Reports from Cuba: Even if the ration books arrive, there’s nothing to buy in the bodegas

14yMedio reports from Havana via Translating Cuba:

Cuba: Even if the ‘Libreta’ Arrives There Is Nothing To Buy in the Bodegas

This February, there is nothing in the bodegas (ration stores) in Havana.

At the end of January, only six Cuban provinces and the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud had received the libreta (ration book), the official press acknowledged on Thursday. For the population, however, it is not the libreta that worries them, but the fact that the food isn’t arriving on time at the bodegas (ration stores).

According to the official Tribuna de La Habana, due to delays in printing and the low availability of raw materials, the Ministry of Internal Trade has only managed to distribute 69% of the more than 4 million libretas required on the Island, despite the fact that since last September it had the budget for their manufacture.

The December 20 deadline for the  libretacould not be met, something that had been warned from the beginning by the company Ediciones Caribe, contracted for the printing. They could only prepare the booklet but not the pages with the list of products for each member of the household and their official registration address (Oficoda). With these delays, the authorities said, the deliveries of the libreta could not be done in time.

To the citizens, however, the libreta “doesn’t matter.” Manuel, a retiree who lives in Central Havana, told this newspaper that “with the delay of food in the bodega, it doesn’t matter if they give us the libreta or not, because there is nothing to buy anyway.”

According to Manuel, the gossip in the bodega predicts a February similar to the previous month, when “on the 20th we still did not have rice, and other products from December were missing. Even the bodeguero is worried because he has not been given indications from above and has nothing to sell. If we continue like this, it’s better to buy everything in the inforrmal market, although there will be those who do not eat, but that is already happening,” he says with conviction.

Mirta, another resident of Luyanó, says that “people don’t even worry about whether it’s day one, because they know that nothing will come to the bodega.” Meanwhile, she says sarcastically, “people eat spirituality and patience.”

In other provinces such as Artemisa and Holguín, food has not arrived at the ration stores either, as this newspaper has verified.

An article in the local newspaper Venceremos announced this Thursday the delivery in Guantánamo, “in the first days of February,” of seven pounds of rice and four pounds of sugar per month per person, in addition to the beans of the month of January and the “coffee corresponding to December.”

“In the case of preserves, the ninth and tenth deliveries of last year are underway. It is also guaranteed that February will begin with milk for children up to 6 years old, who will receive chicken in place of beef; this same change will happen with medical diets,” the newspaper adds.

As for rice, “distribution to the bodegas is carried out as it is unloaded in the port of Santiago de Cuba.” However, for sugar, which depends on the production of the power plants, “the delays could continue,” Venceremos admitted.

Currently the picadillo (ground meat) and the December sausage are being distributed, the newspaper continued, but it did not clarify when they are expected to arrive. Cleaning products, they added, are guaranteed.

Both the delivery of products purchased on the international market and those of Cuban manufacture present considerable delays in their arrivals to the Island’s bodegas, because, in part, the government only has what is necessary on a month-to-month basis. This is the case of the production of the Ecuador sugar mill, in Ciego de Ávila, which since January 17 has been producing 1,300 tons of sugar that must be distributed in the province this February.

The authorities did not say, however, what they plan to do in March, when the annual sugar harvest is over and sugar will stop being produced in the country for several months.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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