HAVANA, April 16th Several policemen and patrol cars, blows, arguments, and many, many people set the tone for a line to buy vegetable oil, which extended through Salud Street in Centro Habana this Good Friday, a holiday in Cuba.
“The police can’t control hungry people. People brutalize themselves to buy oil and chicken,” says a resident who from her house sees how several women hit each other in one of the fights provoked by the massive line for the store El Bodegón, with its entrance through Belascoain street.
“I don’t understand why on July 11th there wasn’t a little more force used, like in this line to buy oil because the police go after people, but people don’t let go, they keep hitting,” adds the resident. “On a day like today God was dead and the devil is on the loose.”
A liter of vegetable oil in the capital’s informal market costs between 500 and 700 pesos, while the sale of oil in state stores continues to be rationed like other basic necessities. For more than two years, vegetable oil has begun to be scarce.
(Officially 500 pesos is $20 USD while on the street it is just under $5 USD. A minimum monthly wage is 2,100 pesos.)
People who were able to purchase the product today at El Bodegón, at a price of 50 pesos, had to present their supply book from the rationed market where the purchase was recorded and they will not be able to purchase oil again in another state establishment for the next 15 days.
The situation is repeated throughout the country. In Santiago de Cuba, the Edible Oil Refining Company, which also supplies the province’s illicit market, was paralyzed for several weeks and a liter cost more than 700 pesos. Currently, although the factory has started processing, the product is still scarce, and a liter can be bought for 500 pesos.
The authorities have insisted that the shutdown of the Santiago refinery was due to “a breakdown and maintenance work” and that “at no time has the raw material been lacking,” something that residents celebrate because they will have oil for several months, even if they have to buy it from informal vendors.