The tricky old lady and the distrustful peasant overcome the crisis in Cuba

The tricky old lady and the distrustful peasant overcome the crisis in Cuba

With a paper cup in his hand, a man with a weathered face approaches those passing through Havana’s Central Park. “My daughter had an accident yesterday and I need to buy her medicine,” he explains. He has been repeating the same story for years, seasoning it with more lurid details as the economic crisis worsens. A few meters away, a granita vendor was cursing this Thursday because he had been paid with a five-peso bill as if it were another 500. A crude counterfeit that is very common due to the recent arrival of high-denomination bills and the similarity of colors of some from them.

Listening to the story of hailstorm, the colleague who helped him by pushing the cart, also took the opportunity to tell about the scam he suffered in some transfers through his mobile and that cost him his entire telephone balance. “People are not measured, they go with the knife in their mouth to see what can knock you down,” he sentenced.

The feeling of mistrust spreads everywhere and the most notorious scams of the Special Period are recounted with fear. From the steak made with a floor blanket to the pizza with supposed cheese made from a condom, the urban legends of street fraud return with force to everyday conversations.

But beyond these milestones of deception, the small-scale scam or apparent ingenuity is the one that most permeates the Island.

The feeling of distrust spreads everywhere and the most notorious scams of the Special Period are recounted with fear

This Thursday morning an old woman was rehearsing an excuse to take a pound of rice without paying from the improvised point of sale located in the park on Carlos III and Belascoaín streets. “Mijo, give it to me right now and I’ll go to the ATM and bring you the money,” the lady repeated several times, but the merchant was not convinced. “Go and come back with the 50 pesos and then I’ll give you the rice,” replied the peasant categorically, adding in a lower voice: “I may be a peasant but I’m not stupid.”

The deception also extends to private cafeterias: snacks that only show a slice of ham on the outside but inside are empty and presumed natural juices that are sold at exorbitant prices and are actually artificial concentrates mixed with water. However, the champion of the sablazo to the pocket continues to be the State: mincemeats that have no memory of meat but are marketed at the price of gourmet food, all-inclusive tourist packages where you have to take the glass because in the hotels they do not have packaging to serve drinks and an internet access service, among the most expensive in the world, which barely guarantees a few hours a day of 4G connection.

The corner swindler justifies his outrages by pointing to the constant economic crimes committed by the ruling party. He himself is a victim of state greed and inefficiency. “My old lady, if you go to the ATM now to withdraw money, he will return tomorrow because there is a blackout and they are out of service,” joked another customer at the Carlos III street point of sale. The crisis can encourage scams but, at the same time, it is noticeable that people are more distrustful and do not allow themselves to be scammed so easily.


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