14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 9 February 2024 — Customers who have to shop in Plaza de Carlos III, in the only store in the shopping center that sells in Cuban pesos, are in luck. The monthly module or combo, which they provide through the ration book in state stores, restricted by bodegas (ration stores) for almost two years, arrived this “generous” Friday: two packages of sausages, two of minced meat, one liquid detergent, two small powder detergents and a bottle of oil, all for 311 pesos.
Thus, it was not surprising that there was an immense line, spread between the two sidewalks down thw side street of the Plaza – as people sought to protect themselves from the sun – some standing and others, the lucky among the lucky, sitting.
“Wow, how good the combo is,” an old woman exclaimed when she saw the little board. But another was disappointed: “That’s how hungry we are, girl, because no one can eat that minced meat.”
In the midst of the endless shortages, those 400 gram tubes from the Richmeat brand – a Mexican brand that has a factory in the Mariel free zone – are the hope for the most disadvantaged
In the midst of the endless shortages, those 400 gram tubes from the Richmeat brand – a Mexican brand that has a factory in the Mariel free zone – are the hope for the most disadvantaged, especially the elderly. A food, however, whose amount of fat and preservatives can make them sick. “I try to eat them, both mincemeat and sausages, but they hurt my gallbladder. When I can’t find anything else, I cook it by boiling it a lot, but there is never a time I try it that it doesn’t swell my gallbladder,” explains one neighbor of Centro Habana, who acquired the module to share it with her daughter and grandchildren.
Others in line were ecstatic. “There is so much need that it seems like it’s on purpose. They keep us hungry and hungrier and then they take out a little bit of something so that people say ’Wow, how good they are,’” observed a young, critical man.
Despite everything, the situation is more favorable than that of other customers, for example those who shop at the Amistad market, in San Lázaro and Infanta, where the combo arrived reduced: only minced meat, washing powder and oil. “Before, it came with chicken, sausage, minced meat, detergent and oil,” explains another woman, who is in charge of that store in Central Havana, referring to those products that Havana residents jokingly call “the five heroes,” “but little by little it has been getting worse.”
And she lists: “First the sausage disappeared, then the chicken disappeared. The minced meat, the detergent and the oil remained. Now, from time to time sausage comes, but not with the combo, and out of date, and they have to offer a ’recovery’, as they call it, the opportunity to pick it up another day, which can be up to a month later.”
The situation is worse at the Melones Street market in Luyanó, where items come separately, forcing residents to line up almost every week. “And they have to force their way into the line, because maybe they won’t have anything to eat otherwise. Nothing is coming into the bodegas,” says a neighbor from the neighborhood.
Flanking the crowd in Carlos III, this Friday, young guards in uniform were observed, ensuring that the discussions do not get out of hand. “There are always people who complain that if the employee who collects the ration books said that she took one but there were two, to pass to a friend, the other shouts that that is a lie, that this user is a troublemaker,” says one man of about 50, resigned. “That’s what it is: hunger, lines, misery and need.”
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