Jabitas (Plastic Bags) and Pensions for the Elderly

Selling 'jabitas' (plastic bags) in front of an agricultural market in Havana. (Luz Escobar)

Selling ‘jabitas’ (plastic bags) in front of an agricultural market in Havana. (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 28 August 2014 – “I need some dark glasses,” Veronica told me one day when I ran into her on the street. Almost seventy, the lady underwent cataract surgery some months ago and now must “take care of my eyes,” as she explained to me. She works in the sun selling jabitas (plastic bags) to the customers of the farmers market on Tulipan Street. The harsh midday glare is hard on her eyesight, but that’s not the worst of her problems. “We have an alarm system to know when the police are coming, although sometimes they’re in plainclothes and catch us by surprise.” Last month she paid a 1,500 Cuban peso fine (roughly $60 US) for engaging in illegal sales, and this week she received a warning letter for recidivism for the same offense.

If you read articles like Randy Alonso’s about the absence of bags in the hard currency stores, you might come to believe this resource is being diverted into the hands of unscrupulous traders. However, it’s enough to simply know Veronica to understand that her business is one more of misery than of profit. For the four decades she worked as a cleaning assistant in a school, the lady now receives a pension that doesn’t exceed ten dollars a month. Without the resale of the plastic bags, she would have to beg, but she asserts that she “would die before asking for money in the streets.” She is not to blame, rather she is a victim of the circumstances that have pushed her into an illegal activity to survive.

Having to carry purchases in one’s hands in the absence of bags is something that annoys any buyer. But realizing that Randy Alonzo, one of the great spokesmen of the current system, doesn’t know the human dramas that lead to the diversion of plastic bags, is even more irritating. It’s not about callous people who are dedicated to enriching themselves through the fruits of State embezzlement, but rather citizens whose economic poverty leads them to resell whatever product comes into their hands. Right now Veronica is outside some business, wearing the old dark glasses they gave her, muttering “I have jabitas, I have jabitas, one peso each.”

74 thoughts on “Jabitas (Plastic Bags) and Pensions for the Elderly

  1. I have never been to Cuba, but have the distinct impresson through the descriptions that Yoani gives us that the Castrista system is not just damaged, but broken beyond repair, like those in North Korea and Venezuela. China and Russia won’t help either, because geopolitics is about power, never about helping people to have a better life…

  2. Mario,

    You keep repeating the same lies except when you are completely incoherent.

    A chip off the old Castro.

  3. WARNING: DO NOT CHEAT CUBA

    Huge majority of travellers to Cuba, about 2 milion a year are honest persons
    .
    A tiny minority tries to cheat cuban customs. Cheat #1: private individuals import articles for trade and say they are for personal use. Don’t do it The goods you bring will be subject to seizure.

    Commercial enterprises are free to import goods to Cuba. The import quotas are the invention of te enemy propaganda (some of them post here).The custom duties are low, especially for MERCOSUR countries.

    Private individuals not affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce in Havana should only bring goods for personal use. You risk confiscation if you cheat.

    Here is a very detailed list telling you when the goods you bring will be qualified as for commercial use and confiscated:
    http://www.aduana.co.cu/index.php?option=com_jdownloads&Itemid=33&view=finish&cid=80&catid=6&lang=en

    Have a gret trip to Cuba.

  4. Mario, you are still calling Raul Castro a liar.

    Nothing about custom duties.

    It is just against the law to bring more than 20 razor blades into Cuba.

    I agree Raul is a liar about most things. But not about enforcing his mafia law. This law is very real.

    I bet Raul has his own personal planes loaded with capitalist razor blades and caviar and clothing coming into Cuba every day.

    I bet his law doesn’t apply to those planes.

  5. CUSTOM DUTIES

    Exporters to Cuba want to know how much custom duties will they have to pay for the goods (detergent, pants, razor blades, electronics) sold to Cuba.

    This depends on the country of the exporter.

    If you are from MERCOSUR the chances are you will pay little on nothing. Does your country have an ACE (Acuerdo de Complementación Económica) with Cuba? Those countries have the best terms to trade with Cuba: Venezuela,Chile,Ecuador,Bolivia,Colombia,Perú,México.

    The general rule is simple: if your country makes is easy for cuban exports the custom duties in Cuba will be low or negligible.

