Havana is no more than a huge queue. This is how journalist Hector Lemieux begins his report for Le Figaro, in which he assures that Cuba, hard hit by the pandemic, has few means to cope with poverty. He tells how the stores and food stalls have hardly any merchandise and how Cubans wait for hours to be able to buy some rice or chicken, sometimes “the only meat sometimes available on the island”. Not even the most affluent neighborhoods like Miramar are spared. Queues to buy something, often without knowing during the wait what they will be able to buy, what will be available.
CNN also made a report in February on the food crisis that Cuba is suffering. And the daily queues in which it seems that the security distance is no longer a concern because the only important thing is to get food. And the fact is that the island depends on tourism to fill the shelves of state supermarkets, the only ones there are. Because despite the multiple crops, the island exports most of the food and the little it produces to pay off its foreign debt: Criollo cigarettes, Cristal beer, cigars of all brands, Cubita coffee. Everything goes abroad. Before the pandemic, Cuba already had to import 70% of its food.
The crisis worsens as the pandemic continues because tourism has disappeared and exports are less and less due to lack of money from the Government. It is the whale that bites its own tail because the shortages derived from the crisis force people to go out into the streets and stand in long lines to buy food and other basic products, which complicates the epidemiological panorama in the Cuban capital, despite the night curfew and other measures in force, such as the closure of educational centers, restaurants, bars and beaches.
As a result, the black market is thriving. Whoever manages to stockpile some product sells it later. Prices skyrocket. To make matters worse, the Cuban peso has collapsed against foreign currencies. It is necessary to pay in euros or dollars to buy imported products in special stores where there are also queues. If the euro is officially exchanged at 27 Cuban pesos in banks, it is worth more than twice as much in the streets, since with the pandemic tourists and foreign currency have disappeared.