Cuba: There Was Food But Not for Us

By Yoani Sanchez (14ymedio)

The shelves full of meat at one of the US dollar stores. (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – When the sun rose this Monday, about 250 people were already waiting outside the Boyeros y Camagüey store in Havana to buy food and toiletries with foreign currency. Since last week, when the Cuban government confirmed what the independent media had already reported, the start of the sale of food in foreign currencies through magnetic cards has monopolized the talks and the outrage.

This weekend several images were leaked from the interior of one of the shops preparing to open its doors on July 20. So, we came face to face with a reality that we suspected but that we have seen confirmed on those shelves full of preserves, in the refrigerators loaded with meat, and on the shelves full of toiletries. There were products but not for those who only had national currency.

Where were all these sauces, these cuts of beef, the ground beef and these packages with beans when for months people have had to spend hours, if not days, in a line to buy what little stores had for sale in convertible pesos? Is it that they are going to make us believe that all this arrived in the country last week, circumventing the American embargo that the Plaza de la Revolución always uses as a pretext for the shortages?

These goods were here but the authorities did not want to sell them in the stores in Convertible and Cuban pesos (CUP and CUC). All those arguments that there were no raw materials and that the pandemic had left the country without the ability to buy basic items, were just to justify why there were no products for sale in exchange for those colored slips of paper that they still insist on calling “Cuban pesos,” when in reality they seem to levitate with so little worth.

They have kept us passing most of our lives in a long line to get a package of frozen chicken or some detergent, while in state warehouses there were tons of merchandise that was reserved exclusively for those who have the currency of that country which, in official propaganda, remains “the enemy.” This peculiar adversary, whose currency it is necessary to use to sustain a dysfunctional and unproductive system like the one that exists on this Island.

Today, when the police distributed the first 200 turns in line outside the Boyeros and Camagüey market, customers prepared not only to buy food and cleaning supplies, but also to peer into that inventory of products that has been hidden from us for months.

36 thoughts on “Cuba: There Was Food But Not for Us

  • TED YASHCHESHEN’s complaint about the Canada Revenue Agency (tax) is the most irrelevant comment I have ever read in HT.
    What about the Battersea Dogs Home?

  • You certainly swallowed the Castro regimes misinformation Javier Trump. For fifty nine years, they have trotted out the same old same old nonsense that the US embargo is responsible for their managerial incompetence, the consistent failure of five year plans, and the ever declining production levels in particular of agriculture, resulting in good land reverting to bush.

    It is not the US embargo that imposes repression in Cuba, that is the role of MININT!

    It is not the US embargo that prohibits free speech and expression!

    It is not the US embargo that prohibits a free media!

    Is the incompetence of the Cuban Postal Service a consequence of the US embargo?

    Is the incompetence of the internal distributive systems a consequence of the US embargo?

    Is the decline of sugar production a consequence of the US embargo?

    Finally Javier Trump, it is a US embargo, not a blockade as misrepresented by the Castro regime Propaganda Department. If you lived in Cuba, you would know the reality! Open and Shut!

    As for goodwill, relate that to the ghosts of those shot at La Cabana and to those revolutionaries who were jailed for opposing Fidel Castro’s imposition of communism.

  • The Cuban Economic Blockade imposed by the US government is real.. It is mainly responsible for the hardships suffered by the Cubans…For anyone to suggest that this is not the case means that they are either lying intentionally or they are ignorant to reality…This is an open and shut case….And the sad thing about this is that those who have been so wicked in their attempts to promote and implement the sabotage of the Cuban economy, are now pointing fingers at the Cuban government as if they are responsible for the Cuban Blockade..I urge all those of good will to support the end the Cuban Blockade now….

  • WOW! I have never read soo much comment on any subject cited in the Havana Times about the status of access to the food network. Not really sure what all is going on in the background with the power and control beings? I was in CUBA ten years ago and things were very controlled more so than when I was there five years ago. I have traveled from one end of the Island to the other. And been aware of the lack of food for the Cuban people vs. the tourists or the tour guides to eat with us having access to all kinds of food.
    I have met fellow Cubans in the USA that escaped from the power and control of the Cuban government and how much they appreciate their freedom and liberty. We have seen all the communist countries that have failed to prosper and their people suffer from it all!

