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Castroism's fear of 'the masses' prompts it to shorten lines in Havana

So many hungry and angry people in one place, cursing the exasperating lack of food, is a dangerous time bomb for any autocracy.

Los Ángeles
Line for the Cuatro Caminos market in Havana.
Line for the Cuatro Caminos market in Havana. Eraisi León/ Facebook

Dictator Raúl Castro and the millionaire mafia that keeps him in power were so alarmed by the political/social time bombs constituted by the the enormous lines in Havana to buy food that they decided to take action to shorten them.

This, and no other, is the purpose of the measure adopted by GAESA, whereby as of April 21, 2022 Havana residents can only buy in foreign currency stores located in the municipalities where they reside.

The regime decreed the "municipalization" of shopping at the stores of the Caribe chain and the CIMEX corporation to avert crowds of people at the stores in the populous capital. As the Roman poet Virgil said, "hunger is a poor advisor," and so many hungry and angry people in the same place, complaining about the exasperating lack of food, is a very dangerous time bomb for any autocracy.

The most scandalous thing is that this involves the sale of food in dollars, and not even in the national currency in which salaries and pensions are paid to Cubans.

Big Brother-like technology to keep tabs on consumers

After managing to muster some dollars on the street, paying 110 pesos or more for each greenback, consumers are then forced to give their IDs to a store employee or to the police officer "guarding" the line when they arrive at the store. These are scanned, and one’s private personal data is recorded on a cell phone and sent to a database of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT).

With this Orwellian Big Brother technology, created at the University of Computer Sciences in Havana, the tyrant Castro II tramples on the Constitution that he himself rammed through in April 2019, which established the right of citizens to protection of their images and personal data.

Cubans can forget about any of that, as State Security records which store they go to, what each consumer buys, and even whether they complained in line against the shortages, or encouraged others to do so.

If consumers are lucky enough to buy at the store, this is recorded in their ?Supply Books.? In other words, even basic foods and necessities purchased with foreign currency, secretly scrapped for, are rationed.

On top of this, families in each municipality are told the days on which they can shop, for which "rotations" are organized. In other words, consumers can only buy on the day it is their turn, regardless of whether they have anything to eat or not. The "Revolution" of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara now tells Havana residents: "if you?re hungry, I don't give a damn. That's your problem."

The real reason: wariness of the "masses"

To make matters worse, according to the Castroist leadership and the state media, the purpose of this measure is to spare people from suffering waiting in long lines, and so that families can buy what they need. Some Cubans have even naively welcomed this GAESA measure because they believe that at the assigned municipal stores they will find shorter lines and be able to buy more products.

False. They will find shorter lines, but they will not be able to obtain more products, for two reasons:

  1. Consumers will not be able to buy more in their municipalities, based on simple arithmetic: if there are 1,500 bags of chicken thighs to be sold in one day in Havana, it doesn't matter if the lines in each municipality are shorter. There are only 1,500 packages for the whole city, period. Thousands of families will be unable to eat an "American chicken drumstick" in Boyeros, Guanabacoa, Arroyo Naranjo, El Cotorro, La Lisa, El Cerro, Habana del Este, Regla, Marianao, Playa, Plaza de la Revolución and Havana’s other four municipalities.
  2. The real reason is the dictatorial elite's fear of crowds and the panic among "the masses" and "the people" that Castro's political rhetoric has been talking about, hypocritically, since 1959. They want to avert the prospect of massive protests in gigantic lines, which could lead to upheavals.

Shaken by the "human rivers" in Cuatro Caminos

Everything indicates that the straw that broke the camel's back for the dictator Castro II and his accomplices, stoking their fear of crowds, were the human rivers that formed to shop at the Havana market of Cuatro Caminos, the largest in the capital and in all of Cuba.

There, the questions "Who's last in line?" and  "What do they have?" —the most frequently uttered phrases in Cuba in the last 61 years— were not asked, and not because there was no line. Quite the contrary. There were crowds of angry people forming human rivers stretching 20 blocks long; that is, two kilometers, just for their turn to buy, with foreign currency, some chicken, a bottle of oil, a roll of toilet paper, or two bars of bath soap, and at prices inflated between 240% and 800%.

The dictatorial leadership was so worried about those angry crowds in Cuatro Caminos that on March 24 (2022), in addition to sending dozens of thugs to keep order, it cut off  Internet service all across the island for about an hour, as it did not want that incensed human tide to be seen on social media, like what happened at the demonstration in San Antonio de los Baños on July 11, 2021, the spark leading to the largest anti-government protest in the entire history of Cuba, including the colonial period.

"What if these people’s cause, instead of the chicken, was democracy?"

A few days later, on April 7, the digital newspaper 14ymedio obtained there quotes as eloquent as they were ominous for the dictatorship. A young man said: "The Special Brigade wouldn't face that mob (...) the revolution of Cuatro Caminos is coming." And one woman astutely wondered: "Can you imagine if these people’s cause, instead of the chicken, was democracy?"

These people hit the nail on the head, for that is precisely what the dictatorial mafia wants to prevent: a "revolution of Cuatro Caminos" and "democracy," for it realizes that if these angry citizens suddenly decided to revolt, and occupy public buildings, there would be no stopping them.

In short, Castro II and his cronies are scared to death. They know that this many hungry Cubans, living worse and worse, sweating for hours under the tropical sun, are a sociopolitical powder keg.

They have read, or they have been told, that it was hunger that drove the Parisians to storm and seize the Bastille on July 14, 1789. And they are aware that only a small spark could be enough to spark a national rebellion on the island, which, this time, might not be as peaceful as the previous ones, and could lead to the great changes the nation needs.

It could happen at any moment. Whether the lines are short or long, the latent danger of a popular uprising is still very much there.

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