No One Knows Where to Get a Temporary ID Card to Shop in Havana

Temporary residency card for those who, for one reason or another, do not have a current ID card with an address in the municipality where they now live. (Havana Tribune)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 August 2020 — A few hours after regulations intended to curb a new surge of coronavirus cases in Havana took effect, residents without legal permanent address in the capital did not know where to go to get a temporary residency card that would enable them to buy basic necessities in local shops.

The move, which was announced Friday night, was taken by the government as part of a series of commercial regulations intended to control crowds and long lines at retail establishments. Many of those affected regretted the new limitation, which obliges thousands of people to present an identity card before gaining access to stores not in their official place of residence.

The initial announcement, which has the most restrictive measures, generated harsh criticism on social media. “Do you live in your partner’s house? Did you move, inherit or buy a house without updating your identity card? Are you renting or ’borrowing’ a house? Are you taking care of a friend’s house? Were you visiting but could not return to your home province? Then, as of Tuesday, you will not be able to shop,” protested private businessman Camilo Condis on Twitter.

On Sunday, government officials introduced a temporary residency card, which will include the first and last names of the bearer, a card number and the town where he or she lives. It can be used to buy groceries as well as personal hygiene and cleaning products at the retail chains chains stores Caribe, Cimex, TRD, Caracol, Mercados Artesanales Industriales and Mercados Ideales.

But as of today residents still do not know where to obtain the document. The absence of a published list that would make the task easier means applicants must search for the information on their own, as 14ymedio was able to confirm in a call to a local government agency. The official who answered the phone explained that, for the time being, applicants should contact the People’s Council in the area where they live, either by phone or in person, and they will be informed exactly where to file for and, subsequently, pick up their card.

The Cuban capital is the region of the country with the highest rate of migration from other provinces. Immigrants make up 24.8% of the city’s population. Many of them are not legal residents and and do not have an identity card with a Havana address.

Article 8 of Legal Degree #217 stipulates that anyone in Havana without a temporary or transitory residence permit can be deported back to his or her official home province after a seventy-two hour stay in the capital. Deportation hearings, however, have been put on hold due to the pandemic, with many travellers trapped in the city due to the suspension of interprovincial transport.

Another curiosity of Sunday’s announcement is that foreigners living in Havana will enjoy the freedom to shop in any municipality they choose.

From Tuesday until September 15, Havana residents will have to shop in the place of residence indicated on their identity card. The rule does not apply to farmers and fish markets, or to hard currency stores. Though the purpose of the new measures is to reduce travel, products sold in these establishments may still be purchased regardless of where a person lives.

Stores will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays. A computer app will be used to control waiting lines and to prevent crowds. According to local press reports, in places were stores and retail establishments located on the streets that that defines the boundaries between two municipalities, residents of the neighboring towns may shop at either.

The measures are a response to the increase in telecommuting, the suspension of certain basic services and restrictions on transportation. However, essential workers from Artemsia and Mayabeque who work in the capital are allowed to travel back and forth as are Havana residents who work in those two provinces.

The local government has stated that travelers from Pinar del Río, Artemisa and Mayabeque provinces passing through the capital will be fined if they abandon or veer from the established route.

Havana continues to have the island’s highest rates of infection. Of the fifty-nine new cases of Covid-19 that were diagnosed on Sunday, forty were in the capital.

Reinaldo Garcia Zapata, governor of Havana province, announced on Thursday’s Roundtable television program that there would be a curfew in the capital in an effort to contain the pandemic. Among other restrictions, it would prohibit the movement of people and vehicles from 7:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. and would restrict private transport all day.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.