  • How wise my wife was when over four years ago, she suggested that we cease transferring money into her Cuban bank account, and instead retain it in hard currency. Having lived all her life under the repression and deceit of the Castro regime, she knows not to trust it.

  • I think what Andrew is saying is that if you can trade your CUC on the ilicit market for a foreign currency you can then deposit that on the magnetic cards. Otherwise you will have to stick to the CUC and CUP stores and markets.

  • Cuba is finally admitting the truth
    That the revolution is over and the future has come
    Let them taste captilisn their way

  • Most local stores that supply household goods can not except USD for payment of those goods. So the Gov. sets up stores across the country to allow people to use credit/debit cards to purchase those goods. Is that a bad thing? I’m not saying that there is no problem, I’m saying that at least they are doing something. They need those dollars to purchase other products that will/are needed. for instance hospital supplies that are in great shortage. Pay peoples wages, pensions etc. I know that what they pay is a very small but they still need to pay it. As for pointing out that Canada isn’t a paradise maybe you should try to live somewhere else for a while I think you will change your mind!!!!

  • One only has to read George Orwell novels, particularly 1984 and Animal Farm to obtain a clear picture of what a totalitarian state can, and will do.

    Animal Farm is almost an exact metaphor for Cuba today.

    The animals were mistreated and abandoned not properly cared for while the masters while neglecting the animals were enjoying themselves. Prior to revolutionary Cuba circa 1959 under the Battista government many Cubans were neglected, illiteracy rates high, government aid for citizens non existent, prostitution everywhere . . . a ripe atmosphere for a Revolution to make things better for the working class.
    Well the Revolution did happen. The animals in Animal Farm at the beginning obtained all the food they needed, all the respect they needed, all the necessities they previously lacked were obtainable.

    Then slowly as time passed new Ministries were formed to “guide” the population; food that was once plentiful would unexpectedly disappear later to be found in the homes of the masters. Food rations would become reduced in order to sustain the agenda of the masters.

    The masters would encourage the population to tighten their belts, to work harder all for the glory of the Revolution which would one day prevail. Meanwhile the masters would be siphoning off the surplus or gains of the proletariat for their own consumption.

    The Propaganda Ministry would constantly remind the patriots of how fortunate they are of living under such generous rulers and how despicable their neighbors are and all blame for any misfortune is to aimed at the enemy across the farm yard, or today, 90 kms. to the north.

    Some animals stated that this robbing from the population had to stop. That the Revolutionary goals they had participated in enacting and that they believed would free them from tyranny was working against them.

    George Orwell predicted and foresaw what the consequences are for a totalitarian state. It begins with Revolutionary fervor to serve the people but in the final analysis it does the exact opposite. The people and the metaphorical animals end up suffering while the those within the upper echelons of the totalitarian state prosper.

    Meat in fridges unavailable for the proletariat to purchase – if they had the money which they don’t – was always destined for the upper echelons of the bourgeoisie state authorities who have the power and money to purchase “unavailable” meat and anything else they so desire.

    The animals in Animal Farm eventually did rise up and made some attempt to bring dignity, respect and human decency to the farm. How will the ordinary Cubans react to their consistent deprivation day in day out, year after year? Time will tell.

  • Carlyle, both you and Hal are correct, there is enough blame to be shared by past and current Governments in Cuba and the US. I have lived and still experience (In both the US and Cuba) much of what is being described.

    We all know what I mean when I mention the INTERNAL and EXTERNAL embargo.

    President Obama relaxed the external Embargo and things got economically better for the people of Cuba, but the Cuba government did not take advantage and answered in kind. Diaz Canel is relaxing the Internal Embargo and, hopefully, things will get better. But the Trump government will not respond in kind either. As it has been said before, “Neither Government will miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”

    Until both Governments are willing to fully eliminate their respective Embargo, the people of both countries will suffer, unfortunately it is the people of Cuba that are most exposed to these political manipulations.

