14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, December 23, 2020 — “Three hours in line for a couple of pounds of pork is crazy. I have never waited in line to buy pork. They used to bring it to my house from Cienfuegos but, since the pandemic started, not anymore,” laments Teresa Crespo on Monday afternoon before she left the line at the market on 17th and K streets in Vedado where, for three days, the state has been selling the product there for forty pesos a pound.
“I waited in line because this year I wanted to have a proper [holiday] meal and there’s no other way to do that. You have to bring your ration book and your ID card. And when you buy it, they stamp your hand so you can’t come back and buy more,” she said.
The coordinator of provincial government programs, Julio Martinez, admitted to official media outlets that, although they are “very far from meeting public demand” they have created various networks to sell fresh and smoked pork, cured sausages, other meats, frozen fish and “a level of beer” in a controlled way.
He also said the items could be purchased from December 20th to 31st, from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, “in an unrestricted but controlled manner,” Buyers are required to present a ration book and ID card. The goal, he said, is to limit each household to one purchase in order to avoid hoarding.
With Christmas and New Year’s Eve just around the corner and the country facing severe food shortages, many family members leave home early in the morning in search of these commodities, hoping to get them before supplies run out. In some neighborhoods people wait in lines several kilometers long.
“The worst thing about it is I get in line without a guarantee that I’ll even be able to buy anything,” says one customer. “It’s nerve wracking. My neighbor waited in line for four hours and left empty-handed.”
The situation is the same in neighborhoods throughout the city, including Central Havana. “At the moment I’m in a line that’s full of police and they don’t allow photos. But it’s very crowded. They’re also giving out cases of beer but you have to return the empty bottles,” a young man told this reporter.
“Before, if you wanted to buy something at this price, between forty and forty-five pesos, all you had to do was go to the market and, presto, the meat was in your bag, ready to take home. Not anymore. Now you have to wait in a very long line,” says a retiree from the same area.
“What’s bad for me is that they’re not selling it at neighborhood stores. They’ve set up a couple of places in different areas and it’s difficult for older people who live alone to get there to buy it,” the woman said.
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