Latin America & Caribbean

Cubans stock up as prices of hygiene products jump

Soap and toothpaste are displayed inside a subsidized market in Havana, Cuba
Image caption Soap and other personal hygiene products will jump in price next year

Shoppers in Cuba are stocking up on soap, toothpaste and detergent ahead of a price jump on Saturday.

From 1 January, the items will no longer be state-subsidised.

The Cuban government said on Wednesday that it would drop personal hygiene products from the monthly ration allocated to citizens since the Cuban revolution.

The move is part of a series of reforms to reduce state debt in the communist country's struggling economy.

Sugar, beans, meat, rice, eggs, bread and other basic products remain subsidised.

Libreta

In Havana on Thursday, government stores were busy throughout the day as customers used their ration cards to buy cheap soap and other toiletries before the price jumps.

"We Cubans are survivors. Nobody is going to stop bathing because they raise the price of soap," 70-year-old Rosa Martinez told Reuters from La Copa shop in the capital.

President Raul Castro is trying to lift the country out of its deep economic crisis by cutting state spending, bolstering productivity and expanding the private sector.

Begun by his brother Fidel Castro after he took power in a 1959 revolution, the ration system has been unpopular with Raul, who says it is too expensive and encourages laziness.

Already, peas, potatoes and cigarettes have been removed from the ration book - known as the libreta.

Soap will increase in price from as little as 65 Cuban cents (three US cents) to five Cuban pesos - about 22 US cents.

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