As food, items shortages grow, attorney says we can learn from Cuba's historical shortages

Posted at 3:34 PM, May 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-12 18:24:06-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. -- Shortages of essential items and foods, like meat, are new to most people as a result of the pandemic. It is a scene grocery store shoppers may have seen more often recently -- store shelves without items and freezers without meat.

For those living in Cuba, like attorney Gregory Biniowsky, he said this is nothing new to the people of the island nation in the Caribbean.

"You're just beginning, and we'll see how bad it gets," Biniowski told News 3 over a video interview. "I saw in the early 90s the really acute shortages of absolutely everything."

Biniowsky is an attorney with an international Canadian law firm and moved to Havana in 1992. It was year after the start of the so-called "special period" where Cuba saw economic collapse after the dissolution of its supporter, the Soviet Union.

Massive shortages of items and food and long lines at stores became their new normal. It is something they dealt with on multiple occasions in their history.

"They deal with these shortages with a shrug," Biniowski said. "In Cuba, there's a sense that you're all in this together, and 'let's stick together, and let's cooperate, and let's share the little we have.'"

He said he also noticed the growing solidarity between people stateside.

"I've seen on the news how U.S. communities and neighborhoods are coming together. People are feeling that connection again."

There are differences between the situations between the two nations -- Cuba's shortages were caused by political and economic reasons, unlike the shortages in the United States, which were caused by the pandemic.

Cuba also adopted a socialist economic system and had a trade embargo placed on them.

"However, where I think it's very comparable is the psychological impact," Biniowski explained, "and maybe it's even worse in the United States because like I said, the Cubans are used to this.”

He described himself as someone in favor of the capitalist system, but he said there are lessons we can learn from Cuba's historical plights:

"We as a society are going to survive based on our ability to cooperate with one another," Biniowski said, "to feel solidarity and empathy, and to feel a connection."

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