Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. - http://www.cubafreepress.org

December 23, 1998, Cuba Free Press.

SOME SURPRISES IN THE SOCIALISTS' NEW CAFETERIA By Guillermo Álvarez, Cuba Free Press.

CAMAGUEY - A day to stroll….. Like the lyrics of an old children's song but my stroll was through Concourse 1, set aside for the national flights at "Jose Marti" airport, to the new cafeteria in what had been the old terminal. There I allowed myself to relax while waiting for my flight - as "raindrops kept falling" into improvised containers, splashing the floor of the new cafeteria.

Surprised, almost flabbergasted, I blurted out, "But, there are leaks in here?" To which one of the cafeteria clerks replied: "That's nothing. When it rains really hard everything gets drenched ….."

It had hardly rained at all. The water was flowing from the ceiling. It seems one of the air conditioning conduits leaked so much that it became necessary to remove the chairs and tables underneath and place containers to gather the water.

My surprise didn't end there. The list of food for sale was short: cold cuts sandwiches, sodas-warm, and coffee-also warm.

A young woman standing behind me said, "Of course, that's for us Cubans. That's what we deserve. Nobody cares about what's being sold to the natives."

Concourse 1 at "Jose Marti" airport is the same one which, since its opening, only cleared a few flights and then was closed down for many months, off and on for many years, for extended repairs.

It was used for a long time as a travel office. After the opening of Concourse 2, exclusively for international flights, the building on Van Troi street, known as "the old terminal," reopened its doors although it had never been refurbished. Hence it closed again once Concourse 3 (behind it) opened for domestic flights.

It was barely two months ago when the building - where Cuban aviation started, decades ago - reopened its doors after being totally remodeled.

YET….IT LEAKS

The leaks are not serious enough to threaten anyone's life. But aside from all the inconveniences that it presents, it also seems rather sad for the opinion that even the tourists will have as they use this terminal on their way to provinces in the interior of the country.

The ticket prices also seem steep considering that salaries have not risen as much as the cost of flying. At times, for example, families with people hospitalized in the capital have had to take a plane so as to minimize their discomfort.

Toward the end of the 1960's to the present, the cost of an airplane ticket between Havana and Camaguey went from 19 to 22 pesos, later to 38, and finally to 72 on a regular flight and 76 for a charter flight. Between Guantanamo and Havana it rose to 100 pesos, while from Santiago to Havana it is 90.

Barely 10 years ago a worker had the right to a credit for buying a refrigerator, television set, or any other electrical appliance. There also was a credit to buy clothes with which to travel abroad for those had the ability to earn at least 25 pesos per month.

Today this same income - 25 pesos - doesn't even allow a Cuban family to solve the weekly expenses. However, there are thousands of low income Cubans who must reduce the travel hardships by traveling by plane.

"CUBANA DE AVIACION" IN THE SERVICE OF TOURISM

In spite of the inconveniences, the need remains. Faced with the inavailability of other means of travel, people seek to fly. But in this, of course, tourism has the last word.

The availability of flights through Cubana de Aviacion for national flights is a mystery bordering on an enigma.

To purchase a ticket in Havana to travel anywhere in the country one must have a good share of luck but it may be easier if one buys a ticket in the interior, all thanks to the so called "pre-reservations."

The months from June until August - during school recess - and December, for the pseudo-Christmas, are the preferred months for Cubans to travel. I recently observed a long queue line at the travel office in Camaguey. Suddenly a woman apparently in charge stepped out to tell those waiting in line, "All available flights for December 8 were reserved for tourists."

No need to comment. Going back to the beginning. The cafeteria leaks, the goods are lacking, the flights are late, and the fares are expensive. But the people need to travel. They have the right.

To be sure, all we need is for a tourist to call in from his country and pay in dollars, and then the native will be left behind, watching the leaks in the cafeteria.

By Guillermo Álvarez, Cuba Free Press.


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