Osmel Almaguer

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Jan 4 — Though private food services in Cuba haven’t succeeded in outstripping state-run food services, in the sale of day-to-day consumer articles this isn’t the case.

This is due in large part to a strange solidarity between private vendors. Instead of competing with each other, they agree on certain prices and quality levels, which are different from the prices and quality of services provided by the state.

In the competition that was established through the issuing of self-employment licenses to anyone who desired one, private businesses have been given a big advantage, at least in the sale of articles, like I said.

This is especially so in the case of clothing that’s imported onto the black market from Latin American countries that have duty free zones.

These articles come in fake brands that young people are eager to wear, in the absence of the genuine brands. The prices are equal to or lower than those in the government-run shops, and they come in styles and designs that are in fashion.

This is different from the state-run stores, where it seems like the wholesale buyers never interest themselves in purchasing products that are in demand.

A similar situation occurs with shoes, which — like clothes and other articles — have improved a lot in recent years in terms of their quality and attractiveness.

Other areas in which privates vendors excel are hardware store items and certain types of food services (the so-called “paladars,” or private restaurants).

Likewise, we’re seeing the construction of private gyms, given the growing demand of a people who these days are more concerned about individual appearances than they are about patriotic, cultural or work matters.

People have come up with everything from foam machine parties to concerts with “perreando” (dirty dancing) and reggaeton.

In short, people have found a whole range of solutions in their quest to raise their standard of living.

Only those who don’t need to earn aren’t trying to make a buck with a business.

Therefore, those people with ideas continue generating new opportunities. Though money is tight in Cuba, if it keeps circulating it will improve our lives.


Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

8 thoughts on “Cuba: Public vs. Private Competition

  • Grady will it surprise you to learn that I have no hate for Fidel Castro?
    He is to me just a person with the same problems that we all have. Some times he is right and some times he is wrong just like the rest of us.

    He would have gotten a lot more credit for example if education was really for everyone, those with him and those that opposed him. He will have a lot more credit if health care quality was even and not better for special groups. He would have had infinite praise from me and probably every Cuban if in 1959 or a few years later he had rejected the traps and seduction absolute power and bring back democracy to Cuba and be now just like any Cuban.
    Now in his old age he seem concentrated in international affairs than in solving Cuban issues he himself created. His last analysis show his preoccupation with and apocalyptic future that may never be.

    Cuba will return to democracy. This is something that eventually will happen. Sooner or later. Hopefully sooner. I actually wish he would be able to see a democratic Cuba before he dies.

  • It is interesting to see Julio reducing everything to his hatred of Fidel . . . but not very interesting.

    People have blind spots, Julio. People on the Left, for example, have great difficulty connecting the work “monopoly” to the concept or vision of “socialism.” I myself, as you know, never connected the two until you forced my, by strong argument, to do so.

    I had a blind spot because the two words seem to be mutually exclusive. The last thing a socialist wishes to hear is that post-capitalism, as exhibited in countries like the Soviet Union and Cuba, is some sort of monopoly. And so, we go merrily along, calling it bureaucratic and absolutist and anything under the sun, except for monopoly. And yet, once the term is accepted, the conceptual fog begins to lift.

    You helped me–and our movement–to characterize the socialism of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Fidel and Raul accurately as state monopoly. But, Julio, this is a programmatic clarification, not a personality critique. The exchange between rob and me has to do with program, not the personality of a leader.

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