Saturday, April 23, 2016

Cuba Reduces Food Prices: Comments From the Cash Register

Cuba Reduces Food Prices: Comments From the Cash Register / 14ymedio,
Luzbely Escobar

14ymedio, Luzbely Escobar, Havana, 22 April 2016 — The Carlos III
shopping center in Havana Center opened its doors this morning before an
expectant public looking for the price reductions on some products that
was announced on Primetime News last night at eight. On leaving the
market, many customers expressed dissatisfaction with a measure they
consider "insufficient."

Outside the shopping complex, a parking attendant in his 50's commented
on those who crowded around waiting for the opening. "They are doing
this to try to shut people up, people are very discontented." A young
pedicab driver added, "I see it more as tremendous chutzpah, the prices
they've marked are the same as they were when these stores opened and it
was an abuse then."

A few minutes after the market opened, most of the customers went
directly to the food departments, which is where the new prices are most
visible. There, looking over what was in the freezer, a gentleman who
said he was a maintenance worker at a polyclinic in Central Havana
explained, "Marking everything down is good, but for me it is still
going to be hard to feed my family as God commands." A gentleman
responded, "I'm self-employed, but it seems insufficient to me (…), I'm
going to lose a few pounds but still it's not enough."

With an empty bag and a scowl, a retired seventy-something named Lazarus
responded to a lady who was talking loudly about "the new measures."
"What measures, madam? So I can lose 40 pounds? All this is a joke and a
lie. I get 270 Cuban pesos [about $11] a month for my retirement, I
worked forty-some years. How can I live? Thanks to family I have abroad,
if I didn't I would die of hunger."

The lady, who didn't want to discuss it, murmured, "Well, any reduction
is noticeable, especially on chicken and picadillo [ground 'meat', often
largely or entirely soy], it's better than it was, clearly."

As usual in these circumstances, people are reluctant to speak up to
someone who presents themselves as a journalist, but there are always
exceptions. "The wages today are not what they need to be for many
workers, and almost no one lives on their monthly wages. If we count
what people 'divert' and 'steal' [from their workplaces] and what they
'invent,' then they can come to this store once a month and spend 20 or
30 CUCs, but this is what an engineer earns as a monthly salary,"
explained a young man at the exit of the market, comparing the average
Cuban salary with the price reductions.

Reinaldo, owner of a cafe in Old Havana, also dared to comment. "The
truth is I do not see much of note in these price reductions. For me who
buys in bulk, at best I would get some business, but for someone who
buys one kilogram, they're going to save enough to buy the kids a few
suckers," he said.

A couple of hours after opening, the Carlos III market, the only work of
the Revolution which bears the name of a king of Spain, had returned to
normal. A few curious people looking on from the sidewalk asked those
coming out of the store if it was true about the lower prices. A
gentleman with a sense of humor responded this way: "Did you bring a
truck to carry your purchases?"

NOTE: The average monthly salary in Cuba, according to data from last
December's session of the National Assembly, is 640 Cuban pesos, the
equivalent of about 26 dollars US. 1 CUC = 1 US dollar.

Source: Cuba Reduces Food Prices: Comments From the Cash Register /
14ymedio, Luzbely Escobar – Translating Cuba -

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