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Cuba in worst shape in a long time

1.) The food shortages are getting much worse than previously imagined by most people. This has resulted in a government crack-down that is beyond anything I’ve experienced. No judge, no trial, no due process - the police catch you selling an egg from your chicken and they take you straight to jail for 2 years. Please keep this in mind when hanging out with your friends off the resort. With zero tolerance right now certain things that you wouldn’t have thought twice about in the past could now put them in grave peril.

2.) It seems like only yesterday that the Canadian Dollar was almost at par with the Cuban Convertable Peso. Today at the Banco Metropolitano $100 CAD = 75.35 CUC. Your exchange rate at the airport or the resort Cadecas will be even worse.

Hard times…

The only thing that we can do to help is to spend our hard currency in Cuba and be careful how much we eat while we are there. Sooooo more Cuba travel required!!

[quote=@martian]1.) The food shortages are getting much worse than previously imagined by most people. This has resulted in a government crack-down that is beyond anything I’ve experienced. No judge, no trial, no due process - the police catch you selling an egg from your chicken and they take you straight to jail for 2 years. Please keep this in mind when hanging out with your friends off the resort. With zero tolerance right now certain things that you wouldn’t have thought twice about in the past could now put them in grave peril.

[/quote]

Having just returned from Jibacoa on Saturday, I can attest to this as well. Zero tolerance in the form of 1 month immediate jail time if caught selling food on the black market.

Wow!! Is there any major shortages of food in the resorts? I think I would feel pretty bad to go there right now and have basically all you can eat on the resort and know that people are so desperate for food that they would risk jail time to get it…
Obviously there were many groups and governments sending supplies immediately after the storms but is anyone trying to help with the food crisis going on as we speak?

The resorts are their own world, eating mostly imported food that is separate from the Cuban internal agricultural infrastructure, so no, you’ll never worry about starving on the resort. There may be a shortage of local produce, but that’s a small percentage of the resort food so the impact will be fairly inconsequential.

I have had letters from friends in Cuba explaining how dire the situation is. I phoned one friend near Guardalavaca about two weeks after the hurricanes and electricity had still not been restored and therre was no food for the locals to buy in the stores.
Please read my “Cuban Sacrifices” thread.

Terry, your report is quite disturbing, to say the least.

Is there any animosity building towards well-fed tourists whilst they explore off-resort?

What about sharing a sandwich or other food (obtained by the tourist while at their resort) with a Cuban while off-resort. Would the Cuban get in trouble?

Your egg story…does that mean a Cuban can eat his own eggs, but cannot sell one to another person?

Can we give Cubans food items, obtained at ther resort or brought with us in our luggage, without endangering the freedom of the Cuban?

cubaisgreat,

There has always been animosity towards tourists, but I don’t think it’s worse now than it has ever been. Tourists are a fact of life that almost all Cubans understand and accept. Act respectfully with grace and common sense and you’ll always be fine.

No problems sharing or bringing food. The crack-down is against Cubans who are in any way, shape or form involved in the black market. It’s zero tolerance right now. When you look at how gigantic the black market is in Cuba this is big news, and very crippling to the many people who depend on a little under-the-table entrepreneurialship to feed themselves. Actions that were ignored earlier - like an old man selling a few eggs - is now met with jail time, period.

(How many people here have enjoyed a lobster meal at their pal’s house in the past? Well, it’s not a laughing matter anymore.)

But to reiterate: Sharing, bringing or legally buying food is not a problem.

I’m planning to take as much protein products and dried vegetable soups as possible, but we don’t go until January. I hope it’s not too little too late. I received a letter from Jibacoa yesterday, and the writer said that although there is not much damage there, it is difficult to get food, and that life is harder.

Thank-you for posting this Terry. I don’t think people were grasping how dire it is. It is almost impossible to imagine life in the villages with no peddlars ringing their bells or shouting over the fences. I know from my own friends in Cuba that it is indeed dire and they are feeling almost hopeless. The post on GenY about eating varied boullion cubes with rice for flavour is almost poetic. There is almost nothing now to buy except fish, rice and beans. No milk, no yogourt, no fruit, no meat, no oil and no veggies. No medicines, no thread, few movies. Everything is coming to a halt in their every day lives. You would know better than most how disheartening this is. Even money won’t help enough. Something has to happen. Combine this malnutrion with their rapidly eroding education system and something has to shake lose. Let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later.

