Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

Dec. 29, 1999


SANTA CLARA.- Government transportation has become so bad in this area that enterprising "line workers" stand in the lines and sell rights to their spot to those bidders with ready money.

BC(Before Castro) the city of Sagua la Grande in Las Villas province was one of the cities that had more public transportation buses going to Havana than most cities, particularly since Santa Clara is the province's capital.

But since then, service started to decline already in the 1960's and grew even worse with the coming of the "special period" (with the 1990 cessation of the subsidies from the old Soviet Union). Now, service to Havana occurs only every other day.

The population of Sagua (including the neighborhoods of La Rosita, Caguagua, Isabela de Sagua, Jumagua, and Sitiecity), is supposed to get 21 seats per bus. And the bus drivers supposedly also reserve some spots for Quemado de Guines, Rancho Veloz, El Poder Popular, Salud Publica and "the dollar area," which can't be left out. So it happens that to get to one of the seats in almost an odyssey.

In the 1990's, the government managers adopted a "first-come, first-served" basis. As the lines started getting longer the line workers began selling their spots to earn some 'easy money' at the expense of those who were forced to travel. This led to general indignation.

The managers then brought forth "the list." Those who sought to travel would get their names on a list, be issued a number and could get a ticket without waiting in line, thus leaving aside those who would profit from selling their spots to the highest bidder. That listing system was in place for about nine years with few complaints.

But about a month ago, by order of the province's transportation chiefs, the system was changed again and now the lines and the line-working profiteers are back. Those who don't have enough money to pay off these people must go to the end of the line day and/or night until they reach an open space. This makes it even worse for the residents of Caguagua and La Rosita who must travel to Sagua and find a place to stand there outside, in the rain, the cold, or whatever - because the terminal is closed.

Needless to say, this situation has led to voiced complaints. And some of those who live in the neighborhood will complain that they sometimes are unable to sleep at night due to the constant laments and turmoil among the would-be travelers. All attempts to return to the old system fail since that clashes with the standard bureaucratic comment that "it's a national decision and that's that."

An improvement in the service is highly improbable due to the deterioration of buses and the shortage of fuel. And while the managers await a solution to the problem, the lines and the profiteers will continue to weigh heavily on the Cuban people.

Luis Ramón Hernández, Cuba Free Press.

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