Stores Leased to the Self-employed Are Without Electricity in Havana

Customers have to use the flashlights of their cell phones to be able to check the prices of merchandise. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 2 July 2022 — Private workers who rent state premises in the stores of Central Havana are experiencing martyrdom in these days of intense blackouts due to the imposition of working without electricity. “This is a lack of respect for the amount of money we generate,” one of the self-employed complained this Saturday morning, while fanning himself to relieve the heat.

Customers have to use the flashlights on their cell phones to be able to check the merchandise and see the prices. “It’s a lot of work to be able to pay. I had to use the flashlight on my cell phone to give the price to the owner of the business where I bought some shoes,” explains Xiomara.

“It’s like a cave in here, these poor people are working without a fan and so are we, the poor customers. Every time I enter one of these stores I go out dripping sweat,” adds the woman, who had to enter several places to be able to determine which shoes to buy.

“It’s to save electricity,” they say, “It’s the order from above,” “There’s no power because they turn off the switch,” are some of the answers that sellers repeat the most in the face of the anger or restlessness of customers. The affected shops are mainly located on Neptune, Galiano and Monte streets.

“I just entered a store and it’s a sauna,” said a young man who tried to buy some accessories for his cell phone but gave up in the face of the darkness and heat inside the rented space.

In contrast, the self-employed who work on private premises don’t suffer from this measure. “Everyone has their tables lit, with fans connected. Everything is well lit;  the mess is in the state stores,” says a salesman who knows the area.

But it’s not just about heat and darkness. Health problems proliferate where people crowd into poorly ventilated spaces. In recent days, reports of respiratory and gastrointestinal viruses have also increased, and people fear staying for long in the overcrowded and unheated spaces.

Two customers try to look at some shoes in a store on Neptuno and Galiano. (14ymedio)

“They should give you hazardous duty pay,” a customer told sellers at a centrally located, privately managed store on the corner of Neptune and Galiano on Friday. “I was only there for a minute and I left with shortness of breath. I don’t know how they can spend hours inside, to be honest.”

Last April, the Government approved the lease of state premises that were in disuse to the self-employed and cooperatives. Among the measure’s objectives is to “increase participation in the economy, promote development, diversification of production, productive chains and economic and social well-being,” according to the resolution of the Ministry of Internal Trade. Then it became clear that it’s the state that manages these establishments.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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