    The reverse is also true.
    Ex-President of Cuba is famous for his beard but do not confuse him with Santa Claus.

  6. Mario,

    Are you the Cuban government?

    Raul says it is illegal to bring more than 20 razor blades into Cuba.

    Raul says it is illegal to bring more than 10 pairs of pants into Cuba.

    Are you calling Raul a liar?

    Why does an ignoramus like you, who says he never wants to vacation in Cuba, shovel out all this BS about Cuba?

    What psychological gratification do you get out of posting all your BS?

  7. Anyone interested in exporting more then 20 razor blades to Cuba?
    Or more then 22 pounds of detergent?
    Or more then 10 pants?

    YOU ARE WELCOMED!

    Please contact the commercial section of cuban consulate nearest you.
    And while in Cuba:
    Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment (MINCEX)
    Infanta No. 16 esq. a 23
    Vedado
    La Habana
    T +53 7 8380506, 8380369 (Economic Department)
    F +53 7 8357428

    You may also check business opportunities on-line:
    http://www.cepec.cu/

    HAVE A GOOD TRADING!

  8. WIKILEAKS BARBADOS – “Cuba’s Big Black Lie” – Afro Cubans catching hell

    ¶3. (U) Moore’s lecture followed on the heels of the publication of an open letter he wrote to Cuban President Raul Castro entitled “Cuba’s Big Black Lie.” In the letter and in his lecture, Moore derided as deceitful past declarations by Cuba’s ruling elite that racial discrimination in Cuba had been eliminated. “Wherever we look in socialist Cuba,” Moore contended, “our eyes are confronted with a cobweb of social and racial inequities and racial hatred against black people.” In his lecture, Moore shared that, as a young man, he had strongly supported the revolution and been a devotee of Fidel Castro. However, this support quickly turned to disillusionment because of what Moore called the revolutionary government’s ineptness at destroying the legacy of white supremacy and racism against Afro-Cubans.

    ¶4. (U) Moore was among those imprisoned for protesting the revolution’s refusal to advance racial integration. He said he spent 28 days in jail, and was subsequently sent to a labor camp for 7 years before escaping to the Embassy of Guinea and eventually making his way to the U.S., after which he lived in exile in several countries for 35 years, still a committed Marxist with strong criticism both for America’s Cuba policy and for Cuba’s institutionalized racism.

    http://propagandapress.wordpress.com/2011/08/27/wikileaks-barbados-cubas-big-black-lie/

  9. NEW AMERICA MEDIA: ‘Obama Effect’ Highlights Racism in Cuba – Louis E.V. Nevaer Posted: Dec 15, 2008

    The European Union recently dispatched anthropologists to study racism in Cuba. Their findings were shocking: Not only was racism alive and well in the workers’ paradise, but it was systemic and institutional. Blacks were systematically excluded from positions that involved coming in contact with foreign tourists (where they could earn tips in hard currencies), they were relegated to poor housing, complained of the longest waits for healthcare, were excluded from managerial positions, received the lowest remittances from relatives abroad, and were five times more likely to be imprisoned.

    The report, “Race and Inequality in Cuba Today,” by Rodrigo Espina and Pablo Rodriguez Ruiz, published in the anthropological journal TEMAS in 2006, infuriated Cuban officials.

    But the findings were irrefutable, and they reflected an acceleration of racism in the 1990s. The collapse of the Soviet Union only exacerbated the problem, particularly as Cuba now competed with Cancun and San Juan for European vacationers. As Democracy Now! reported in 2000, Cuban officials continued to exclude blacks from tourist-related industries.

    When Maria Carrion of Democracy Now! interviewed a black Cuban identified only as Victor, he told her that the only jobs black Cubans have access to are in construction and cleaning. Blacks are randomly stopped on the street by police, he said, and are unable to denounce racism in Cuba for fear of going to prison for being anti-Communist.

    http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=7b4ef8e52790034e043a37d170243f0f

  10. N.Y. TIMES: Editor Who Wrote of Racism in Cuba Loses His Post, Colleagues Say – by RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD – April 5, 2013

    MEXICO CITY — The editor of a publishing house in Cuba who wrote a critical article in The New York Times opinion section about persistent racial inequality on the island, something revolutionaries proudly say has lessened, has been removed from his post, associates said on Friday.

