Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Enigmatic Closing Of Plaza Carlos III Causes Discomfort

The Enigmatic Closing Of Plaza Carlos III Causes Discomfort

14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 27 March 2017 – It is almost noon on
Sunday and a young couple, with their two young children in their arms,
stops frustrated in front of the closed gate of the Plaza Carlos III
Shopping Center. For a moment they are confused, they consult the clock
and immediately become inquisitive towards several people who arrived
earlier and who, like them, have stopped in front of the lattice. Some
wait patiently in the entryway from very early, "in case they open
later," but in vain.

The scene has been repeated every day since Friday, March 24, the day
when the commercial center, the largest and most popular of its kind in
Cuba, was closed. Dozens of regular customers from various provinces in
the interior have traveled to the capital just to stumble across a small
and laconic sign on the security gate, which warns the obvious and
offers no useful information:




Apologize for the annoyances that we may occasion


Of course, without official information, the surprise closure of Plaza
Carlos III has raised a lot of speculation, especially in the
neighborhoods surrounding the enclave, in the heart of downtown Havana,
being one of the pioneer shops of the "opening" to foreign currency
transactions in Cuba, since the so-called decriminalization of the
dollar, back in the 90's of the last century. Since its opening as a
foreign exchange market Carlos III has undergone several renovations in
different stages, but never before have the sales to the public been
completely discontinued.

Rumors are circulating that relate this unusual closure to the recent
fires that have occurred in other establishments that operate in foreign
currency in the municipality. "The management denounced to the fire
department headquarters the bad state of the fire-fighting media,
because it does not want the same thing to happen to them [as in the
last ones], so they are renovating the whole system," say some residents
of the neighborhood who, according to what they say, received that
information from some of the shopping center's employees and officials.
There are those who say that "the firemen came and found that there were
flaws in the fire protection system."

These days, however, no metal or metal bars covering the two entrances
of the Plaza have been seen to deploy personnel or vehicles specializing
in fire-fighting technology, nor have any workers been seen to be
reinstalling or maintaining the electrical networks or other similar tasks.

The most visible interior hassle has been the employees of the place,
occupied in general cleaning of the floors and windows, who have been
reluctant to give explanations to those who are not satisfied with the
simple poster and inquire about the date of reopening. "Until further
notice," they repeat, as automatons, those who deign to respond.

Other neighbors speak of a "general audit" that "becomes very
complicated" due to the large number of shopping mall departments and
the size and complexity of their stores. This conjecture is reinforced,
on the one hand, by the experience of decades of cyclical (and futile)
raids against mismanagement, administrative corruption,
misappropriation, embezzlement, smuggling, black marketing and all other
illegalities to be found in a socioeconomic system characterized by
growing demand, insufficient supply and the poor management of the state
monopoly on the economy. The regularity of which does not escape any
establishment where a high amount of state resources moves.

On the other hand, the surprise and unannounced closing – with all the
losses it entails in a shopping center that bills thousands of pesos in
both national currencies – is a sign of the intervention of the highest
ranking government auditors to detect irregularities on the spot without
giving transgressors time to hide traces of their misdeeds.

If the alleged audit is, in fact, underway, it would be a demonstration
of the nullity of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) and their
failure to prevent illegalities in the neighborhood. For several months
the constant and strong police presence around the outer areas of the
commercial center have conferred a deplorable image of a besieged
square, while the "inside" thieves, those who are part of the staff,
looked after their own interests.

Last Sunday some trucks continued unloading merchandise in the Plaza
Carlos III warehouses, which augurs that on an imprecise but possibly
soon date, the mall will be reopened to the public. There is every
indication, for the moment, that it does not seem to have fallen prey to
that closure epidemic that has recently affected several establishments
of the capital that trade in hard currencies.

Affected sites include the hardware stores at 5th, 42nd and La Puntilla,
in the Playa municipality Playa; the Yumurí and Sylvain de Zanja and
Belascoaín stores in Centro Habana; the Pan American TRD on 9th Street,
in the Casino Deportivo neighborhood of the Cerro municipality; and
numerous sale kiosks spread around different points of the city, just to
mention some cases.

While the waiting lasts and the questions accumulate without answers,
the more optimistic habaneros have begun to rub their hands in the
intangible expectation that the next reopening of the popular Plaza
Carlos III will be accompanied with a renewed merchandise, and that at
least in the first days of resumed sales the usually depressed shelves
of the different departments will offer a greater quantity and variety
of products.

Hope is the last thing you lose.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: The Enigmatic Closing Of Plaza Carlos III Causes Discomfort –
Translating Cuba -

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