Cuba Faces Longer Lines, Shortages As Pandemic Freezes Economy

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With a background as vice provost for international affairs at Harvard University, Dr. Jorge I. Domínguez undertook extensive research on Latin American politics and trade. One of Dr. Jorge I. Domínguez’ areas of focus was the economic and social challenges faced in Communist Cuba.

As highlighted in a recent Reuters article, various aspects of inequality in Cuba have been brought to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation over the past year was already more dire, due to stronger US sanctions and the collapse of ally Venezuela. Long lines have been witnessed in stores to purchase staples, and the pandemic has cut off economic lifelines such as tourism and decreased the remittances that an estimated 40 percent of Cubans rely on.

While concerted government action has kept coronavirus cases to a manageable level, food shortages are increasing in Cuba. To counter this, state authorities have added a number of scarce items to the ration system, while exerting new purchase limits and price controls on agricultural products. Still, with demand outpacing supply, meat items such as pork have seen a significant price increase in the informal markets. And price controls reduce the incentives to private farmers to provide the newly rationed products.

In order to counter the lines situation, Cuba has taken steps to encourage people to order online. Unfortunately, Internet is still a luxury in Cuba that many citizens cannot afford. The average monthly salary is equivalent to $45, and the cost and time alone of shopping online would equate to around $10 per month.

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Currently in retirement, Jorge Dominguez most recently served as the Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico at Harvard University for 12 years.

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