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El Trigal Wholesale Market’s Last Day

El Trigal Wholesale Market’s Last Day / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 14 May 2016 — The line of trucks extends
along the embankment that provides access to the only wholesale
agricultural market in Havana. But unlike other days, the farmers who
have come with their merchandise neither unload it nor sell it. The
place is surrounded by police and someone is passing out a flyer
confirming the announcement on TV primetime news: El Trigal market has
closed.

Many of those who congregated this Friday in front of the access to
large space hadn’t heard the “bad news.” They came with their boxes and
sacks loaded with farm products and found the employees as surprised as
they were over the suspension of sales in the 292 spaces where, until a
few hours ago, beans, onions, avocados and other fruits and vegetables
were for sale.

The driver of a truck loaded with mangos almost begged the custodians of
El Trigal to let him sell his merchandise. “I came from Santiago de Cuba
and now the whole trip is wasted,” complained the man. “I’m a farmer,”
he clarified, to avoid being labeled an “intermediary.” An inspector
warned him that if he stayed in the vicinity he would be fined and his
product would be confiscated.

After noon the place is a beehive of dissatisfaction and complaints.
“Boris Fuentes, the wine writer for Cuba Dice was here,” said one of the
carters, a man who until Thursday made a living carrying merchandise
from the trucks to the stalls and pallets. The young man recalled when
an official reporter wanted to record a program about the high prices of
food in a market conceived to lower the cost of basic food supplies.

“People insulted him and asked him why he didn’t do a story about the
high prices in the [officially-named] Hard Currency Collection Stores
run by the State,” said a carter. A few yards away, Diosbel Castro
Rodriguez, 24, can’t quite believe he has lost the job that supports his
family. “As long as I work and can feed my family everything is fine.
But I have two kids and now without work I can’t stop thinking about
what I can do,” insinuates the man.

Rodriguez Castro repeated the claim of many others in El Trigal: “They
can’t do this from one day to the next, they have to give us some time,
so we can look for other work,” he laments.

Yerandy Diaz, a resident of Fortuna, believes that it was on purpose
that the place was closed without any notice to users and facility
workers so they “did not have time for anything, for protests or to go
anywhere.” According to him, the president of the cooperative that
managed the market, Carlos Sablon Sosa, was called to an emergency
meeting late on Thursday afternoon.

While Sablon Sosa was in the meeting a group of inspectors showed up and
passed out a paper confirming the closure. “They came here with two
police cars to intimidate people and make sure there wasn’t any hassle,”
recalls Yerandy Diaz.

Working in the place were 66 carters who paid license fees to exercise
their occupation, more than 30 vendors and a hundred people in the
dining areas, and “over a thousand peasants who come here to sell every
week,” said Diaz. All have been perplexed by the government’s decision
to suspend sales.

“We have officially become unemployed, up in the air, they have not
given us another alternative work,” Diaz complains facing the police as
tempers begin to flare. The young man criticizes the lack of
transparency because the TV news reported it was being closed “for
illegalities but they didn’t detail them.”

The line of trucks continues to grow, spending hours in front of the
door of El Trigal trying to convince the inspectors and the police that
“at least give us one last chance to sell what we already brought here,”
but authorities do not give in.

Yorenny Cobas, a resident of Fortuna, was carter at El Trigal and
explains that he worked moving the product from one place to
another. “We charge for the service at the time we provide it, depending
on the load, it can be 10, 15 or 20 Cuban pesos; we pay for a license
that costs 200 pesos a month, plus more than 87 pesos for social
security and 60 pesos a day every time we work, for renting the
cooperative’s truck.”

The carter, without much hope, questions an inspector. “Do you know how
many families are now left with nothing?” He considers that what
happened with El Trigal will bring out “more illegalities” because the
farmers “will try to bring the merchandise and sell it.”

The evening falls and El Trigal remains closed, there is another police
car and on the market access road a farmer tries, at a whisper, to sell
his mangoes at a liquidation price.

Source: El Trigal Wholesale Market’s Last Day / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar –
Translating Cuba –
translatingcuba.com/el-trigal-wholesale-markets-last-day-14ymedio-luz-escobar/

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