By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – The “temporary” crisis isn’t living up to its name and is stretching out like the structural evil it truly is. The fact of the matter is that you can’t skillfully employ a euphemism to put a spin on reality.
Words of encouragement that offer an expectation of things of getting better all on their own, which isn’t real, or transmit the idea that we have a diligent government working very hard with calculated messages. You just take a look at the long lines all over the country, when some basic items go on sale and run out, to understand the ordeal we have to endure.
“They’re selling chicken at store X” and a network of cellphone calls begins to grow exponentially and within half an hour, people from all over the municipality have shown up outside the store traveling by whatever means they can. (Bikes, motorbikes, mopeds, horse drawn wagons, cars, on foot, however they can).
Employees escape from work leaving their duties; everybody leaves whatever it is they are doing to join the stampede. Hundreds of people line up almost immediately.
For chicken today, but it could be for anything else tomorrow. Because they are selling salt at Mercado Ideal, or sugar, sausages, or hot dogs. That’s how things come in, bit by bit. Two or three products are rarely ever sold at the same time and people spend all of their time trying to get to stores without any guaranteed form of transport, waiting in lines.
An entire population investing so much time in lines can’t be efficient. No economy can endure this, because millions of hours/people are being lost in buying only, not in production. And this is something that should be of concern.
Just imagine! We Cubans can’t produce anything because we are normally standing in line and this takes time. Or the government can’t spend the little money the country has to buy the tools or machinery, or supplies needed to produce, but they can on finished products because there are shortages and the system isn’t efficient.
It’s a vicious cycle and it feeds off the very problem that lies at its root, meaning that it is a perpetual cycle until the system is changed. It’s a dreadful scourge.
However, there are even more unfortunate crowds in line than those waiting to buy food items: those outside pharmacies. Full of old people looking for high-blood pressure, diabetes or circulation pills, or for heart disease. People who worked hard for this country with their blood, sweat and tears, but their pensions aren’t enough for them to even buy food for the week and they have to make a thousand trips to the pharmacy, and even wake up in a line to find relief for the ailments of old age.
This Saturday, there was a market in Mayari, but you could only find a few sacks of root vegetables in some corners of the town. There were even huge lines for this because they were a couple of cents cheaper than the price that self-employed vegetable sellers sell them for. People are eager when buying food, some because they don’t have anything to eat and others because they are afraid their reserves at home will finish.
People were crowded outside the Mercado Ideal store hoping that they would sell rice, and at 10 AM, a truck finally appeared full of sacks and they began to sell it immediately. There were 300 people or so all the time because there are only two scales to serve everyone in the only spot they are selling it in a municipality (Mayari) with 106,000 inhabitants. And it’s been over a week since they last sold rice, which is basic in our diet. This was the second time this highly sought-after grain was being sold in February, and it had run out by Sunday…
Things are really tough right now. Last week, I waited in line to buy chicken which they suddenly put out for sale at a shopping center, and I only knew because I just happened to be passing by. I took my place in line and it was already quite long. It was 3 PM and they closed at 5 PM. I was left empty-handed with five people still in front of me.
I spent a couple of minutes trying to take in that failure, but I was at a complete loss. It was a complete and utter waste of time. I couldn’t go the following day because I had to work on my tobacco plot and then I found out that it had run out by noon. I couldn’t buy the chicken and they haven’t sold it, or any other form of protein, since.
Now, all we can do is wait (and take action whoever can) to see how this all ends. All we can do is trust that this sacrifice our people are making won’t be in vain, which is between the rock of the national blockade (which continues to be the main cause of our woes) and a tight place which is a tougher foreign embargo, which is pressuring the government to make changes and reconcile with Cubans abroad.
Oh, if only these extremely long lines, as well as the repression, poverty and totalitarianism, soon become nothing more than a bitter memory.