    The author, Roberto Zurbano, in an article published March 23, described a long history of racial discrimination against blacks on the island and said “racial exclusion continued after Cuba became independent in 1902, and a half century of revolution since 1959 has been unable to overcome it.”

    On Friday, The Havana Times blog reported that Mr. Zurbano had told a gathering of Afro-Cuban advocates that he had been dismissed from his post at the publishing house of the Casa de las Americas cultural center, leaving the implication that the dismissal was connected to the article. Other associates said Mr. Zurbano told them he had been removed but would continue working there.

    Reached by telephone in Havana, Mr. Urbanism would not comment on his employment. “What is The New York Times going to do about it?” he asked. He angrily condemned the editors of the opinion section for a change in the headline that he felt had distorted his theme.

    The article’s headline, which was translated from Spanish, was “For Blacks in Cuba, the Revolution Hasn’t Begun,” but Mr. Zurbano said that in his version it had been “Not Yet Finished.”

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/04/06/world/americas/writer-of-times-op-ed-on-racism-in-cuba-loses-job.html

  11. YOU ONLY NEED TO LOOK AT THE WHITE CASTRO OLIGARCHY TO SEE WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR KEEPING WHITES IN POWER IN CUBA! LETS SEE HOW MANY OF THE CASTRO CLAN HAVE MARRIED ANYONE OF BLACK ANCESTRY!

    REUTERS:Market-style reforms widen racial divide in Cuba

    Much of the funding for new businesses such as restaurants, transportation services and bed-and-breakfast inns – targeted at tourists, diplomats and dollar-earners – comes from family members who emigrated to the United States over the last 50 years, especially Miami.

    They sent almost $3 billion to relatives back in Cuba last year and, as they are mainly white, their investments put black and mixed-race Cubans at a disadvantage as they try to set up their own businesses.

    “It’s usually the whites who have family abroad and send them money, and they can set up bigger businesses,” Echevarria said while customers lined up at the take-out window during the busy lunch hour.

    With the additional economic freedom under Raul Castro’s reforms, there is also greater discrimination.

    Shortly after Raul Castro took over as president in 2008, he allowed Cubans to visit resort hotels, previously reserved only for foreigners. Today, in the exclusive beach resort of Varadero, the Cuban clientele is almost all white.

    Black construction workers largely built the hotels but client-facing staff are mostly white.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/02/us-cuba-race-idUSKBN0GX0DJ20140902

  12. WAIT A MINUTE! I THOUGHT THAT THE COMMUNISTS WERE ATHEISTS!!

    FOX NEWS LATINO (see VIDEO): Lord’s Prayer In Venezuela Invokes Chavez: ‘Lead Us Not Into Temptation Of Capitalism’

    At an event in Caracas Monday, Maria Estrella Uribe said the Lord’s Prayer, changing the words to dedicate it to Chavez, because they could not “leave without this spiritual commitment,” according to La Patilla.

    “Our Chavez, who art in Heaven, in earth, in the sea and in us the delegates,” Uribe started in Spanish. “Hallowed be Thy name, Thy legacy come to us to take to the people … gives us today your light to that it guides us all days and lead us not into the temptation of capitalism, deliver us from evil, oligarchy and the crime of smuggling, for centuries of centuries. Amen.”

    She finished her prayer with the usual “Viva Chavez.!
    http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2014/09/02/lord-prayer-in-venezuela-invokes-chavez-lead-us-not-into-temptation-capitalism/

  13. THE KANGAROO TRIAL OF VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION LEADER Leopoldo Lopez CONTINUES! BUT THE WORLD CAN SEE THE TRAVESTY OF HIS TRIAL AND HOW THE CHAVISTASFASCISTAS ARE MANIPULATING THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN VENEZUELA! THEY LEARNED IT ALL FROM THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY MAFIA!

    TICO TIMES: Venezuela looks set to lock away prominent opposition leader Leopoldo López
    – by NICK MIROFF

    CARACAS, Venezuela — The trial of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López has proceeded along a clear trajectory so far, seemingly driven toward a predetermined outcome.

    Which, of course, is also how railroads work.

    “Yeah, he’s being railroaded,” said López’s lead defense attorney, Juan Carlos Gutiérrez, in an interview here.

