Who knew that communism and socialism leads to shortages? </satire>
Dale’s rule of shortages: if there is a shortage (and a line), it’s because of government intervention. The private sector will work to eliminate lines (see FedEx & UPS vs. USPS).
BAUTA, Cuba – Just after 8 a.m., Pura Castell got in line behind about 100 other people waiting for a chance to buy frozen chicken legs. For two hours she leaned on her cane watching people leave the state-run market with their 5-pound limit.
The chicken ran out at 10 a.m. while the 80-year-old Castell still had 20 people in front of her. She returned the next morning, but no chicken. Then, relief. A neighbor told her that chicken had arrived at the government store that distributes heavily subsidized monthly food rations. Her household of three was due three pieces, either thighs or drumsticks.
“I’ve taken care of myself my whole life,” said Castell, a retired janitor. “I don’t just sit on my hands. I’m worn out but I walk all over town.”
After two decades of relative stability fueled by cheap Venezuelan oil, shortages of food and medicine have once again become a serious daily problem for millions of Cubans. A plunge in aid from Venezuela, the end of a medical services deal with Brazil and poor performances in sectors including nickel mining, sugar and tourism have left the communist state $1.5 billion in debt to the vendors that supply products ranging from frozen chicken to equipment for grinding grain into flour, according to former Economy Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez.
Stores no longer routinely stock eggs, flour, chicken, cooking oil, rice, powdered milk and ground turkey, among other products. These basics disappear for days or weeks. Hours-long lines appear within minutes of trucks showing up with new supplies. Shelves are empty again within hours.
No one is starving in Cuba, but the shortages are so severe that ordinary Cubans and the country’s leaders are openly referring to the “special period,” the years of economic devastation and deep suffering that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s Cold War patron.