Cubans Saddled with Refrigerator Payments

By Warhol P.

Our refrigerator is more like an ornamental piece in our house, because it’s almost always empty. Photo: Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES, Feb 8 — Today in Cuba there exist situations that are somewhat complicated. At least for me, knowing that I’m shouldering a debt to the government makes me feel kind of uncomfortable.

A year ago I stopped working because I realized that all the effort was in vain. Every two weeks I was bringing home a measly 25 Cuban pesos ($1.00 USD). Between work stoppages due to raw material shortages and payments on my family’s loan for a refrigerator, I was barely making enough for bus fare.

Having no job, I stopped paying on the refrigerator. I had received it four years ago during the “Energy Revolution” in exchange for another less efficient but still functioning one. The old ones had to be in working condition to be exchanged for a new Haier-brand Chinese model.

I never understood why we had to swap units if in the end we had to buy the appliances. What’s more, at no time was the value the old refrigerators considered. Plus, they didn’t even give us discounts on the price of the new fridges.

Some people said the exchanges weren’t mandatory, others argue that they were. But since what’s new is new, almost everybody in Cuba switched their refrigerators. Today though, almost everybody is in debt (the payment period is for ten years).

Many people couldn’t even pay the first month, while others like me are waiting in fear for the bank rep to show up demanding an immediate payment.

Some friends told me that I could get a fine based on the number of months I owe. Others say they could throw me jail. But the truth is that I don’t have any money, and I’m afraid because I know that at any moment they might knock on my door.

My mother is worried about this situation too, but I told her not worry. In the worst case scenario I’ll tell the bank to send out a truck and take the fridge away.

In reality, our refrigerator is more like an ornamental piece in our house, because it’s almost always empty. The only things in it are plastic pop bottles full of water, and from what I can see, that’s the way it’s going to be for quite some time.