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    Cuba's +/- Spaghetti

    May 19, 2012

    Dmitri Prieto

    HAVANA TIMES — Every day I'm more and more surprised by the dilemma

    posed by the various approaches to product distribution in Cuba.

    The rationing book refuses to disappear since no alternative has yet

    been developed to protect those who are the most disadvantaged.

    In the state-run "bodegas" (small grocery stores), they continue selling

    a limited amount of basic foodstuffs, and Cuban families will send their

    emissaries with the trusty ration book to buy those items at prices

    little more than symbolic.

    Some of these products (actually most) can also be purchased at

    un-subsidized rates from private vendors (resellers) as well as in

    state-run markets charging either in "national currency" or

    hard-currency CUCs.

    There's no guarantee that in a given month a product that appeared in

    the book will be identical to the one supplied the preceding one.

    The most classic (and pathetic) example of this occurred a year ago with


    Each shipment of salt was from a different country (mainly from South

    America, though on one occasion they sold Spanish salt).

    The irony of this case with salt is compounded by the obvious fact that

    Cuba — an island surrounded by salt water — was importing salt.

    A few days ago I was surprised by another phenomenon: Using the ration

    book you can buy (at a token price) one package of spaghetti per

    household member, yet the package was almost identical to some of those

    sold in the hard currency CUC "shoppings" (grocery stores), since this

    is a Cuban product.

    But there was one interesting difference: the weight of the bodega

    bought spaghetti is offered with the qualification of it being "+/-10

    grams" of what's indicated on the package.

    In other words, this in-kind "tax" (spontaneous theft) that the

    agro-food chain is charging buyers to support each of its links has now

    become legal – at least that's the interpretation that many people have

    drawn concerning the new "explicit guarantee" of "consumer rights."

    What about you? What do you think?

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