Our Ability to Decipher Good and Bad

Warhol P

Street vendor on Havana's Neptuno St.  Photo: Caridad
Street vendor on Havana’s Neptuno St. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES – While doing my shopping this past Sunday in the Marianao plaza, I was witness to a small police operative.

From the interior of the plaza some of the illegal vendors – who resell state goods – ran to try and hide their offerings: packages of spaghetti, macaroni, flasks of vinegar, dry wine, eggs, and an infinite number of products that are often hard to find in the state-run establishments.

Right where I was standing, they detained one of the many who day by day dedicates her efforts to reselling in the same areas where goods are offered at a modest price.

The police officer looked pleased as he escorted the illegal vendor over to the patrol car that was parked to one side of the plaza. A group of people interested in the problem formed a knot around the officers and the detained woman.

A police officer asked her for her identity card, but she wasn’t carrying identification. Another of the officers told her that he recognized her from other times when she had also been arrested for the same reason.

I stood there observing and listening attentively to a countless number of comments. Almost all of those who expressed an opinion were on the re-seller’s side; according to these bystanders, she was earning a living without harming anyone. “So, with all the criminals running around free, why do they go after these women?”

Almost all of the mutterings were in this vein.

My question is: “Really, is it true that they don’t harm anyone?”

Considering that they sell their products at prices much higher than the state, I maintain that, yes, they affect us. Cartons of eggs, to give one example, are priced by the state at 33 pesos, but these resellers sell them at a price of 60 pesos.

A few short days ago, I had set out on a search for eggs in my municipality and couldn’t find them in any of the state establishments; nevertheless the illegal vendors have an enormous quantity of cartons.  Whatever item you are looking for and can’t find, they – ever so solicitously – can pull out for you from under the ground, even a casket.

Their packages of spaghetti cost 10 pesos, and since they were repackaged at home they don’t hold the same amount as an original package, so that from one pack you can only make one miserable plate of pasta. It’s nothing close to a fair deal. The same thing happens with the coffee that costs 15 pesos and is nothing but dried sediment.

Many other products that are resold have been adulterated, and some even have the past due expiration date on them.

I don’t understand what’s going on with us Cubans: we’re either just choosing to play dumb or maybe too much soy has damaged our brains.

What’s certain is that we’ve arrived at an incalculable extreme of stupidity that makes it impossible for us to realize that the only thing that the resellers do is swindle us.

Definitely, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that we’ve lost the capacity to differentiate between what is bad and what is good for us.

4 thoughts on “Our Ability to Decipher Good and Bad

  • AC, mine is not the belief that the market should be unregulated and without limitations. On the contrary, even in a regulated market like that of Pay-TV here in the US, the announcement today of a mega-merger of two major cable companies does not bode well for cable consumers. However, in the case of Cuba we are dealing with the extreme control of markets by the government. I absolutely believe that the government can not control the market to the extent the Castros control Cuban salaries, prices, and products without causing major disasters. With regards to Cuba, allowing private import and export, wealth accumulation, and foreign ownership would go a long way toward invigorating an economy that is circling the drain.

  • Thats akin to: let the population starve to death. No government would allow that if is in its hands to avoid it, because when people get desperate enough governments tend to collapse rather quickly.

    Also, you are assuming that the government and population in general have enough cash to keep supplying the product (all of products) until the issue of hoarding solves itself and thats not the case. Remember that one of the direct results of the frankencurrency issues in Cuba is that the selling prices HAVE to be lower or the population simply can’t afford them.

    As a side note, your faith in the market has been proved without trace of doubt to be grossly misplaced and your own country is a clear example of the damages of the extreme liberalism.

  • Potemkin village anyone?

  • The solution is simple: let the market decide. As long as the government controls the import, production or manufacture of these goods, and controls the retail price, the possibility of hoarding and subsequent resell at much higher prices is greater.

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