Crisis In Cuba Reaching New Depths of Privation – A Letter From Bauta

Crisis In Cuba Reaching New Depths of Privation – A Letter From Bauta

M  y friend has just been in touch. The people in Cuba are facing another blow and assault upon their dignity. Strings of private shops that will only accept payment in US dollars – not pesos or even CUCs – have opened across Cuba filled with products that are non-existent at State-shops, which remain empty. Such "luxury" items as shampoo, soap, pasta, grains and even meat. Only those with credit cards can use these shops. It is another blow.

Queue for a money-exchange office in CubaShe says: "El pueblo está muy triste, todo los productos de primera necesidad están en las tiendas que sólo las personas que tengan tarjetas con dólares, no puedes comprar con cuc y tampoco con dinero cubano. Las tiendas de cup y dinero cubano están vacías y las de tarjetas están llenas de comida y cosas.

"Ayer pase por la tienda en Bauta que hay así con muchas cosas y por el cristal de la tienda observe que hay de todo, es un abuso con nosotros, me fui llorando por ver tantas cosas ahora Y no poder comprar algo para mi familia.

"Abuelo me explico que las tarjetas que compran en esas tiendas son las american international service ,ais.y también las que los Cubanos hacen en los banco de aquí con dólares.

"Yo no entiendo mucho, pero sí la realidad es muy triste aquí.

In translation: "The people are very sad, all essential basic products are in shops where only people with credit cards that are dollar-backed can shop, you cannot buy with CUCs, let alone Cuban pesos.

"Shops with pesos and CUCs are empty while these shops are filled with food and other items.

"Yesterday, I passed the shop in Bauta where there are many items in the shop window, I saw that there is everything, it is an abuse for us, it made me start crying to see such things and not to be able to buy anything for my family.

"Granddad explained that only AIS cards (dollar-backed cards) are accepted in these shops and cards that Cubans have opened with banks here by depositing dollars.

"I do not understand such things but reality here is very sad."

As well as trying to raise dollars to help people to buy necessities via JustGiving, I am going out to Cuba with Air Europa in a few weeks' time. I have reached out to Primark, Lidl and Air Europa to try to arrange bringing products out there to distribute. I am only one person but if I can help a dozen families, it is a drop in the ocean – but better than no drops at all...

Yesterday, I spent £300 of my own money to buy basic medical supplies, a couple of blood-pressure meters (two ladies I know of advances years suffer from high blood-pressure and have to spend a day every time they need a reading to take a "guagua", a cheap bus" to a hoppsital and spend hours waiting for it, so this will improve their lives immeasurably) and coffee. Over the past couple of years I have spent many thousands of pounds of my own money helping Cubans but I am not rich, just a freelance journalist who loves the country and the people. I cannot do much more on my own.

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UPDATE: My friend has sent me pics of the shelves in the US-dollar stores. They work for the State and are paid in pesos so this is like looking at pictures of another planet for them. Devastating and heartbreaking in equal measure...