The Inflamed Nation / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

The massive layoffs so frequently announced by the Cuban nomenclature have not yet been implemented, but we can already see some of the first effects.

Despite the initial impulse of those who have seen an incentive, escape, or “breath of oxygen” in this, others have decided to “take justice into their own hands”. The absence of labor options, and the economic incentives, has actually really gotten to some people, and everyone has thought up something different.

So far during this new year, there have been a few robberies in some grocery stores, warehouses, and other public service businesses in the city of Holguin. In San German, a series of robberies left a couple of other grocery stores empty. They took the oil, the coffee, and nearly all the rice. All these products belonged to the “basket of basic goods” category, or in other words, they were products monitored by the rationing cards. Now, people do not hesitate one bit when they see 4 ounces of chicken or some kind of “texturized” ground beef (as it’s called here). They immediately go to buy any such products. “Just in case they run out fast,” someone–who nowadays is one of the first people in line whenever products arrive to the local grocery shop–commented to me.

The products mentioned in the Rationing Card are few and seldom available (only once a month), and the distribution company gets caught up, and one day the oil comes in, the next the soap arrives, and then the following week is when the coffee would arrive.

The incursions of the burglars go from the most basic thefts, with the usage of crowbars and pliers, to the sophisticated use of lock picks. In some places, they have left behind some messages warming that what was happening was only the beginning of much more to come. In other cases, these messages point out the negligence displayed by those in power. The unfortunate fact about this is that we are now witnessing a wave of theft which, on the one hand, puts many innocent people at risk, while on the other hand it serves as a “mirror”, as the only way of being able to achieve what one wants.

Robberies in local grocery stores are the reflection of thievery taking place in the high ranks, where men with white collars have amassed personal fortunes, and when this was not enough for them anymore they decided to stick their hands in the coffers of “Father State”.

“The General’s men are the ones who are robbing”, a street corner know-it-all tells me, while adding, “Nobody robs 6 millions dollars from the local shop, and nobody asks to borrow 2 airplanes to later return them. In order to do any of that, one must be up in the high ranks,” he reassures me.

The truth is that in order to carry out such robberies they did not have to get some people from Planet Mars to do it. They have used the same ones who one day went to the Plaza to scream slogans which were forced down their throats, or in the worst of cases, traveled to Africa to kill people they did not even know. They are also the very same ones who scream at the top of their lungs, “This street belongs to Fidel!”

Translated by Raul G.

February 10 2011