State Premises at Night, Small Private ‘MIPYMEs’ the Next Morning

In Holguín, as in the majority of the Island, private businesses are rapidly replacing dilapidated State warehouses

In another warehouse, which once was for the Holguín Beverage and Soft Drinks Company, the products of the Rey de Reyes mipyme* [MSME in English] are now exhibited. / 14ymedio
14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miguel García, Holguín, 8 April 2024 — They go from being buildings with peeling facades to looking freshly painted, with bars on the windows and air conditioning inside. The process of leasing shops, offices and state warehouses to the mipymes* (MSMEs, or medium, small and micro-sized enterprises) in Holguín extends, as in Havana and other cities in Cuba, before the eyes of the residents of the city, who face the gradual privatization with expectations and doubts.

In front of the old vehicle workshop of the Comar Base Economic Unit, belonging to the Holguín Fisheries Company, this Friday morning a line of customers was waiting to enter. In the wide warehouse on Aricochea Street, between Maceo and Mártires, you can no longer hear the rattling of the faucets or perceive the smell of fat and fuel that characterized the place.

Now, after a capital remodeling, the Obra Real mipyme is there, with a wide assortment of food, toiletries and household items. In the line, some who arrive for the first time in front of the restored building are astonished. “I almost didn’t recognize it. I passed by here often, and it was covered in grease; it’s totally changed,” a man who was waiting to buy detergent told 14ymedio.

The warehouses of the Copextel company on the Central Highway, Holguín, have been leased to a mipyme / 14ymedio

Obra Real has four locations in the city of Holguin, and its catalog includes everything from packages of La Estrella brown sugar, imported from Panama, to fans that are recharged with small solar panels. “The prices are high, but right now I have to come here to buy flour because there is no bread in my bakery,” the man adds.

The bidding process for these private companies to rent a state premises continues to lack dissemination and transparency. “They told me that they are renting the space of the Copextel warehouse on the Carretera Central Calle Martí, in front of the Electric Company, but when I went to ask, they had already ’granted’ it to the owner of several motorcycle workshops,” an entrepreneur interested in the place who asked for anonymity tells this newspaper.

“In this city, when night falls, a space belongs to the State, and when you wake up the next day it’s now under the management of a mipyme but no one knows very well how,” he says. “The rumor is that donations must be made to hospitals and gifts to officials so that they put you on the list of beneficiaries.”

Another warehouse on Libertadores Avenue, where until a few years ago oxygen tanks were stored for patients who needed them, went from the hands of Public Health to the small private company DaSens, dedicated to the fabrication of cleaning and personal hygiene products. Now, with a blue awning at the entrance, it’s a rare day that there are not a dozen people waiting to enter.

Children’s colognes, hair dyes, household cleaners and dishwashers are part of the mipyme’s offers, most of them imported in bulk and packaged on the Island. At the entrance, the store has a sign of a smiling woman carrying a bag of newly purchased products. In the line of those waiting to enter, however, the faces do not seem as happy.

The place that belonged to the old bus terminal Santiago-Habana is now under private management / 14ymedio

“Before, these places were closed and not used. It’s good to give them to individuals so they can at least fix them up and sell something,” Lázara, a resident of Reparto Peralta, explains to this newspaper. “I’m here for a cologne for my grandson, but I don’t know whether I’m going to find it today because all the prices have gone up, and the mipymes take advantage of the fact that the state has almost nothing to sell.”

In another warehouse, which once belonged to the Company of Drinks and Soft Drinks of Holguín on the Central Highway at San Pablo Street, the products of the Rey de Reyes mipyme are now displayed. On one of its outside walls, a newly painted crown in red accompanies the name of the place. The detail does not go unnoticed by the buyers who arrive.

“We kings are going to have to be early to be able to buy anything, because you can come one day, you turn around, and the price has already increased by 50 or 100 pesos,” said a woman who carefully read the sign with the products and prices that is exhibited outside. “Of course, an employee of a mipyme might be rude, but they usually treat you better than the ones in the state stores.”

Among the “improvements” over the state shops, the woman says that “they have good refrigeration, and when you buy a chicken it’s hard as stone, not half thawed.” She adds that “the stores have air conditioning and refrigerators on display, and some have made large investments in signs and glass counters so you can really see the merchandise.”

However, the woman believes that they have also “copied some of the worst things from the state stores. They never give a discount even if the merchandise is about to expire. They use the formula of ’combos’ a lot to force you to buy products that do not interest you, because if you’re looking for a bottle of oil, then you have to include some instant drinks or a package of coffee.”

The building where oxygen tanks were stored for patients went from the hands of Public Health to the small private company DaSens / 14ymedio

The list goes on. The warehouse of the once-powerful Copextel, managed by the military and dedicated to computer products, has also been rented to a mipyme. Although on the facade it still says “integral solutions,” the inside points to more mundane merchandise. Boxes of chicken, packages of detergent and bags of rice now occupy the space that was once intended for computers, monitors and printers.

Despite the fact that its walls have not yet been painted, it’s just a matter of time before the current managers remodel the property and hang colorful posters outside. Once restored, people who pass by on the Central Highway will have no doubt. “Look, there’s another mypyme,” they will say, as is heard more and more in the neighborhoods of Holguín.

*Translator’s note: MIPYME = MIcro, PEequeña (small) Y (and) MEdium Enterprise

Translated by Regina Anavy


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