HAVANA TIMES — When I saw the photos of the inauguration of the Mercabel wholesale market, in the pro-government media’s inflated article, I thought they were strange for a feature about a center of this kind which are normally large commercial spaces. It was either a really bad photographer who took these photos from an overly closed angle, or they didn’t want people to see how small this wholesale market really is.
I went and took a photo, just one before I was kicked out because it isn’t open to the public, it’s only open to customers who have filled out their paperwork at the Tobacco, Cigarette, Matches and Food Wholesale Market for Social Consumption offices (that’s a real name by the way, I didn’t make it up) which is located in Old Havana, well away from where the market is.
In the photo that accompanies this article, you can see that it’d be a joke to call this place a “wholesale market” as it’s nothing more than a small exhibition of what you can find at any other gloomy store for Cubans.
They are trying to make us believe, with this “wholesale market”, that something is being done to reduce prices so that resellers disappear, so that private cafes and restaurants have to declare more tax.
- Prices aren’t going to drop because offers at this market are insignificant and access is only granted by our corrupt bureaucracy.
- Resellers will never disappear while supply is so scarce and government prices are so high.
- More taxes won’t be declared because the supplies you can buy here are just a fraction of what any business needs.
The overwhelming majority will continue to find their supplies on the black or retail market, sorry let me correct myself, I meant to say at Hard-Currency Collection Stores which was their official name until March 7th, which were conceived in order to “collect” every single cent of hard currency that is sent by remittances, by selling poor quality products at abusive prices. A 500g bag of powdered milk costs 5.20 CUC (around a week’s wage for a Cuban) and a kilo of frozen chicken legs that come in a packet with lots of ice and hormones costs 1.95 CUC.
Cooperatives that are better connected or directly linked to Party bigwigs can shop in this small warehouse, which must represent less than 1% of private Cuban entrepreneurs. Likewise, they are not precisely the ones who most need it, buying a few products at a discount price, thereby creating new privileges within a society that is becoming stratified at an alarming rate.
It won’t take very long for these extremely few cooperatives which can buy at MERCABAL with a 20% discount to then sell on their purchases at a 10% discount to other self-employed businesses, because, like always, administrative hurdles created by the system will only favor the perversion of what citizens’ really want. Whoever thinks that this is going to reduce prices has lost their mind or regularly watches La Mesa Redonda on TV. Am I being too redundant?
Such a market is a sham against the Cuban people’s hopes for improvements after 60 years of a news monopoly. Without greater production, the resources which will keep this market going can only come from diverting them away from other sectors or provinces in order to create an image of feasibility, because the only thing they want to sell is an image.
Soon, when nobody is watching and the news has been cashed in already, the same thing that always happens will happen and what initially started off in a place that was at least painted and clean, will become an unsupplied pigsty that is run by a millionaire administrator.
Instead, what the government could have done was to allow foreign wholesale companies to sell to Cuban customers directly, but no, it’s better to set up this ridiculous pantomime before risking losing their international trade monopoly, a necessary valve to keep the country’s wealth, I mean, poverty, in check as well as the national trade monopoly, their way of pillaging.
The saddest thing is that with the news of Mercabal’s opening, a vast group of the Cuban people will have hope, again, they will feel grateful to the Revolution, again, they will feel that the government thinks about them and works for their wellbeing… again.