HAVANA TIMES — On the Cuban TV news, they often talk about of the global economic crisis. “What evil walks the world!” we say to ourselves in front of the set. The images they show us of capitalist societies are stunning: massive joblessness, increasing taxes and sky rocketing costs of living.
And yes, it’s true that in financial terms things don’t look very good out there in the world. But what about here?
It has been a long time since we’ve had the basic necessities, especially those related to personal hygiene. Those were removed from our ration books and became products sold at much higher unrestricted prices.
The question was whether they would become scarce from time to time or even stop being sold – thereby creating chaos. Such a situation would make these products only available in hard-currency stores, where they would be impossible for most of us to purchase – especially those living on some trifling pension or only their meager wages.
Any such doubts are often dispelled when these products do in fact disappear from the new markets. But what’s worse is when the prices are raised under the pretext of providing “higher quality.” A good example is bath soap, which had cost between 5.00 and 6.00 pesos but now goes for a staggering 11.00 pesos.
Nonetheless, no explanation was given on the news. They tell me about the increased cost of admission in theaters and cinemas in Spain, and that in Greece even the firefighting services are going to be privatized.
But what does it matter to me if the price of going to a movie in Madrid is sky high if I have to adjust and readjust my budget just to come up with a way to buy soap to last the month.
The strange thing is that friends and relatives who live abroad complain about how things are bad there…but nobody wants to return. On the contrary, those who leave manage to stay.
The best example is the number of desertions there has been among athletes over the past three months.
On June 19, five players from the national basketball team slipped away in San Juan to begin applying for residence in Puerto Rico. Likewise, at the recently concluded London Olympic games, journalist Luis Lopez Viera, the sports editor for the Juventud Rebelde newspaper (and who had often been seen as a panelist on the Mesa Redonda television program), also decided to stay, seeking “political asylum” at the British Embassy.
And most recently, in the Fifth World Cup in Edmonton Canada, held from August 10 to 19, four of the players on the National Women’s Baseball squad didn’t miss their opportunities and decided to leave the team for the United States.
But the Cuban news reports didn’t say anything. They continue talking about other countries in crisis, those which everyone wants to leave for and from which no one is returning.
While I do my household bills and I see that I’m short, the deserters have other concerns about getting residency in places in crisis where there’s no problem about the price of soap.