    López, the Harvard-educated founder of the Popular Will party, has been held in military custody for more than six months. He faces up to 13 years in prison on charges that he incited violent protests aimed at toppling President Nicolás Maduro, the successor to the late Hugo Chávez.

    López himself is even less generous about the government’s intentions. “This isn’t a trial,” he wrote in a recent prison letter. “It’s a firing squad.”

    Exhibit A: Of the 65 witnesses that López’s attorneys have attempted to call in his defense, Judge Susana Barreiros has rejected all but one.

    For the prosecution, she has admitted 108 witnesses.

    The first group — four police agents — began testifying Thursday at a heavily-guarded Caracas tribunal. López is due back in court Sept. 10.

    With so many incriminating witnesses queued up, the trial could take months, Gutiérrez said. He said he would file appeals to have exculpatory evidence admitted by the judge.

    Though the anti-Maduro protests that left at least 40 dead this spring have fizzled out, the government’s prosecution of López and four student demonstrators is being watched closely here and beyond.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://www.ticotimes.net/2014/09/01/venezuela-looks-set-to-lock-away-prominent-opposition-leader-leopoldo-lopez

  14. Embargo?

    Raul just made it illegal to bring more than 20 disposable razors into Cuba.

    That’s 2 packs of razors, or 1 and a half bonus packs.

    It is also illegal to bring in more than 10 pairs of pants.

    No Santa Claus for most Cubans this year.

  15. SO THE MUMMY Fidel Castro “APPEARS” ONCE AGAIN RANTING ABOUT “IMPERIALISM” (his favorite word) AND MAKING “BOLD” PREDICTIONS ABOUT THE WORLD’S ECONOMY! ONE OF THE FUNNIEST THINGS I HAVE READ SO FAR THIS YEAR! INTERESTING THOUGH THAT OUR Fidel NEVER APPEARS LIVE ADDRESSING THE CUBAN PEOPLE SINCE 2006! HE HAS TIME FOR DIGNITARIES, FOREIGN STUDENTS, TIME TO WRITER “PROLIFIC” WORLD VIEW PIECES ETC. BUT NEVER ADDRESSES THE CUBAN PEOPLE LIVE! YOU SEE, IF THAT BODY DOUBLE APPEARS LIVE HE WILL BE PICKED APART AND BE SHOWN BY WHO HE IS, A DOUBLE! SOMEDAY VERY SOON WE WILL KNOW THAT WHOLE Castro Telenovela! TODO SE SABE TARDE O TEMPRANO!

    GLOBAL POST: Fidel Castro rails at Western “imperialism”

    Havana, Sep 1 (EFE).- Fidel Castro on Monday attacked the alleged imperialism of the United States and its allies, accusing them of promoting conflicts in third countries and comparing the style of recent statements by NATO spokespeople with those of the Nazis.

    “Hitler’s empire, inspired by greed, passed into history without any more glory than the encouragement provided to the bourgeois and aggressive governments of NATO, which makes them the laughingstock of Europe,” Cuba’s former leader wrote in an essay published in Communist Party daily Granma.

    The 88-year-old Castro asks if, instead of promoting conflicts, “it would not be preferable to fight to introduce more food, build hospitals and schools for the billions of human beings who desperately need them.”

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/agencia-efe/140901/fidel-castro-rails-at-western-imperialism-0

  16. Egads, is it almost 9am already? And I haven’t yet read Fidel’s latest on globalization? Thanks Mario, I’d better grab a cup of coffee and settle in for some wisdom from El Jefe. I got so busy with washing and ironing my favorite Che tee shirt that I lost track of time.

    Bwahaaaaa ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!!

  17. It is almost 9:00 AM so most likely we have all read Fidel’s recent article about globalisation:
    http://www.granma.cu/idiomas/ingles/reflections-i/1sept-Just%20ideas.html

    Fidel points out the dangers of relying on dollar rathern then yuan:
    “euro, which along with the dollar, will soon become wet paper, and they will be required to depend on the yen, and rubles as well, given the emerging Chinese economy, closely linked to Russia’s enormous economic and technical potential.”
    (there is en error in the translation. It should be yuan rather then yen)

    Too bad, that the Central Bank of Cuba still maintains the archaic 1:1 conversion of CUC to USD:
    http://www.bc.gob.cu/English/home.asp

    I hope this will change with the currency reform next year, where one new peso will be equal to 10 yuan., for example.