    Just a thought… If either government totally eliminates its Embargo, the other Embargo will automatically collapse. If we could only have a true leader that puts people above their political agendas, the world will be a better place.

    John Lennon
    ……….You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope some day you’ll join us
    And the world will be as one………..

  • “If a Cuban has CUC s can they get dollars and then be able to go to the foreign currency stores?”

    They don’t need dollars as such – any foreign currency that they can place on one of the cards. Because of the demand, the price of USD and euros have increased in private exchanges.

  • I know of many suppliers of these products who have recently signed contracts for supplies specifically for these shops selling in MLC. I don´t know if all the stocks are like that, but I doubt that much has been sitting in warehouses.

    And either Yoani does not understand, or does not want to understand about the embargo. Some of that food might even have come from the US. But Cuba can, and does buy these sort of products from Europe and Latin America etc. The embargo has little direct effect on these purchases.

  • Sorry Mr Wellman, me personally I know the cuban history from 1492 to 1 hour ago, Sir your point it is very poor, far away from the facts, by the way do you like the Cartel regime of Havana.

  • Mr Patterson, yes that’s true

  • Patrick, you are right, that is a regime based on a Cartel structure. Gracias

  • Linda, thanks…your view about this is great, cuban appreciate it

  • Hey Michael, Thanks for honesty and be a great person, you have an extraordinary point.

  • Everybody that left a comment. You’re one hundred percent right. I should know I was born in Cuba in the year 1959. Thank God my family and I left that Socialist, Communist crap over fifty two years ago. But sadly I still have family out there, which I know for a fact they are going through hell! Communism doesn’t work anywhere. Look what’s happening in Venezuela. Another want to be Cuban country. Even if that those two Commie clowns have past away Fidel Castro and Chavez. Still nothing change. And now with this pandemic is even worse out there. I’ve even read that in Venezuela people where so hungry that in many cases they were digging in the streets looking for food! And in Cuba you have to wait in line for hours ,sometimes since the night before to get a lousy chicken and some rice or half a dozen if eggs if you’re lucky. While we throw so much food away in the greatest country in the world. Including restaurants, supermarkets, out in the farms and many other places. While people are going hungry in these countries and many third world countries as well! That’s the reason we can never let this country be run by brain dead Liberals with Socialist mentalities. It could happen anywhere. Cuba was one of the richest Latin American countries in the thirties, forties and early fifties. My late Maternal Grandfather and all his brothers were rich in Cuba back in those days and owned many properties, until Fidel and those Communists thriumph back in January if 1959! That’s the reason I hate Communism, and I know for a fact it doesn’t work at all! Bless us all!

  • I really would not say that Canada is a paradise either.
    As someone who has spent 45 years in the workforce to have 100% of my pension being seized by the
    government determined by a Bogus CRA assessment is not exactly freedom or just. There is a lot of justice in Canada, how much can you afford to pay for??? Look at

  • If a Cuban has CUC s can they get dollars and then be able to go to the foreign currency stores?


  • “Cuban gov. is trying to make a bad situation better”? Ok, here’s your chance. Give us some SPECIFIC things that the Cuban government is doing to make a bad situation better.

  • It’s a sad story, I have friends there , they try so hard !

  • It breaks heart and yet so many Cuban people are blindsided by the Cuban government. They blame the embargo but the real thief’s are the government. How can they do this to people in their own country. No food, no medicine, poor quality rations. Well I know where they are going, it starts with an H and much hotter than Cuba. Ame

  • The other point that many are missing too is that with this approach, the Cuban government is trying to coax out all of those US dollars and other foreign currencies that are hiding under so many Cuban mattresses… because the government needs them to support the buying and importing of more food, etc. for those who can afford to pay for it. Capitalism is indeed alive and well in Cuba. Those foreign currencies are also helping to keep Cuba’s social programs alive and functioning as well.

