Cuba: About 100,000 pesos are needed per month to go hungry

HAVANA- A little over a month ago, Katherine, 36 years old, a single mother with two children, sold her cell phone for $40 to buy food. With the money from the sale, equivalent to 13,200 Cuban pesos, he purchased a fifteen-kilogram box of chicken for 10,000 pesos, ten pounds of rice for 2,000, and the rest of the money he spent on buying some jams for the children.

He set aside eleven quarters of chickens for food for his children and for his mother, the children's grandmother, who was ill with arthritis. They spent several days eating rice and grilled chicken or in sauce and on Sundays they accompanied it with black beans and tomato and cucumber salad.

Katherine only ate white rice and chicken cracklings. “To stretch the chicken she removes the skin and fry cracklings. I am a medium technician in pharmacology and my salary of 4,800 pesos is not enough to cover even 30 percent of the food. They pay my mother a pension of 2,300 pesos and the father of my children, when he remembers, gives me 2,000 or 3,000 pesos. I have no relatives in the United States who send me dollars. That's why I sell the coffee and cigarettes that they sell at the bodega through the ration book. I'm more behind money than wisdom.”

Katherine has been forced to sell valuable family items from her home, including a painting, an antique wall clock, her deceased father's stamp collection, and her grandparents' Chinese porcelain plates.

To do

“I don't have anything to sell anymore. I owe money to a neighborhood garrotero and several friends. I don't know what to do. Because it's not just the problem of food. There are too many things. I can't take my children for a walk. They spend the week of school recess bored watching television. A guy offers me 20 dollars to sleep with him. I'm thinking about it. In recent years I have gotten a lot of gray hair and my hair is falling out. “I'm always stressed,” Katherine confesses.

Helpless old age

Zoila, 76 years old, a retired doctor, assures that she never “thought that the economic situation in Cuba would become so complex. I was on missions in South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago. With more money I swapped for a three-bedroom apartment. I also kept 10,000 convertible pesos (cuc) in the bank. My husband, a surgeon, had another 8,000 convertible pesos saved and on one of the missions he bought a car. “We thought we had our old age assured.”

When the so-called 'Ordering Task' began in January 2021, each convertible peso was equivalent to one dollar. But the government defrauded people who trusted banking institutions.

“When the peso devalued rapidly, the bank gave us 43,000 pesos for the 18,000 cuc, which quoted them at 24 pesos each. Imagine, on the street at that time the dollar was at 50 pesos. They told us that the convertible peso was not exchangeable and the best option was to withdraw it or wait for the peso to be revalued. When we took out the money, the dollar was quoted in the informal market at 80 pesos, which in exchange was 537 dollars. From 18,000 cuc (convertible pesos) to 537 dollars,” says Zoila.

But the economic crisis and inflation worsened. “And we spent the dollars on buying food and medicine during COVID. My husband started working (private taxi driver), but he crashed the car and we don't have the money they ask of us to repair the car. We were thinking of exchanging our apartment for one more small and some extra money, 4 or 5,000 dollars. The price of properties has fallen tremendously and I am not going to give away the house that cost me so much effort to have it. At 76 years old, I and my husband are 79, we are thinking of going back to work. of the economy and public services of the current government has been terrible. If at this stage of the game, after 65 years of failures, there is still one Cuban who supports the system, it is because he is a masochist,” Zoila concludes.

The country is in chaos

Yenis, 20 years old, former university student, agrees that “Cuba is not a good country for the elderly to live in, but neither are young people and children. It's chaos. He who does not have family outside and depends on his salary and the little food that they sell through the book, dies of hunger. The most affected are those who work for the State, like my parents, who have been left lying around like disposable objects. I had to leave university because I live in Santiago de las Vegas and with how bad the transportation is, it took between four and six hours to get to and from classes. I tried to get student accommodation, but they didn't give it to me because I was from Havana. By leaving school I hope to be able to help my parents, who receive miserable salaries. I hope I get my parole and I can get out of this nightmare.”

By day, Camila is a manicurist, and at night she discreetly prostitutes herself in private bars. “'Jineteo' out of obligation. My dream is to marry a yuma (foreigner) and leave the country. Living in Cuba is a burden. There's no future. The only solution is to emigrate,” she says.


DIARIO LAS AMERICAS asked 14 people between the ages of 17 and 79, seven men and seven women, about their life in Cuba. The fourteen responded that it is unbearable. “When there is no shortage of water, there is a blackout and even eating bread is a luxury,” said Gerson, a barber, one of those interviewed. Gustavo, an economist, said that “to live with some comfort, you need around 100,000 pesos a month, about 350 dollars (when the highest salary can range between 6,000 and 7,000 pesos per month). And, even so, you are going to have shortcomings.”

When in a nation the news in the state press is the arrival of a ship loaded with rice from Vietnam, there is a problem, and a serious one.