Cuba: queues are everywhere to stock up on food

Audio 02:30

Cubans queue in front of a foreign exchange store to buy food, September 15, 2020. YAMIL LAGE / AFP

By: Domitille Piron

7 min

Cuba is sinking into the food crisis.

Without tourism, with spending to deal with the coronavirus crisis and increased US sanctions, the Cuban economy is short of foreign currency.

The country imports 70% of its food and the government finds it difficult to finance its imports, the daily life of Cubans is now in shortages, rationing and queues.


The sun has not yet risen, but already dozens of people are lining up even before the opening of stores, banks or pharmacies.

Queues are now everywhere!

Leonardo Gonzalez is sitting on the sidewalk, like him more than 100 people are waiting to enter this currency shop, here there is shampoo, a product Leonardo had not seen in store for two months.

In the stores in Cuban currency you can not find anything, here you stand in line but at least there are some products



The opening of foreign exchange stores since last July is one of the solutions put in place by the State to recover dollars and finance its imports.

But not all Cubans have access to it.

At the corner of the square, precisely, a store in Cuban currency, here there are not many people, which indicates that there are probably not many products, Mercedes Morena Agueyo comes out with a small plastic bag.


Today there is cheese and ham, there are different products, not a lot, but there are


Sometimes the tail is much longer!

If there is chicken it is very long, if it is oil much more! 


For a liter of oil, in this town in the east of the island, you have to queue the day before.

This little lady with a vaulted back works "for the people", as she says, in a bodega, one of those grocery stores where the state distributes a certain quantity of rice, coffee, sugar and grains at subsidized prices. .

This is not enough to eat for a whole month, but it is a significant help according to Mercedes Agueyo.


You have to try to survive as best you can, but there is always something to eat.

The whole world is in this situation, it's not just Cuba



The FAO estimates that the coronavirus crisis could drag more than 83 million people into conditions of extreme poverty and famine in Latin America and the Caribbean.

And Cuba is no exception, despite aid from the UN and the European Union.

Exasperated, tight-knit, sheltered from the sun under patched-up umbrellas, a group of women are queuing up to buy soap, the atmosphere is clearly tense, no one wants to speak at the microphone, but Marisa Gonzalez ends up letting go: " 

What is needed here is that we remove the blockade, so that there is more supply


That's all


Because here everyone is free and we live happily on this island



But these queues do not exude happiness, and the shortages have never been so severe in 60 years of the American blockade.

Since February, the young Ramon, who works in a store and does not have the right to express himself, has not seen the situation improve.


There are always problems in the queue, people get angry, it's hot, there's uproar.

Since the coronavirus the entry of goods has really decreased a lot.

They told us the supply should return to normal when the world - with this coronavirus problem - returns to normal



But the coronavirus crisis does not explain everything and the government has announced a grand plan for food sovereignty, a speech many Cubans have heard repeatedly in recent decades.


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  • Cuba

  • Economic crisis

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