Although a crack down has been announced against the diversion of resources, price speculation and stealing food, lately the official market has also collapsed. In a brief tour of state-run cafeterias in my neighborhood, I could see a reduction in what is available. A convertible peso restaurant* specializing in fish no longer sells shrimp pizzas or rice with seafood. Why? Because on this Island, nothing can escape to the presence of the informal wheeling and dealing, to the arms that, under the shadow of illegality, support even what seemed one hundred percent state-owned.
To maintain sales in the cafeterias and restaurants, obviously supplies from the black market were needed. Much of what was sold, under the guise of “official products,” in fact had been purchased by the employees themselves from informal sellers.* With the resources received from the food distribution companies, the public facilities could not have maintained a constant supply. The waiters and managers of these places worked there primarily for the extra money they made, beyond their wages, by selling these illegal products. No longer able to obtain these dividends, they have lost interest in serving a full menu and the customers notice.
With its obsession for hunting the mouse, the cat has caught its own tail in the trap. That hairy prolongation of lawlessness and corruption that, when it is cut off, bleeds dry in a short time.
For an earlier Blog entry that gives more background on how employees of State enterprises increase their income, see The Corruption of Survival.
Convertible peso restaurant: A restaurant that sets prices in CUCs, the money used by tourists and for many products sold to Cubans. See the footnote to this entry for more information.