Crisis Report from Cuba: No Shoes in My City

TRD (hard-currency) stores will no longer sell shoes in Mayari, Holguin

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

TRD, hard currency stores owned by the Cuban army corporation GAESA.

HAVANA TIMES – Shoes haven’t come into Mayari, Holguín’s stores, for over six months now. And, this widespread shortage unfortunately extends to the rest of the province and the island, to a greater or lesser extent. It seems to be the result of the financial crisis that has hit the national economy at every level and its negative impact on imports of basic items.

Belonging to the army’s GAESA corporation, the chain of TRD stores (there are two such establishments in my city) no longer has footwear to sell. It has even reorganized the business purpose of its stores and decided that it will no longer sell shoes in Mayari, only in Nicaro. A town that is 21 kms away.

That’s to say, that neither “La Amistad” or “La Isla” stores will be selling shoes from now on. Even if stock comes in later this year or the next, people will have to travel approximately 30 kms to Cueto or 21 kms to Nicaro in order to buy this product at these stores. This is all happening in a municipality which is also experiencing a transport crisis, making the decision an anti-commercial and unpopular measure that nobody can get their head around.

“We don’t know anything; it was just a guideline the Chain’s management passed on and that’s what we are going to do. In the end, it hasn’t had a negative impact yet because there aren’t any shoes to sell anyway. But, once supplies do come in and people realize that we won’t be selling them here because of a management decision, complaints will come pouring in,” remarked an employee at the “La Amistad” store.

Alexey, a young man who exchanges foreign currency in front of these stores gave his take on the situation: “These people have lost half their brains, you know what it’s going to be like not to sell shoes in the municipal capital and sell them in a small town which is so far away, when we don’t even have transport to get there? It doesn’t make sense to anyone. Things are just getting worse and they always find a way to screw the Cuban people over a little more. They never do anything to help,” he concluded.

Marisol, a housewife who receives remittances from the US, also weighed in: “Thank God for private sellers who bring their merchandise from Mexico, Guyana or Panama. Things are getting ugly and it seems like we’re returning back to those tough times. People are afraid and all the young people want to leave Cuba.”

“And, look here, they’ve made production plans and they are signing business agreements with other countries every day and nothing is changing for the better, we’re just moving backwards all the time. They said we’d be all good by 2030, but at this rate, we’ll probably be waiting in line for water then,” she concluded.

Suitcase repairman in Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez

For their part, private crafts persons have benefitted. According to Jose, a private shoemaker, “Ever since there haven’t been any shoes in the store, we’ve been selling a lot more. We have similar prices and, even though the ones coming from the factory are prettier, the ones we sell are stronger and longer-lasting.

People are finding ways around it, but it is true that they complain about stores not selling shoes. People want to have several options. However, Cubans always invent and wherever the State falls short, that’s where we come in.”

Our country has been experiencing a severe crisis since 1959, resulting from the Revolution’s inviable economic model. However, due to more adverse circumstances, there have been more acute periods of shortages. The longest was the infamous Special Period in the early/mid 1990s, which the country sank into after the Soviet Bloc collapsed.

Some analysts predict that Cuba is gradually moving into a new Special Period, as a result of many hostile factors. This can be felt in shortages of many items such as food products, medicine and shoes. However, the government refuses to recognize it as such and only sees it as a temporary “difficult situation”.

Osmel Ramirez

I'm from Mayari, a little village in Holguín. I was born on the same day that the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. A good omen, since I identify myself as a pacifist. I am a biologist but I am passionate about politics, history and political philosophy. Writing about these topics, I got to journalism, precisely here on Havana Times. I consider myself a democratic socialist and my main motivation is to try to be useful to the positive change that Cuba needs.

3 thoughts on “Crisis Report from Cuba: No Shoes in My City

  • April 28, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    Dan you have obviously succumbed to Raul Castro Ruz’s “new” constitution falsehood, where by changing the wording from communist and communism and replacing them with socialist and socialism – even putting in the word democratic, he hopes to persuade the world at large that Cuba is a democratic socialist country rather than the actuality of being a communist dictatorship. There is a hell of a lot of difference between “socialist-leaning countries in Europe” and the Cuban totalitarian regime. I have friends who are democratic socialists and to confuse their views with those of communism is insulting.
    As the new Cuban Constitution states. Cuba is a One-Party State – that of the Communist Party of Cuba.
    Raul produced his constitution in September 2018 and it was then paraded around the country to organised “public” meetings for three months supposedly for discussion and by December, the regime claimed that 8.2 million Cubans had “contributed” – but omitting to add that not a single word had been changed in consequence. Every single shop in Cuba (all owned by GAESA under different labels) had a poster saying “Yo Vota Si” Every President of the CDR on every single block of every village, town and city similarly had a poster as did all municipal, provincial and national government office. TV promoted “Yo Vota Si” endlessly for months.
    Following the referendum being held on February 24th, there was unusual quiet for almost three days before the result was announced. It was claimed that 86.85% had voted “si”. But oddly, the number voting has not been given. As I personally know many Cubans who did not vote and as my wife officiated at a voting station, I have no doubt that the figure was well below the 8.2 million previously claimed as “contributing”. Manipulation of statistics by the regime which has great expertise following much practice – for example the claim that fewer than 10% of Cubans are black – just look at their sports teams – is the norm.
    The Cuban regime is following the old well practiced policy by communists of misinformation. Let’s just call the Cuban Government what it is, and that is a communist dictatorship with every member of the Poder Popular (supposed parliament) being a Party member. As for the claim of being “democratic socialist” that can be dismissed in one word! BUNKUM

  • April 26, 2019 at 4:55 am

    Magaly’s comment is the one I see most often on this site–blaming Cuba’s problems on socialism (the second most common is to blame Cuba’s problems on the US embargo). I’d love to see the embargo lifted and nothing but good vibes between two peoples. But the above article really just shows one thing–that regardless of what style of government a country has, the leaders who make the decisions may make good decisions for the people, or bad decisions for the people. There are at least a few socialist-leaning countries in Europe whose governments would NEVER do this type of thing, and would never do most of the things that the Cuban gov’t does. So yes you can blame Cuba’s dire situations on the system of Socialism, but really it’s just bad choices by the particular people in power–choices that do not seem at all interested in the people, and that do not really reflect socialist values at all.

  • April 24, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    That goes to show socialism or comunist gov does not work

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