Food prices are rising and power outages that last for hours are common. This promotes domestic violence. Many Cubans just want to leave.

A man sits on the sidewalk and sleeps.

Many Cubans live in poverty Photo: imago

HAVANA taz | Aligna Pérez has been working at the reception of the Hotel Armadores de Santander in Old Havana for two months. The 21-year-old hotel director, who studied tourism and languages, is one of the dedicated employees of the 4-star hotel in front of the old customs house at the port of Havana. The small, agile woman at the front desk is helpful and solution-oriented, helping with Internet access, which is often not easy in Cuba, and with problems in the room, in English, Italian and Spanish.

For them, however, their first job in the Cuban tourism sector is little more than a stepping stone. With his left arm he imitates the progress of a plane taking off and rolls his eyes in annoyance. “There is no perspective for me here. I can't live on my salary of 4,500 Cuban pesos, I don't see any possibility for the future, so…”, he says significantly.

Emigration is currently the predominant issue in Cuba, along with the latent supply crisis and the deterioration of social systems.

The consequences are increasingly visible. Neglected people rummaging through trash cans for something usable and seniors hoping for cheaper or free food before farmers markets close are no longer the exception, but they are also becoming more common in better times. neighborhoods like Vedado.

Growing protests – latent repression

Aligna Pérez confirms that people not only spend the night under the arcades of the Hotel Armadores de Santander. “We have arrived in Latin America and we are facing the same phenomena of poverty as there,” says Iván García. The Cuban journalist, correspondent of Las Americas Newspaper From Miami, he criticizes the government for its inaction. “I don't see any concept and I don't know of any initiative to counteract it; we simply observe how society becomes more and more differentiated and crime increases,” comments this 57-year-old man about his impressions.

Robberies and robberies, uncommon on the island just a few years ago, are increasing, as are femicides. The number of murders of women due to their gender is increasingly visible, especially through social networks, and the power outages that are part of daily life throughout the island contribute to this. Currently, people sit in the dark for eight hours in Santiago de Cuba. In Camagüey, the third largest city in the country, it takes up to sixteen hours. This affects the nerves of a large part of the population.

Demonstrations against power cuts and food shortages

Proof of this is the increase in protests such as those in Santiago de Cuba, where several hundred people took to the streets on March 17 to protest against power cuts and the permanent lack of food. 17 of the protesters were arrested in the following days and detained without explanation, as reported by legal aid organizations such as Cubalex and Juan Elías Navarro. The Facebook activist, with almost 6,000 followers and constantly monitored by State Security, the Cuban secret police, was one of the first to report on the Internet shutdown in the affected district and the arrests, without giving reasons.

Both are part of the already typical reaction of Cuban security forces to the growing protests, even if there were no signs or reports of vandalism. “In this way, the right to demonstrate and protest, which exists according to the Constitution, is denied,” Navarro criticizes. Activists from other cities in the country also confirm this. Over and over again it will disrespect, meaning disrespect for authorities, was used as a means of dealing with protesters. Most of the 17 Santiago demonstrators were released on bail of 50,000 Cuban pesos, the equivalent of 380 euros at the official exchange rate. Now we have to wait for a trial.

Poverty is everyday life.

This is daily life in Cuba, as is the precarious living situation of the majority of the population, whose monthly salaries fluctuate between the official minimum wage of 2,100 Cuban pesos and around 7,500 Cuban pesos. However, almost no one can make a living from this, since half a kilo of beans at the farmers' market costs 350 Cuban pesos.

Gas stations charge 132 Cuban pesos for a liter of gasoline, you rarely get a good lunch in a private restaurant for less than 1,000 Cuban pesos, and a liter of simple cooking oil charges 900 Cuban pesos. Inflation has long devoured the positive effects of the monetary reform of December 2020, according to economists such as Omar Everleny Pérez.

It attests to the hitherto unknown level of government impotence. “The budget for this year already has a deficit of more than 18 percent, additional measures can only be financed through the printing press, but they fuel inflation,” said the economist.

It is galloping because there are not enough products to match the money supply in circulation and the brakes on the system, such as the unattractive system of purchasing agricultural products, gathering, farmers are more demotivated than motivated by low purchase prices. A well-known reality in Cuba and Pérez advocates eliminating this system and other control systems in the island economy without replacement.

This is exactly what Miguel Díaz-Canel's government is avoiding and is therefore becoming increasingly unpopular and untrustworthy. There is a consensus within Cuban society that pensioners from the revolution need more support. According to experts such as Rita García, director of the Christian Center for Dialogue and Reflection (CCRD), they have reached the base of the island's social pyramid.

The Christian center maintains an offer of help in the port city of Cárdenas for 120 pensioners. But the need is much greater and so far the government has only announced that it wants to counteract it with social measures. Another reason why so many people leave.