A Line in Cuba for Cooking Oil Ends in Blows on Good Friday

A massive line for the El Bodegón store in Centro Habana. (14ymedio)

By Juan Diego Rodríguez (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – Several policemen and patrol cars, blows, arguments and many, many people set the tone for a line to buy vegetable oil, which extended through Salud Street in Centro Habana this Good Friday, a holiday in Cuba.

“The police can’t control a hungry people. People brutalize themselves to buy oil and chicken,” says a resident who from her house sees how several women hit each other in one of the fights provoked by the massive line for the store El Bodegón, with its entrance through Belascoain street.

“I don’t understand why on July 11th there wasn’t a little more force used, like in this line to buy oil because the police go after people, but people don’t let go, they keep hitting,” adds the resident. “On a day like today God was dead and the devil is on the loose.”

A liter of vegetable oil in the capital’s informal market costs between 500 and 700 pesos, while the sale of oil in state stores continues to be rationed like other basic necessities. For more than two years, vegetable oil has begun to be scarce.

(Officially 500 pesos is $20 USD while on the street it is just under $5 USD.  A minimum monthly wage is 2,100 pesos.)

People who were able to purchase the product today at El Bodegón, at a price of 50 pesos, had to present their supply book from the rationed market where the purchase was recorded and they will not be able to purchase oil again in another state establishment for the next 15 days.

The situation is repeated throughout the country. In Santiago de Cuba, the Edible Oil Refining Company, which also supplies the province’s illicit market, was paralyzed for several weeks and a liter cost more than 700 pesos. Currently, although the factory has started processing, the product is still scarce, and a liter can be bought for 500 pesos.

The authorities have insisted that the shutdown of the Santiago refinery was due to “a breakdown and maintenance work” and that “at no time has the raw material been lacking,” something that residents celebrate because they will have oil for several months, even if they have to buy it from informal vendors.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times

7 thoughts on “A Line in Cuba for Cooking Oil Ends in Blows on Good Friday

  • Yes, the truth does hurt. It is painful for me to see my loved ones in Cuba suffer under the totally idiotic oppression of the Castro dictatorship while Castro bootlickers ignore Cuban reality and replace it with their grade school level civics class analysis of the moribund Castro regime.

  • “Ya, basta Stephen!” . . . . “Yes, you hit a nerve!”

    Moses, the truth hurts doesn’t it, as you so eloquently have stated in your opening and closing emotional statements.

    Obviously, there’s nothing more to add.

  • Ya, basta Stephen! What I know about everyday life in Cuba I know from what my talented, well-educated hard-working Cuban family share with me as they painfully list out the number of basic food items that they ask me and my wife to include in the monthly care package we send to them. I am talking about cooking oils, shampoos, sanitary napkins, etc. And did I mention the life-saving blood pressure medicine that keeps my wife’s grandfather alive? The same blood pressure medication that is available in at least every two-bit drugstore in the US. So, yeah, I know that they know this crap is killing them, but what can they do? As long as Castro rumplickin’ sycophants keep patting Cubans on the head like helpless babies, their circumstances will never change. By the way, Stephen, if the cowards whose rumps you love to lamer didn’t spend so much putting cops on every other street corner in La Habana, they could afford olive oil for the masses. Do you know what crop would do well in the cool low level mountains of Eastern Cuba? Olive trees! You would do well to reread my comment and ask for help with the big words. My point is to highlight how SAD it is that Cubans are put in a situation that provokes anger to the point of fisticuffs over a cooking oil that’s unhealthy. Any nimrod knows its not their fault. But it doesn’t help them when armchair Bolcheviks excuse this behavior because it is not their fault. Yes, you hit a nerve!

  • Moses writes: “More and more people are realizing that vegetable cooking oils are not healthy but because they are cheaper than olive and other natural cooking oils, they remain popular. So think about this, even though we know that it sucks for our health, Cubans are fighting for it.”

    Absolutely, more and more people, as Moses states, are realizing that vegetable oils are not healthy particularly if those people live outside Cuba and have some inclination and concern about healthy living. However, in Cuba ordinary Cubans do not have that luxury.

    Take olive oil. Any health care provider or nutritionist will agree that olive oil, particularly extra virgin, is comparatively more healthy a consumable oil. I am sure no one disagrees with that fact. Anyone outside of Cuba who has the money is encouraged to use this type of oil for nutritious purposes. This cooking oil debate does not apply in Cuba for many reasons.

    Where in Cuba is olive oil sold? It is sold only in MLC stores owned and operated by the totalitarian state and only accessible by Cubans who have foreign remittance cards. And even then, a bottle of the stuff is priced out of the reach of most Cubans. In other words, the majority of Cubans have no access to olive oil, extra virgin, or otherwise. So, what is the alternative?

    Cubans must buy whatever oil is available either in an MLC store or on the black market on the street wherever it is cheapest and convenient. Many, many Cubans must, it is obligatory if they want to cook, fry, bake, with oil that they purchase vegetable oil. It is the only game in town.

    The Cuban government with its scarce resources has limited funds to purchase oil, any type of oil, cooking or otherwise on the open market so like any other consumer product cooking oil is in very short supply causing demand to exceed supply. The result is the excessive competition on the streets for a limited product. Aggression and pent up anger manifests itself openly. This happens everywhere in the world given similar circumstances.

    Vegetable oils, as Moses states, “ . . . they remain popular.” Absolutely false in the use of the word “popular”. More to the point, and precisely vegetable oils, any cooking oils, for that matter are a critical necessity and when there is fierce competition for the product that is in very short supply, you get the mayhem on Cuban streets. Vegetable cooking oil in limited supply is not “popular” but a necessity. Cubans, unfortunately, have to fight for it.

    Moses writes: “So think about this, even though we know that it sucks for our health, Cubans are fighting for it.” Well, ya, you and I sitting comfortably in our resource rich countries with exhaustive choice in the cooking oils grocery section of the ample filled grocery store, we, the comparatively rich, have the luxury to avoid buying cooking oils that “suck”.

    But, put yourself in the shoes of that poor Cuban mother (the majority of mothers in Cuba are poor) with next to no money and with a limited chance to purchase a bottle of cooking oil, perhaps just one, do you honestly think she is thinking about the possible health implications of using a “vegetable” cooking oil, that “sucks”? Really?

    If that is what you think, and believe, you really have no idea what Cubans have to endure daily and how Cuba presently exists. Today, Cubans are fighting for their survival; Cuban families are fighting to feed themselves. The luxury of choosing, choosing any consumer product, is not in the lexicon of the majority of Cubans today. Now, that sucks.

  • Castro socialismo simply does not work. More and more people are realizing that vegetable cooking oils are not healthy but because they are cheaper than olive and other natural cooking oils, they remain popular. So think about this, even though we know that it sucks for our health, Cubans are fighting for it.

  • The fruits of the glorious revolution. And I do not want to hear the word Embargo USA is the biggest food supplier to the island. In this new fiscal year started in Oct 2021.

  • The Cuban government needs to get rid of MLC stores and everything in the country must be bought in local currency

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