:slight_smile:monteverde - what a great idea bringing down dried soups! I am already putting together a lot of sewing supplies, etc for our trip in April. Thanks for starting this thread, martian. :-*

Thanks, suj! Actually Florita told me that the Knorr “colour” soups look pretty nutritious. (Apparently bouillon cubes are not much more than salt and MSG - I’m sure the Cubans don’t need more headaches caused by the MSG)

And my DH just told me that outdoorsmen type stores carry a variety of light=weight freeze-dried foods - just add water and heat. That sounds perfect, and I’m going to check it out.

And I just got my hands on a complete sewing kit with lots of thread, etc. Another great idea.

I would like to suggest bringing fishing supplies. I was amazed by the numbers of Cubans fishing in the Varadero canal last week. I never saw a fishing pole, just nets and line.

Part of the justification of the crackdown is to try to get the food there is to those who need it most. (There have been comments about increasing the rations in the worst hit areas - I don’t know if that has actually worked anywhere.)

In Havana, most of the street-side kiosks that sold agricultural products have very limited supplies, and I hear the agromercados have very little, too.

The CUC supermarkets near me have reduced stocks of things like frozen meat. Eggs have just reappeared in the supermarkets (cheaper than the black market price). As far as I could see, stocks of tinned products are much as before - though I still haven’t seen any condensed milk. Those who supply yoghurt to my office report a tighter police presence.

Restaurants seem to be resorting to tinned vegetables more.

Martian,
thank you for bringing this to our attention…
It is good to know the situation before we get there.
and we will put our thinking caps on as far as what we take down this time… as the needs are different…
Karen

Unfortunately Cuba has suffered the double whammy of the hurricanes plus the current economic mess (which will sooner or later affect us all). With the crop losses Cuba needs to import more food than usual, but the present credit crunch makes that difficult. And to add to their woes, tourism is down and this problem is likely to get worse. People losing their jobs or fearing the loss of them are unlikely to do much travelling. At least Cubans are going into this downturn in reasonable shape. Certainly I have seen few Cubans who appear to be suffering from malnutrition, and if they must subsist on beans, rice and the fish they can catch, at least these things are available to them. The populations of some countries are not so fortunate. I think it is great if tourists do what they can to assist, but realistically I doubt most can do much more than supply a day’s worth of variety to some lucky Cuban. Organized humanitarian aid, e.g. Dubois and NJT among others, is probably the best place to channel your good will.

Martian

We are going to Cuba soon.

We normally visit our friend’s family and despite the fact we ask them not to feed us they always do. Nothing off market but typically, chicken, rice and beans and a bit of salad.

If we take down some food - dried beans, rice e.t.c. - could we be putting them in harm’s way? Someone assuming that they are buying black market? What is, or, is there a way that we can treat them and not have them fearful of santions?

Sharing, bringing or legally buying food is not a problem…

Canuks – How sensitive you are to worry about putting your Cuban friends in harms way by bringing them food supplies. No, there will be no issue stemming from your generosity. The challenge is that there are a few Cubans who are ‘appropriating’ food resources that are destined for others and selling them to individuals for personal profit. That is very unfortunate at any time – and even more so given the devastation of many crops due to the hurricanes this season. The Cuban authorities are applying stiff penalties to perpetrators as an example that those black-market activities will not be tolerated.
I have supper at friends’ homes every visit (like you – they insist on feeding me!) and am discreet about bringing supplies … often just leaving a bag in the kitchen which will not be opened in front of me or others. I am cautious with products that I bring – they are all well sealed in plastic bags. Rice, grains & beans are locally produced (Canada)& organic when possible – not dollar store imports of questionable origin. It is a huge privilege to be able to have such good friends, and it is always a pleasure to be able to leave things that will be well appreciated – and needed.

Thank you for posting that Terry, it’s not going well for Cuban friends.

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