Hoarding Deja Vu in Cuba

Miguel Arias Sanchez

…and what’s up with all those people with so many cartons of eggs… Do they all have restaurants or what?   And that guy who has maybe 200 bars of soap, what might he have, a Turkish bath?   Illustration by Carlos

HAVANA TIMES – A long time before we learned that Trump would lift the waiver on Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, you could already sense that things were going to get worse; it was in the air, and people’s comments only confirmed this. There is even talk about another Special Period, about blackouts for hours on end… in short, everyone adds their own speculation, based on their personal experiences in previous years.

At the celebrations ceremony to commemorate the Bay of Pigs victory, General Raul Castro explained that the situation in the upcoming months would be tough and that we would have to be ready to face hardship.

However, we already knew it. Products had already begun to go missing on hard-currency stores (TRDs) shelves for a while now, such as chicken, cooking oil, sausages, etc. and eggs, liquid detergent and other items were missing on the national currency market too.

This is where we are beginning to see people buying these and other items in hordes again, just like they did in the 1990s, with arguments in line, brawls breaking out and even shopping mall windows being broken, the police having to intervene.

However, this isn’t only happening in Cuba; it is happening in Venezuela and we’ve seen it happen in other countries, during times of war too, throughout the course of human History.

It’s a natural instinct for people to run out and get as much of something as they can when they feel that it might disappear. This creates peace of mind.

Plus, there are always people who take advantage of shortages to hoard and resell what they have bought for two or three times the original price; without caring if the future customer is a pensioner or a student who doesn’t have this kind of money to pay exorbitant prices. A tray of eggs has cost up to 7 CUC (=USD); which is extremely expensive for your ordinary Cuban worker who barely makes 20 USD a month.

And, this isn’t a question of politicking, of capitalism or socialism, but about how it is for us regular citizens who suffer the consequences of decisions made by those who are in power.

Miguel Arias

Miguel Arias Sánchez: I was born in Regla in 1949. That’s where I went to elementary and high school. Afterwards I took courses to be a teacher and did that for several years. I did my military service and as soon as I got out I studied formally to be a teacher graduating at the University of Havana. I taught in classrooms for nearly 20 years. I had the opportunity to travel and see another reality. I returned and am currently doing different self-employed activities.

8 thoughts on “Hoarding Deja Vu in Cuba

  • Every people have the government they deserve… .”

  • Ihave read comments expressing the opinion that Our president is to be blamed for what is going on in Cuba, how can anyone be so ignorant?
    It is the Cuban government who is to blamed, I left the island in 1962, and it was the same, I returned in 2011 for a visit and it gets worse and worse.
    When they are going to learn the Communism doesn’t work.
    Stop blaming the North.
    And do something.

  • Right on Moses and the food supply is diminishing even further. Sugar production is at less than 15% of the 1989 figure – but as i have pointed out, the ancient creaking sugar plants provide a way of Machado Ventura gaining exercise shuffling around in his hard (why is it blue not red) hat.

  • Relatively speaking, Cubans have long been suffering from limited food choices. For HT readers who really know Cuba, when was the last time you purchased a Top Sirloin in Cuba? How about the ingredients for lasagna? Salmon steaks? Prosciutto? Anyway, the recent food shortages I have personally experienced in Havana included rice, sugar, aguacates and cooking oil to name a few. I mean really? Sugar? A few years before the Castros revolution, Cuba was among the world’s leaders in sugar production. These shortages are self-inflicted wounds. The US embargo exempts food imports. When there are no potatoes in Cuba its because of Cuban agricultural mismanagement and malfeasance, plain and simple.

  • You reflect the reality Robert, that it is the people of Cuba that suffer the consequences of the US policies, rather than the political hierarchy. The US Cuban Democracy Act which introduced the current embargo, had excellent objectives – but after 58 years of application, has obviously failed whilst providing the Castro regime with a whipping boy for all the sins and errors and sheer incompetence for which they are responsible. For those of us who are like you, personally affected, the consequences are more than just unfortunate – they are emotionally distressing.
    One other comment, dried food weighs less – milk powder, cereals, dried fruits and soups.

  • My Cuban friends are human being’s also and it does not matter how much money I send my daughter if there is no food there is no food. I will still return in August to be there for the birth of my grand daughter but will have to bring canned goods instead of clothes and baby clothes.

  • Your suggestions for an “easy fix” of the Cuban economy are pie in the sky Aserro. Communism is not concerned about market shortages for “the mass”. The dominating concern is retention of power and control.

  • In a free market economy there are no shortages, simply put, because as soon as demand increase, the production increase too then there’s no need to hoard.
    This shortage has an easy fix:
    – Allow private and free market.
    -Let farmers have full control of their bussiness and to use as much land as they need.
    -Decrease the political and economic control of the goverment over cubans.
    -Open investments to all cubans without restrictions.

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