“We cannot sell raw pork meat in large quantities or by the pound anywhere, because there’s none. It does not exist in the province,” warned on Monday, December 13 Osvaldo Surí González, coordinator of programs for the Government of the Cuban province of Cienfuegos.

Then, as if it were some kind of relief, the official emphasized that “there will be nothing (to buy) on this issue, therefore, you don’t have to despair about it making queues, nor do you have to stay in line in shifts, nor do you have to write yourself down in a list in any Cienfuegos butchery.”

Surí’s statement on Perlavisión, the local TV channel, is a snapshot on how Cubans are spending this year’s Christmas and end-of-year festivities. Last year they complained that a pound of pork had risen to 60 pesos (USD 2.50). Now, according to sources on the island, if you are lucky to find it (in the black market, off course), you will pay 300 pesos per pound (USD 12.50), or four times more. How different it would be if the government had listened to independent farmers who, in their so-called No Countryside No Country campaign, asked for freedom to grow their crops and raise livestock, as well as to sell themselves their products.

In January, the Government launched the so-called Reorganizement Task, intent on unifying Cuba’s crazy double currency. The timing was awful, due to the state of the economy and the rising numbers of the Covid-19. In October, the regime’s Tsar of Reforms, Marino Murillo, acknowledged that with the Reorganizement Task “the cost of the reference basket of goods and services has almost doubled the figures envisioned, while the purchasing power provided by a wage reform has been ‘greatly affected’, fundamentally those of the lower income sectors.” The official admitted that inflation in the “informal” market had reached 6,900 percent, and noted that: “You can’t even mention the Reorganizement Task to the people.”

Commenting on the sudden sincerity of Murillo, who has become sort of a lightning rod for the ruling mafia elite, comedian Ulises Toirac commented on his Facebook profile: “And all that babble (like a clown who falls from the trapeze, gets all bruised as he hits the ground and quickly gets up and opens his arms, smiling as if nothing had happened) ends up in something very simple: the most defenseless layers of society face unprecedented helplessness. Ladies and gentlemen: if there is something for which sacrifices and silences are demanded from us, it is because in this country “the needy are never left in distress.”

Was anyone accountable for the mistake that has brought all ordinary Cubans against the wall, but specially pensioners, low-income families and other especially vulnerable sectors? Of course not: now Prime Minister Manuel Marrero says that “it is necessary to rectify and adopt new decisions on various elements of the initial design” of the Reorganizement Task. In other words, they try, they err, then they “rectify”, that is, the clown gets up and “opens his arms smiling as if nothing had happened.” But no one pays the bill for the damages the mistake caused.

Yet inflation was just one of the ills that have scourged Cubans in 2021. Reynaldo Escobar, editor-in-chief of the independent daily 14ymedio, commented Cuba’s ruler Miguel Díaz-Canel claim — during a recent plenary session of the Communist Party — about 2021 having been “a year of victories.” This, Escobar points out, “despite the shortage of essential products, the transportation crisis, the decline in the main indicators of public health, the deterioration of education, the collapse of civic values ​​and, above all, despite the hundreds of political prisoners prosecuted for exercising their right to protest”.

After all, they  — those who control and /or enjoy Cuba’s income in freely convertible currency — lack nothing.

For decades, Cubans had become accustomed under the Castro regime to spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties with a tight belt. This year’s celebrations might be counted among the worst, with only one difference: the massive protests staged on July 11 and 12 in more than 50 Cuban cities and towns put a light of hope at the end of Cuba’s long, dark, 63 years-old tunnel.

By Rolando Cartaya