HAVANA, Cuba. – Sandwich bread with nothing in it, 60 pesos; a small cup of yogurt, 170; one malt drink, 180; one raw egg, 60; one cooked egg, 120; one pound of lemons, 200; one pound of onions, 250. We can go on with this list and include more expensive food items such as meats, fish, beans and fruits, but it’s enough to summarize the gravity of the situation by pointing out that nothing that is nutritious costs less than 50 pesos, and that 20-pesos bills –those that a few well-off Cubans used to flaunt proudly when paying at the cash register- are now like the loose change of five years ago, along with the one, three, five and ten-pesos bills.
Those are the prices in Cuba in the face of salaries and pensions that, mostly, oscillate between 1,500 and 3,000 Cuban pesos per month (between eight and 16 US dollars at street-level exchange rate), in an economy where green bills, either earned or received as remittance, marks the difference between eating badly and going to bed with an empty stomach.
Hunger is everywhere, and nobody can deny it because it is reflected on people’s bodies, on their faces, in the mass exodus, and in some health indicators that, although manipulated for public opinion, have had to be made to coincide with this hell we are living in where everything is plummeting daily on every street. This is a reality where today we have a higher infant mortality, and a lesser life expectancy, according to the most recent public health sector balance made public by the health minister himself.
The reasons for this generalized hunger that is killing us are not difficult to identify, although the official government discourse tries to identify them in order to avoid having to explain what the cost of welcoming one million tourists to Cuba has meant to us underdogs, among countless other domestic ills. Those tourists consume the meager items we produce and the huge quantity of things we import, but they serve to justify an unjustifiable hotel investment plan that the regime defends so stubbornly that it hints at lots of money going to private pockets at the very top.
They have tried so hard to attain its unrealistic “goal” for 2023 –to attract 3.5 million foreign tourists after not reaching even one million in 2021, and falling far below the projected goal for 2022- that they have not skimped with expenditures and shutting up those who question the absurdity of continuing to build hotels in a vacation destination that many have lots of natural charm to enjoy but none of the comforts associated with a vacation, amidst blackouts, fuel shortages, garbage everywhere, bad Internet connectivity, poor road conditions and very little quality in all services.
One million tourists that, with regard to food, consume what 10 million Cubans would need to eat in order to rise just above the standard of malnutrition, but who also will not be adding any benefits to the national economy, inasmuch as it costs more to attract them and welcome them to Cuba –with all the expenses that desperate promo campaigns entail- and the cost of erecting the dozens of hotels that have been erected and those that still need to be finished has been much more, and they are still to give lodging to one single tourist of the one million that have been welcomed.
It’s not necessary to reach for the statistics. One need only to observe the quality of tourists welcomed in the island, plus the tourism packages and airline tickets sold at bargain prices to realize that one million of them have not generated the millions of dollars invested in hotels in Havana and Varadero alone, between new facilities and those restored.
According to sources directly related to the tourism sector that I consulted, it is possible that the income generated from these tourists is enough to cover the investment on food, and that for every dollar generated in income, three dollars have been spent.
A regrettable waste, reprehensible in these times of deep hunger, the more so for doing it under the guise of reviving a paralyzed system, destroyed due to bad decisions, and that every day the numbers and the gigantic dimensions of those “investments” see the light, the regime’s hidden agenda of benefitting the Communist elite is revealed. That elite is probably getting ready to mutate into a “capitalism needed to save the revolution, which is nothing more than to save itself.
They want to save themselves from the hell they built and that no longer suits their purpose because it is boiling beyond the boiling point and will explode any minute now. A hell that is made up of hospitals in ruins, without doctors or medications, where people go to die even when they could be saved. A hell made up of housing that collapse dangerously into a thousand pieces and that are the daily nightmare of the families that inhabit them. A hell made up of neighborhoods where foul waters abound and clean water is scarce, where the only lights that can be seen during a blackout come from some Communist Party big shot’s house, or from operating hotels nearby.
A million tourists have arrived, yes, but at the expense of millions of Cubans trapped in the uncertainty of whether the merchant ships will arrive with chicken, rice, wheat and fuel; whether bread buns that used to weigh 80 grams and now weigh 50, will be distributed. Cubans who are trapped and anguished at the certainty that hens will not lay eggs tomorrow, again; that a hurricane will blow away their roofs; that salaries will continue to go down as prices rise; that this or that thermoelectric plant will finally be repaired; and above all, whether the news program will announce the construction of a new hotel, even when the rest remain empty.
ARTÍCULO DE OPINIÓN
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