The Offensive Against ‘Hoarders’ Comes To The Hard Currency Stores

Line for a hard currency store in Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 21, 2020 —  In the middle of the pandemic and the social differences that the hard currency shops generate, a case of corruption related to these State businesses now comes to light.

Several citizens in Guantánamo, in confabulation with workers in the TRD Caribe chain, carried out “illicit actions” to obtain merchandise that later was sold on informal networks, according to the official Agencia Cubana de Noticias [Cuban News Agency].

The Ministry of the Interior (MININT) carried out a raid against several offenses and acts of corruption that occurred in this chain “in the present context of the Covid-19 pandemic”, the agency said.

The investigations discovered that those implicated hoarded articles for resale on the black market or charged exorbitant rates for letting third parties buy with their debit cards in hard currency. So far, the amount of money confiscated is more than 3,300 CUC (roughly 3,300 USD at pre-pandemic exchange rates), 74,500 CUP (roughly 3,00 USD at the same rates), and 150 USD.

The notice says that complaints from the residents of Guantánamo provoked the police operation and the investigation of the accused. During the search of the suspects’ homes, they found home appliances like freezers, scooters, and refrigerators.

Although there is no clear policy that regulates the amount and frequency of buying in these places, in order to avoid the actions of resellers, the Government has implemented mechanisms of control for the sake of eliminating coleros (people who stand in line for others for pay) and hoarders. In most cases in these shops you have to show your identity card, in order to keep the same client from buying several times.

In recent weeks, hoarders have been repeatedly blamed in the official discourse and by part of the population for causing the shortages.

“The problem isn’t what they buy; it’s that they buy it and don’t need it and get a profit from it. That’s the big problem we have today, and not only with home appliances but also with construction materials and hardware articles,” commented a reader in a note published in Cubadebate.

“If they carry out raids in other shops they’ll see similar results, because the lines last for days when they have home appliances, so many people run to Revolico — an on-line commerce site — and buy them at a higher price,” commented another person in the digital publication.

This newspaper reported, during the first day of the opening of hard currency shops with food and cleaning products, that when locals entered, the employees warned them about limitations on the number of products, especially for those that, in addition, sell home appliances and car parts.

Another person on the site asked a question on Friday: “If the State isn’t selling it in hard currency, why not let people who can sell it to other citizens do so, so they can buy things in the shops?”

A commentator on Cubadebate, resident of Havana, sums up the disagreement and complaints that the opening of these stores has caused in the population:

“Yesterday I went to 3rd and 70th for the first time, to buy some food for my sick wife. I left very disgusted since they had nothing. Only very expensive beef and without having clear prices,” he complained.

“It’s not possible by selling in hard currency to keep the markets supplied. I always thought that would be a solution. These stores aren’t finding a way. They can’t say now that they’d be wrong again about demand. What’s needed is to sell a lot in order to collect a lot, and to not limit sales,” he added.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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