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Lines, SMEs and Viruses in VIII Congress Cuba |  International

Lines, SMEs and Viruses in VIII Congress Cuba | International

This Saturday, citizens line up to buy at a restaurant in Havana (Cuba).Yander Zamora / EFE

Not far from the Palace Conference in Havana, since last Friday VIII Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), About a hundred people with masks grind in an infamous line. Despite the fact that corona virus infection is so bad these days, no one has kept a safe distance. This afternoon, the thermometer reads 310, and this Saturday there is only one tree that provides shade around a shop that served chicken, the main protein of Cuban food. No one moved from the queue waiting about five hours to buy at the poorly stocked store in Cuba Bezos.

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A few volumes later there is another store with many more products in which you can pay only with the magnetic card associated with the account called MLC, Freely Convertible Currency with the support of Dollars, Euros or other foreign currencies. Raul Castro noted in his statement during the VIII Congress of these new stores that “the extreme situation of inflation forced the re-introduction of sales in freely convertible currency” and hoped that the move would “continue over time” until “power” is restored. Strengthen the economy. ”

At the magnetic card shop on 70th Street in the Miramar neighborhood, the queue is huge, even if you have to pay for food and basic necessities on a coin that is not accessible to many Cubans. There are a lot of conversations on the street while people are waiting. A housewife complains about the last electricity bill. More than a thousand pesos, equivalent to $ 40 at the official exchange rate, he says he can’t afford with his monthly income. Five times more than I paid before.

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One person claims that last week a reseller delivered a set of razors for 700 pesos. “I sent him to hell,” says one young man. “Previously my salary was 900 pesos and they have raised it by more than 4,000 due to monetary reform, but the price of everything has gone up,” he explains. His calculation is that he and most Cubans have lost almost half of their purchasing power since the so-called command mission in January. “It costs 193 pesos for a 10 pound chicken at a national currency store, but those who avoid it can buy two or three times as much from resellers,” says Mylan, who admits he is committed to the urgency of survival.

The pain of not being able to make decisions in most homes in Cuba comes out in almost every conversation. Officials are aware that this is an important matter, but it appeared on Saturday Discussions of the Economic and Social Commission of the VIII Congress of the BCC. Some delegates argued that the ration book should be abolished, which has been in effect for 60 years, providing all Cubans with a certain amount of food and basic necessities at subsidized prices – prices that have risen significantly since the currency reform, and they are still low. “If there is a free offer on a free scale, the book will lose its meaning. But in the absence of a consistent supply level, there is no choice but to maintain administrative distribution,” said Economy Minister Alejandro Gill.

In the queue near the convention center on Saturday, there is little expectation that VIII Congress will translate into improving the living standards of the people. Most say the discussions did not follow. In the historic center of Old Havana, where there are numerous private businesses, restaurants and bars – now closed or only being sold by the epidemic – some entrepreneurs declared the situation to be very serious. The reasons are the structural crisis of the production system, the catastrophic effects of the epidemic and the resurgence of the Trump administration’s ban. Entrepreneurs hope to start “a serious start” after the conference.

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“There’s no other way,” says the owner of a famous palate. However, he expresses his “confusion” over Raul Castro’s reference to the “limits” to the development of the private initiative. In a statement he made during Congress, Raul Castro Some professionals defended the restrictions on training on their own account and opposed the establishment of a “private business import” and “NGO trading system”. “These questions alone cannot create confusion. We have insurmountable limits because it will lead to the destruction of socialism, the consequences of which are irreversible and strategic errors and the destruction of socialism, and therefore the sovereignty of the nation,” he promised.

Those who see that the glass is half empty, and those who want to see it, with effort, are half full. When talking about legalizing SMEs, a self-employed person draws attention to what happened on Saturday in a group where the conference functioned – according to the conference, they could be up to 100 workers. “I’m optimistic because I have no choice,” the entrepreneur concludes.