  18. I think that Cubans would prefer the liberty to buy detergent, instead of having every consumer good or life necessity controlled for them, like infants.

  19. On almost any good, there is basically no limit on what a Canadian or US citizen can bring into their countries after cross-border shopping.

    If they go over certain limits, they may pay customs duty, extremely small in comparison to Cuban custom duties, but they can still bring in whatever they want.

    For instance, I can bring in more than 20 razor blades into Canada. I can bring in 200. I can bring in 2000. I can bring in 20000. All I have to say, if ever asked, is that I like my US razor blades.

    In fact, I won’t even pay duty on my preferred brand of 2000 razors if I have stayed over 48 hours in the USA.

    But it is now illegal to bring in more than 20 razor blades to Cuba. This in a country that doesn’t even sell decent razor blades.

    Not that this will make Castro’s sycophants question his sanity or honesty. Nothing else ever has.

    Their is only one embargo on Cuba, and his name is Dictator Castro.

  20. It is now illegal to bring in more than 20 disposable razor blades into Cuba.

    Basically, Castro is making it illegal to give gifts to friends and family in Cuba.

    Even trinkets like razor blades and soap. Soap is always hard to get in Cuba, but tough luck for Cubans.

    Castro just want tourists to brings in money, grab a big slice in the exchange fee, then force Cubans to shop at the Castro-owned chains for cheap quality goods at astronomical prices.

    The trouble is Castro’s stores don’t even carry the cheap goods most of the time.

    Stores empty of toilet paper and soap and food.

    No wonder Mario won’t even vacation in Cuba.

    Socialist comradeship has its limits.

  21. HEY Mario!! I THINK YOU JUST EARNED THE Mario Fundido TITLE THAT John Bibb BESTOWED ON YOU ON THAT LAST POST DEAR!

  22. The latest change in customs regulations is in fact a government’s move, to stop dangerous rafting to Florida.

    They raft for business and everybody knows that. 365 days of milking the US social security system and they open the trade business. One flight a week to the land of ‘bloody dictatorhip’ and the bucks are flowing in and easy life begins.

    As soon as Cuba tightens the regulations again to ‘personal use only’ nobody will go to the USA anymore. US Coast Guard will be relieved.

  23. THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY MAFIA JUST WANTS TO TRANSITION FROM A POLITICAL OLIGARCHY MAFIA TO A ECONOMIC ONE JUST LIKE IN RUSSIA! THEY ARE CEMENTING CONTROL FOR THEIR MONOPOLIES!!! DUH!

    UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA WHARTON SCHOOL REPORT :Can Raul Castro’s Reforms Create a New Cuba? -November 22, 2011

    At first glance, say experts, Raul Castro seems to modeling his country’s future after China and Vietnam, whose one-party, nominally communist governments have managed to maintain power for decades while also emerging as globally competitive exporters of industrial and agricultural goods. Look deeper, however, and it is apparent that Raul’s approach won’t turn Cuba into a miniature of those two much larger Asian communist countries, experts say. The key problem for Cuba is that Raul’s reforms are not nearly as deep or thorough as those enacted by communist governments in China and Vietnam. In Cuba, “they are going in the right direction, but the issue is whether the reforms are profound enough or fast enough to meet the difficult crisis,” says Carmelo Mesa Lago, emeritus professor of economics at the University of Pittsburgh, whose new book on the Cuban economy is scheduled to be published in Spain and the U.S. in 2012.

    Mesa Lago notes that in China and Vietnam, local farmers have been allowed to lease from the government the land that they work on for an indefinite time period; Chinese and Vietnamese farmers have been encouraged to care for that land as if it were their own. In Cuba, contracts to lease plots of land are valid for only 25 years. “After 25 years, that contract may or may not be renewed by the government, and the land may be seized by the Cuban state for social needs,” Mesa Lago notes. That’s particularly troubling because “a lot of land in Cuba has been taken over by the notorious marabou plant,” says Adrian E. Tschoegl, a management lecturer and senior fellow at Wharton. It often takes two years just to clear marabou-infested land, Tschoegl adds, so a 25-year lease is effectively cut.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE REPORT!

    http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/arabic/article.cfm?articleid=2744&language_id=1

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