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Trash overflowing and collecting around the available dumpsters at Aquila and Estrella Streets in Havana. Photo by Orlando Freire Santana

Primavera Digital, Eduardo Martínez Rodríguez El Cerro, Havana, 5 September 2017 — We list here the most pressing problems faced by average Cubans:

1-A greatly reduced ration book of subsidized foods. High prices in the markets. Very little on offer in the stores. Relatively cheap goods of horrendous quality. In an island surrounded by water there is no fish. Fishing is not permitted.

2-Total sustained inflation of 1000%. Constant reduction of the average Cuban’s buying power.

3-Almost total absence of locally produced or imported cosmetics and perfumes. Scarce, poor and expensive supply of clothing and shoes. Shortages of detergents, toilet paper, soaps, etc.

4-Terrible public transportation in a constant state of decay. Very expensive taxis. Private alternative drivers greatly harassed by police and inspectors who stringently enforce technical and aesthetic standards for which they provide no support.

5-Extremely high and burdensome taxes imposed on all private businesses, absence of incentives, no wholesale market, absence of low tariffs, barriers to importing, excessive and corrupt bureaucracy, great number of regulations and prohibitions that obstruct free enterprise, etc.

6-Abysmal state of the never-finished National Highway and of urban and rural roads throughout the country, where no work to reverse this situation can be seen. Advanced and irrecoverable (in terms of planning and current economic possibilities) deterioration of the housing stock and all urban infrastructure. Railway lines that are technologically backward, save those that have to do with access to the Port of Mariel.

7-Obsolete airports. New and more severe customs restrictions on the entry of merchandise and products when in fact the opposite should be the case, if the objective is to incentivize minimal but effective commerce. Impossibility of importation by private individuals or entities.

8-Dual monetary system*. When the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is eliminated it will leave only the Cuban Peso (CUP) along with the exorbitantly high current prices. A median monthly salary consists of little more than 300 CUP monthly, while the cost of living for that same period is 2500 CUP.

9-High unemployment, not officially recognized.

10-The presence on the streets of a high number of uniformed police officers, members of State Security, and of inspectors who obstruct private enterprise and public life.

11-Exceedingly high emigration, especially of young and highly qualified professionals. Very low birth rate and very rapid aging of the population.

12-High housing deficit. Scarce and very expensive construction materials. Properties being bought-up by foreigners hiding behind national residents, incentivized by (for them) low real estate prices compared with those in their own countries.

13-Highly censored news media that don’t report on many matters of national and international interest. Scant possibility of accessing the Internet. Dreadful radio and television programming. Culture that is mediated and restricted by a Ministry that inhibits and prohibits more than it encourages, supports or represents.

14-Bad education with non-systematic improvisation of evaluative measures (such as oral exams for the 12th grade). Low expectations of students, indifference and apathy on their part for a future devoid of interest.

15-Bad medical and health services throughout the Island in light of the acute shortage of professionals for so many residents. Chronic absence of primary and secondary medications. An abusive black market in health care and products. The appalling state of public hospitals. Full waiting rooms but an extreme dearth of personnel given the exporting of the healthcare labor force to work in foreign countries in exchange for hard currency paid directly to the government.

16-Very little possibility of accessing recreation centers.

17-Violence, aggressiveness and widespread coarseness in the streets. High social indiscipline as a consequence of the sharp and sustained economic crisis in the country. The appearance of uncollected trash heaps around insufficient or very deteriorated garbage cans–founts of stink, mosquitoes and disease–on the corners of not very privileged or centrally located neighborhoods. The appearance of legions of dumpster divers (barehanded garbage pickers, usually old or chronically displaced persons) in search of recyclable aluminum cans, empty soda bottles that can be sold to private entrepreneurs, remains of edible food, anything that can be sold to unsuspecting buyers, etc. These ladies and gentlemen care little about order and hygiene, and they contribute to the nation’s urban disaster.

18-The ruling class is not interested in any type of aid from the North Americans, for they fear that–as will happen anyway, as is in fact already happening–their power will quickly slip through their fingers, and in six months time this country will become another Puerto Rico.

eduardo57@nauta.cu

Translator’s Notes:

*Cuba has two currencies: Cuban pesos (CUP), worth about 4 cents US, and Cuban Convertible pesos (CUC), each worth 25 Cuban pesos, or about one dollar US. It has been a longstanding, but as yet unfulfilled, promise of the government to move to a single currency.

Translated By:  Alicia Barraqué Ellison


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