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Cubans Complaints About the New Currency Stores Reach the Official Press

'High-end' Cubans vs 'low-end' Cubans?', they ask in a 'Cubadebate' forum.

La Habana
An 'MLC' store in Holguín.

"Those who only have access to CUP (the Cuban peso), how do they manage? What are we supposed to do to meet our needs?" asked María Isabel Kindelan, one of dozens of Cubans who reacted in the forum on the official Cubadebate site dedicated to the opening the new network of foreign currency stores for the sale of basic, vital products.

According to the article in question, entitled "A Quick Guide on MLC stores in Cuba", the opening of the new markets has generated "widespread uncertainty on social media" as to "what will happen to the establishments that sell in CUC."

Cubadebate quoted Ana María Ortega Tamayo, director of the state chain Tiendas Caribe, who stated during the "Round Table" held last Friday that "in the current scenario we cannot take resources from the country to import high-end foods and sell them in CUC. Rather, we use them to acquire goods from the economical line and offer them on the economical line."

"Our goal is for there to be no shortages, but that is not something that changes overnight."

Arístides, however, commented: "Only 72 out of 4,800 are stocked, that's how it should be put," referring to the number of markets that have been supplied to sell in dollars, and only with magnetic cards as a means of payment.

"Results: I don’t collect in dollars, and no one sends me remittances, so I will only eat from those 47 'guaranteed'; dollars in the bank, to buy, are non-existent, and on the street it is already at 1.20 or more; there are no longer two currencies, but three. I'm speechless."

The forum of the official publication featured dozens of reactions, most of them expressing disapproval and disbelief with the measure.

In response to the complaints, a user who identified himself as Bartolo countered that "the collection of these currencies will also serve to improve the supply at the stores in CUC", to which LT replied: "They said the same thing in October when they opened the first MLC stores, more than nine months ago, and, far from improving, things have worsened."

On this same topic, Carlosf responded: "When the first MLC stores opened, they said that many products were going to be restocked, but they weren't. They also said that they would use the money raised from the sale of cars to improve transportation, and today it’s even worse."

Risita wrote: "Recover currency in order to buy merchandise and distribute it at stores in CUP or CUC? It's the same old story (...) Last night when I saw on NTV the merchandise that is to be offered at these new stores I was really irritated, outraged; goods that are not available in CUP or CUC. I’m an everyday Cuban, as they say in the media. I've been working since I was 23, I'm a professional, and I cannot buy at those stores. (...) I have had to pay for pork for at 3CUC per pound; the chicken is like that I get with the rationing; I spent about 20 days washing my mouth with soap until the bodega had supplies this month. (...) I really am more and more disillusioned with this. I suffer from chronic gastritis, I don't have any medicine, and I can't even follow a diet. Measures that favor a portion of the population? Between the shortages, the lines, the resellers, and many other things, where are we going to end up?

The origin of some of the products sold in the new markets has also sparked debate. "I cannot understand how at these stores there are products produced in the country that we do not have to import, and that have not been seen at CUC establishments in a long time, such as Cubita coffee and Suchel products," Brian noted.

As for the terminology agreed to by the authorities, which classifies the products that are sold in MLC markets as "high-end", as opposed to those that can be purchased in CUC, classified as "low-end", several people expressed their resentment.
"There are products that are being sold today in stores in USD, that are also necessary, and that are not available in CUC. (...) And there are products, such as condiments, that have been classed as high-end, when it is necessary to use them to prepare food. (...) In short, I still do not understand what the high-vs low-end food products are. All of those that are being sold in USD today are necessary for the population," said Teresita.

Tamy concurred: "Beef isn't fundamental to feed children, the sick, the old? Is the decision to only sell it in USD wise? Those who decide should reflect and take another look at this and other products that every ordinary, decent and self-respecting Cuban needs."

Jahk stated that "The only thing that is happening, to everyone's great dismay, is that a great economic gap is opening up between Cubans who have family abroad and those who do not. Now, many people are really wishing that they had someone living abroad. Those Cubans who have always loved their country, and never left, are now paying a price for that."

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