Havana, a Dead City with ‘More Police Than People on the Street’ and Without Lines
The harassment of independent activists and journalists since last week already foretold that this Monday, the one-year anniversary of the historic 11J demonstrations in Cuba, would be a day without disturbances. This is the case, at least in Havana, where numerous police officers, uniform and civilian, are deployed in the streets of the center. In their effort to maintain order, the authorities have even done what seemed impossible: they made the lines disappear.
“There’s nothing available in the neighborhood stores that always have lines in front, such as El Rápido, the Cupet de Infanta or Maisí. It seems that they’ve chosen to avoid the food lines today,” a neighbor of Central Havana tells this newspaper, surprised by the empty shops, the semi-deserted streets and the environment of surveillance.
In the Maisí store, located on Infanta Street, two other women commented that “there’s nothing for sale because, you know, today they don’t want people on the street.” Nor was there anything to buy at H. Upmann, on Zapata and Infanta, and Las Columnas, on Galiano.
At the doors, of course, there were individuals with an inquisitive attitude, who were clearly not there to buy, since nothing was offered. “Today there are more police than people on the street,” a boy murmured when he saw them.
The police operation was especially visible on Carlos III Street, which was full of officers. In the Plaza of the same name there was one business operating, with chicken and detergent for sale in pesos. On any other day, the line would have been massive; however, on Monday, there were only three people waiting.
“Here, here’s the line, they replied to an old man who asked, surprised by the low number. “And why are there so few people?” he asked. “They’ve only allowed the bodegas (ration stores) to be open today,” they explained.
On the door, a sign announced the distribution of the bodegas for the People’s Council of Pueblo Nuevo, the only one that has been open from June 22, without any modification to the rules of last May 20. Since then, purchases have been restricted by municipality and “cycles,” a controversial measure not only to distribute scarce products but also to avoid turmoil in the lines.
“It’s a shame there isn’t even one place open, not even one line, in all of Havana. It’s incredible,” exclaimed a boy also from Central Havana who, in vain, was looking for a place where he could shop paying in national currency.
The strategic points of that neighborhood, one of the emblematic scenarios of last year’s 11J demonstrations, were full of officers on Monday. A woman summarized the situation when passing a group of four Black Berets [Special Forces] walking along Boulevard San Rafael: “Not even one fly is flying here today.”
Translated by Regina Anavy