might kill them.”
In addition to the violent incidents, foreign exchange establishments have seen another phenomenon proliferate: the lack of customers. What at first — when in July 2020 they approved the sale of food and other basic necessities — were corridors full and shiny with imported products, today are empty shelves, with a gloomy atmosphere. “People don’t have dollars, and we get our salaries in pesos, not in MLC [freely convertible money],” a neighbor tells 14ymedio.
People’s lack of money, explains another resident of Manzanillo, is the main reason for the failure of these stores. “Salaries are not enough to cover basic needs and much less to allow superfluous expenses in stores of this type,” the man says. “I prefer to spend the little I have in new ventures, not in State stores.”
However, it is not only the lack of resources that justifies the few customers of foreign exchange stores and their restricted offers. It is enough to immerse yourself in some Facebook groups in Manzanillo to find some of the merchandise that informal merchants have bought in these places and then resell. Flat-screen TVs, freezers of various capacities, washing machines, kitchens and refrigerators crowd the ads.
The small packages of cookies “have run out in the stores, but here they have large quantities,” complained a netizen in one of those virtual markets. The response of the group’s administrator was vehement: “Yes, señora, but this is for people who don’t have MLC; it’s for those who only have pesos. They have to buy with us because the State doesn’t sell them any of this.”
The skillful merchant failed to add a detail. Those buying and selling groups on Facebook don’t have to protect themselves from stones. In addition, the products are displayed in full light and color, their windows are the immensity of the internet, and their main customer is the Cuban in need and without foreign currency.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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