With the mass stampede of foreign investors, the store shelves show the real statistics of our finances. My mother called early to tell me there is toilet paper in a distant market; she said I should hurry because word was already out and it soon would be gone. I go out looking to the right and left like a fan, to see if there is any kind of juice to put in Teo’s cup for the morning. But the shortage of supplies is remarkable. Río Zaza brand Tetra Paks have disappeared from the shops; the former joint venture that produced them is now mired in a corruption scandal. The black market has collapsed; it’s no secret to anyone that it is fed by the diversion of resources from the factories and the theft of goods while in transport to the shops.
Even the most patient foreign entrepreneurs, like the Spanish who ran the outstanding firm Vima*, have packed their bags and gone home. The consortium between the perfume maker Suchel and the Iberian capital provided by Camacho has come to an end and in the absence of dyes my friends are showing their grey hairs. The time when the country bought first and paid later is over, now we are carrying so much debt it is difficult to attract capital or to buy on credit. The effects of the crisis are felt strongly in everyday life, with the price of soap 30% more than it was a year ago. The housewives scratch their heads faced with the skillet, while shouting that the wages go like water once paid at the end of the month. Not even those blessed by a remittance received from abroad or the skilled traders in the informal market have it easy.
Few remember now that speech from three years ago in Camagüey, where Raul Castro suggested the possibility of a glass of milk for every Cuban. Quite the contrary, the words he delivered last Sunday have brought us trenches, parapets and apocalyptic images of an Island sinking into the sea. Chasing the elusive food, we have little time to reflect on what was said at the Palace of Conventions, but his Numantian* threats hang over us. Interpreted literally, they portend that we can expect a foxhole surrounded by sandbags, a rifle to shoot we do not know whom, with the final bullet in the chamber to be used on ourselves. Meanwhile, the General will stand firmly at his post and check, from a distance, that no one breaches the final order of immolation.
Vima: Food importer which supplied hotels and state-run businesses.
Numantian: Search on “the siege of Numantia” for background; in short, the Numantines chose to burn their city rather than surrender it to the Romans.