14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 5 February 2022 — Most of the taxis that pass this Thursday through San Lázaro Avenue, in Havana, continue without stopping. A line of pedestrians waits with their arms raised at the edge of the sidewalk, unsuccessfully: the vehicles are unoccupied, but they don’t stop.
“Before I used to wait on this corner and in less than five minutes I was gone,” laments a woman who, with a violin case in one hand, tries to attract the attention of taxi drivers. “This is the third time I’ve been late for my rehearsal,” she says anguished.
The maximum price of 15 pesos per ’section’ — a defined link — set by the Government last year as part of the measures of the ’Ordering Task’*, is a rate for that few taxi drivers will accept to carry a rider. Most drivers prefer to cover a shorter route or agree with the passenger on a new payment to the final destination.
“Direct taxi, they tell you. And then get ready for the price: I was charged 350 pesos a few days ago from the Bus Terminal to the Bim Bom ice cream parlor, which is on Infanta Street,” protests Carlos, a resident of Centro Habana, who explains to 14ymedio that this price for a journey of less than two kilometers seems like an abuse.
One only has to go out on the street to observe the complaints of Havanans. “20 pesos from Infanta to Galiano?” a man complained as he got out of an old American car that was packed with eight people. ”
It’s over, we are going to have to go out armed, because this is a robbery,” he was still angry.
The driver’s assistant, sitting on a rickety wooden bench, did not remain silent. “You better go rob a bank if you can, because when I go to buy malanga for my girl the farmer charges me 60 pesos a pound, so we can’t continue charging 15 pesos for one ’section’,” he snapped.
Lucía, a clerk in a store located in Old Havana, describes the situation as a disaster. In her case, the journey has quadrupled, going from the 10 pesos she paid to go from 23rd Street, where she lives, to her work, to 40 pesos for the same route. “The car that I take daily pays a trip to the Habana Libre hotel, and they charge me 20 pesos until there,” but at the next corner it loads passengers to the Parque del Curita for another 20 pesos. “It’s abusive,” she says.
The inflation that affects all citizens has led these carriers to circumvent the regulations imposed by the Government, which insists that the price of fuel has not increased, ignoring that it is not the only expense faced by drivers.
“The situation is complex and at the same time very simple,” a private driver tells 14ymedio. “I’m not going to talk about the spare parts, I’m just going to say that the MLC (freely convertible currency) is currently at 103 pesos and yesterday I paid 9 for a package of sausages in La Época and 29 for a block of cheese. We’re 3,914 pesos”, he calculates quickly. “I cannot put a price on the package of sausages that the Government sells me, therefore, it seems cheeky to me that the Government does put a price on my route, because my children have to eat,” he says.
*Translator’s note: Tarea ordenamiento = the [so-called] ‘Ordering Task’ which is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and others.
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