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jueves, 16 de junio de 2011

Free market at work: Dogs disappear from Cuban streets

Jose Chupahueso
Reporting from Havana

Free market at work: Dogs disappear from Cuban streets and a new currency is born
Many economic changes are being implemented by Cuba’s communist leadership in the hopes of insuring their political survival. These have included legalization of thousands of occupations and businesses in an effort to create an economy where there has essentially been none, after five decades of Marxist rule. However, in its rush to undo the past, the Cuban Communist party has failed to understand that retail businesses, are just one link in a chain that is connected to consumers on one end and to producers, brokers, transporters and wholesalers on the other. The Party’s problem lies in the fact that while a “paladar” (restaurant) may now come into existence legally, merely by securing a license, a site and adding tables and chairs (plus a spot for cooking); it must also be supplied with raw materials. The real question then: where will these Horatio Alger wannabes get product for cooking, when almost every cow and pig are tagged and accounted for as an asset of the State? Obviously, the State doesn’t want to know.
Well, the market indeed seems to have a life of its own. Numerous reports from some of Cuba’s larger cities indicate that many of the recently licensed paladares, as well as “tourist only” restaurants (most of which are scattered through old Havana) have been competing aggressively for the limited supplies of meat and doing so successfully. As demand and hence prices, have risen, entrepreneurs have sought new sources of supply, as if following a free market playbook from Miami.

Local Committees for Defense of the Revolution (CDR’s) have reported that in the last three days alone, more than twenty complaints have been filed by farmers concerning cattle that have somehow strayed from their fields and unto railroad tracks or major thoroughfares, with fatal consequences for these beasts. In all instances, authorities found no traces of maimed carcasses or even blood by the time they arrived on the scene and the farmers appear to be clueless as to the whereabouts of their wards.

In an apparently unrelated story, city residents report the disappearance of dogs, cats and pigeons from city centers. In fact, some of Havana’s most popular thoroughfares, like el Paseo del Prado, are totally devoid of horse-drawn wagons. Notwithstanding this suspicious anomaly, nearby restaurants like Taverna Franco, Villa Marista and Pinochet’s Pizerria report brisk business and most have seized this opportunity to unveil a whole series of new and dynamic dishes centered on small, yet succulent, morsels of meat embodied with such names as Cathedral game hens, Jutia Urbana and Cuban long-necked steer. A companion cookbook titled “Up Dog Street” was also released on Amazon.com. Obviously, resourceful Cubans appear to have found a way, thanks to the free market, to locate and secure reliable supplies of meat for their businesses.
The most common complaint, after abatement of this meat shortage, is the limited supply of money; although a black market currency known as the “Bisnero” has surfaced. Some paladares, in a revolutionary turnabout, appear to be accepting Bisneros in lieu of payment with Cuban pesos.

This new currency is the subject of our next report.



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