  • We are seeing the dictatorship’s true colours more and more every day. I cannot say I am very surprised though with these new actions. I really hope ppl will start to open their eyes more because my biggest frustration until now is the level of indoctrination that exists. Are people there really starting to realize finally that they ve been lied to for 61 years? It is taking a lot of our efforts to make them see that the dictatorship and the revolution have not been beneficial to anyone other than the Castros and other senior level officers.

  • hal wellman is correct describing Cuba being in “a bad situation”. He is also correct in suggesting that history has significance. Where he starts to wander away from reality is when he credits the never elected by popular vote Castro regime, as “trying to make a bad situation better”.
    Those who wish to denigrate the US, continually endeavor to hold it responsible for the consequences in Cuba of pursuit of the Stalinist interpretation of Marx/Engels/Lenin. It was Fidel Castro, who FOLLOWING the revolution, put on trial those of his fellow revolutionaries who sought freedom from dictatorship. Indeed it was he who even put many of them on trial conducted by himself in pursuit of the absolute power for which he lusted.
    Those of us who live the majority or all of our time in Cuba, are witness to “what the gov. is trying to do.” The consequences are well described in these very pages in articles written by Cubans. Examples of repression, shortages, and incompetence are commonplace. But somehow for folks like hal wellman, those descriptions are either falsehoods, or a consequence of the US activities. They cannot believe the all too apparent evidence that they are a consequence of the Castro communist regime’s sixty one years in total control and power.

  • It seems that all you people miss the point of what the gov. is trying to do. You only see what you want. The point of all this is that Cuban gov. is trying to make a bad situation better. The US has been trying to control Cuba for over 200 years and has not succeeded yet. How do you think the situation in Cuba started? Do you even know. Maybe before you throw out all of your accusations read a little history first.

  • If only the Cuban people had the chance to spend time in Canada to realize what freedoms and luxuries of everyday life they are missing out on.

  • Stop and think about this for a moment: all this meat has been in the country in some deep freezer for how long? Yuk!!!

  • What happened to all those communist ideals? Everyone is equal and on one for all and all for one! I am a Cuban American and left Cuba in the Mariel boat lift in 1980 at 13 years old. I have never gone back as long as that dictatorship and oppressive government continues to be there. I would say the same they say to the U.S., we will eliminate the embargo when you change your government to a democratic republic with liberty and opportunity for all Cubans! Viva Cuba Libre!

  • The regime in Cuba does not actually work. It is in power because of brutality and force. Fear of being thrown in jail is what keeps people in line. This story just accentuates the hypocrisy of the regime.

  • HAVANA provide
    one refridgerator
    per family, not per house, per family.
    80 trips to cuba
    i have seen sickness, trips to hospitals
    too often, from cubans eating spoiled
    parasite infected foods
    with 85 f weather daily

  • So much for the commie paradise, it’s things like this that gets Cubans throwing themselves in the ocean to get away from Cuba

  • It appears the photo that brought down el presidente has been pulled by the gov’t.
    Not surprised. I hear the people were outraged when they saw all that fresh ground beef.

  • Castro regime hypocrisy fully exposed. As the strings attached to the Presidential puppet Diaz-Canel slacken, his head ought appropriately to drop in shame, but will probably hide a smirk.

    Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard
    To get the poor dog a bone.
    But when she got there,
    The Cupboard was bare,
    And so the poor dog got none!

    Now if only Old Mother Hubbard had had a fistful of US dollars !

    Is the store shown in the photograph located in Siboney to provide ease of access for the communist Ministers?

  • When I first saw the photos of all that meat in the State stores– being aware of how the Cuban people have starved and suffered long lines for so long– I was literally shocked.
    This is the meat (and other plentiful foodstuffs) that I have been begging FAR to distribute to the citizenry. It’s been sitting in warehouses, reserved for the Generals.
    Shameful is the only word that comes to mind.
    Makes it very difficult for one to remain enamored of the Revolution.

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