Cuban Store Video Reveals Dire State: "We Need Food!"

Monday, June 10, 2024 by Daniel Vasquez

A video circulating on social media has revealed the dire state of a Cuban store amidst severe shortages of basic rationed goods and the progressive dismantling of state rationing by the so-called "continuity" government. The recording, whose date, location, and author remain undetermined by our editorial team, was shared by a Facebook user identified as Omar Rensoli. He noted that the image depicted was typical of the "communist paradise" of Cuba, a country that has had "empty shelves for 65 years."

"I'm going to show this in Spain. This is a store in Cuba. The shelves are empty. These are the products provided by the state through the ration book... It's tough, but we're surviving here in Cuba," said the author of the video, who appears to be a Spanish citizen visiting the island.

After touring the counters and storage area of the shop and confirming that they were nearly empty (with only a few scarce hygiene products), the video’s creator bid farewell to the two elderly women and the man present at the establishment. "Good luck and good health," said one of the women.

"Health and luck are all we have in Cuba... Food is not," the user joked, to which one of the elderly women responded, "Food is what we need!"

The image of nearly empty stores is common in Cuba, where food shortages are worsening and impacting a large number of families. Food insecurity is threatening hundreds of thousands of Cubans, particularly vulnerable groups like children, the elderly, pregnant women, and the sick.

Recently, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) published a report that included Cuba in its evaluation of child nutrition, revealing that 9% of children in Cuba suffer from severe food poverty. This condition means that minors have access to a maximum of two of the eight essential foods for a healthy life. Civil society activists in Cuba argue that the percentage of children in this situation is higher and point to UNICEF's reliance on official data from the Cuban regime to carry out their work.

Despite being understocked, Cuban stores are frequently targeted by thieves. In early June, authorities in Las Tunas reported 97 thefts in these units during 2023, and 18 similar incidents have been reported so far in 2024.

Government Responses and Public Frustration

Amidst this bleak scenario, in mid-May, the Minister of Internal Trade (MINCIN), Betsy Díaz Velázquez, visited a store in the municipality of San Antonio de los Baños in Artemisa, where there was an abundance of eggs and powdered milk. This was striking given the current situation, where the Cuban population is experiencing the worst food shortage in its history, the slow phasing out of state rationing and the ration book, and the increasing risk of food insecurity.

In addition to cartons of eggs and packages of powdered milk, the store visited by the minister had a variety of rationed products that Cubans typically miss month after month, receive late, or do not receive at all, leaving them "pending" until further notice. Among the rationed products were imported rice (7 pesos per pound), sugar (5), coffee (11), peas (5), compote (0.30), and even a kilo of "free rice," possibly from received donations. There were also hygiene products and other illegible blackboards filled with annotations.

"Electricity and food!" has become one of the most common demands of desperate Cubans who have taken to the streets recently, overwhelmed by power outages, food shortages, and high market prices.

In March, several Cubans gathered in front of a store in Santiago de Cuba, demanding answers regarding the absence of basic rationed food items. The incidents occurred in the José Martí District of that city, amidst the shortage of essential products.

"They haven't given out the rations, nor has the milk or compotes for the children arrived, where a town is struggling and in need," said the complainant, who preferred to remain anonymous.

In the video accompanying the post, a store worker can be seen asking for patience and urging neighbors to help given "the country's situation."

Current State of Food Security in Cuba

The following questions and answers provide further insight into the food security challenges currently faced by the Cuban population.

What are the primary causes of food shortages in Cuba?

The primary causes include systemic inefficiencies in state-run agriculture, economic sanctions, and the progressive dismantling of state rationing systems.

How is UNICEF involved in addressing child nutrition in Cuba?

UNICEF conducts evaluations of child nutrition and provides aid based on official data; however, activists argue that these figures may underreport the extent of malnutrition.

What has been the impact of food shortages on vulnerable populations in Cuba?

Vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, pregnant women, and the sick, are disproportionately affected, facing severe food insecurity and malnutrition.

© CubaHeadlines 2024

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