By Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES — This past Friday, potatoes started being sold, from the 2017 harvest, under the control of the rations booklets, a first round of 4 pounds per person. In the face of not having a better supply, the majority of people appreciate the government’s offer and hour by hour the human rush to every appointed state-run sales point increased.
Residents on Manrique Street, between Reina and Salud Streets, agree when they say: “There isn’t any alternative, at least with a degree of order on the first day we will all get our share. Distribution by the ration book is the best thing they could have done.”
Maritza Morales, who lives in the Los Sitios neighborhood, whose consumers, were confused as where they could get their potatoes. “I nearly didn’t find where it was I could buy them, I asked two ration store keepers on Carmen Street, but nobody knew, and then finally on the corner of Campanario Street, there was a sign with the address written on it.”
The concentration of potatoes at relatively few sales points complicates things. For example, the Desague and Subirana market covers residents of the territory of 23 neighborhood bodega stores. We checked another two and they were similar. The justification for such a measure appears to be controls in the face of the inevitable “illegal” re-sale, violating the law put in place by the government.
This time, the system of notifying the Havana population didn’t work, which is efficient enough whenever it has to do with a mass rally of a political nature called for by the Communist Party. People suspect that this was the government’s attempt to minimize the impact, as it is the most sought-after root vegetable in Cuba, where the population can’t buy it most of the year.
In front of every State-owned Agro-Market, pieces of cardboard which serve as improvised announcements, detail the number of every bodega and other facts, among others that “Potato distribution expires seven days after the last truck comes in. The potatoes are allocated to every duly registered household. The price is 1 peso (0.04 USD) per pound.”
In the line, somebody sarcastically remarked: “What a problem for divorced couples who are forced to live together in the same household, now they’ll have to find scales and divide up the potatoes at home.”
In an interview with the national newspaper Juventud Rebelde, Yosvani Pupo Otero, the director of retail sales at the Ministry of Domestic Trade, revealed the Cuban government’s unequal distribution of the leading root vegetable in the world: “The eastern region, from Camaguey, will not benefit from this controlled sale due to the lack of transport to transfer the product.”
Half of Cuba won’t be able to eat potatoes, at least via state markets, which are the only legal viable channels, of a food whose sale is strictly controlled by the State monopoly.
That said, there are always loopholes in the face of the absurd. In front of the Arrollo market in the Cuatro Caminos neighborhood, it’s been confirmed that “when the wave of the first day passes, you can get a bag of 100 pounds paying double the price. We’re also already seeing peddlers on the street reselling them in 5 pound bags for a dollar.”
As evening came, lines remained long with worried citizens in “the country of lines”, according to popular saying. For the time being, the city has mobilized without political slogans, as people hope to get a hold of their first pounds of potatoes this year.