Posted on Monday, 08.03.09
Cuban grocery stores stay closed, sparking rumors
By ANNE-MARIE GARCIA
Associated Press Writer
HAVANA — Upscale grocery stores that were scheduled to close two days
last week for inventory remained shuttered Monday – sparking rumors of
food shortages because of the country's dire economic situation.
More than a dozen stores in Cuba's capital that had been run by the
now-defunct firm Cubalse closed Thursday to tally merchandise before
they were transferred to the new managing company, TRD Caribe. The
change is part of a government effort to streamline bureaucracy.
When they didn't reopen Saturday as scheduled, customers started to get
concerned. Cuba has seen its revenue from nickel and other exports
plummet, leaving it short on cash to pay bills overseas.
"We have been forced to re-negotiate debts, payments and other
commitments with foreign companies," President Raul Castro said in a
speech Saturday night.
The shuttered stores cater to foreigners and accept only convertible
pesos, a currency worth 24 times the regular peso, which most Cubans are
paid in. However, some islanders get convertible pesos through
remittances from relatives in the United States, or from jobs in tourism
or with foreign firms, and frequent the upscale stores seeking toilet
paper, ground beef, cooking oil and other products unavailable in local
Customers knocked on the door of one closed store Monday to demand an
"It's a lack of respect for the consumer," said Alina Marquez, a
66-year-old retiree who came because, "I ran out of laundry detergent
and was also looking for a little chicken to eat."
TRD Caribe commercial director Maria Eloisa Cabrera said Monday that the
inventory took longer than expected, and added that she doesn't yet know
when the stores will reopen.
"We are taking organizational steps, and there were incompatibility
issues with our computer systems," Cabrera said.
She said when stores open again, "they are going to keep selling
everything Cubalse had. Nothing is going to change."
But the closings have raised fears of less merchandise and higher prices.
In recent weeks, grocery vendors complained they had not received
shipments of everything from laundry detergent to dog food since the
government dissolved Cubalse in June and canceled its contracts with
Some stores that weren't controlled by Cubalse, such as Palco
Supermarket on the capital's outskirts, are open but have been mobbed by
crowds of customers who snapped up much of the available inventory.
Cuban grocery stores stay closed, sparking rumors – World AP –
MiamiHerald.com (3 August 2009)