Cuba Ends Food Guarantees, Steps Back from Socialist Ideal
New America Media, News Analysis, Louis E.V. Nevaer, Posted: Oct 23,
2009 Review it on NewsTrust
MERIDA, Mexico – Cuba, in an abrupt about face, is set to abandon the
food rationing program that has been the cornerstone of its Socialist
revolution since 1962, when the United States imposed an economic
embargo against the island nation.
In a rare signed editorial, Lazaro Barreda, the editor of Granma, the
Communist Party's official newspaper, announced the end of the ration
booklet, or Libreta, that has guaranteed an egalitarian distribution of
food to the Cuban people.
"The ration booklet was a necessity at one time, but it has become an
impediment to the collective decisions the nation must take," Lazaro
Barreda wrote, preparing the Cuban people for Raul Castro's most radical
departure from the Socialist ideals championed by his brother, Fidel.
The ration booklets constituted the fundamental social contract between
the Communist government and the people: No matter what happened, the
state would provide food for everyone.
As Cuba encountered economic setbacks, the gravest of which occurred in
the 1990s when, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba entered
into a prolonged recession – a "lost" decade – the Cuban population
became cynical of the program.
Throughout Latin America, where poverty and hunger remain challenges for
governments of all ideological persuasions, Cuba's government has been
viewed as admirable for providing a minimum number of calories to each
of its citizens.
Cuba's Ration Booklet:
Every Cuban is entitled to the following food allowance each month:
3.5 kilos of rice (7.15 pounds)
2.5 kilos of sugar (5.5 pounds)
Half a kilo of beans (1.1 pounds)
230 grams of cooking oil (8.10 ounces)
460 grams of spaghetti pasta (16.22 ounces)
230 grams of soy bean past (8.10 ounces)
115 grams of coffee (4 ounces)
1 loaf of bread (125 grams) (daily) (4.4 ounces)
In addition, adults are entitled to 460 of poultry (16.22 ounces) if
available, and children under the age of 7 are entitled to 1 liter (34
ounces) of milk a day, distributed at school.
"It's not much, but for almost half a century this basic basket of
subsistence – all these products costs less than a euro [ or $1.45 USD]
each – was a symbol of the revolution's egalitarianism," Mauricio Vicent
wrote in El Pais, Spain's leading newspaper.
In the daily life of Cubans, however, the "Libretas" have become a
running joke, and one that has re-introduced class differences in this
supposed classless society. Cubans with access to dollars (from
relatives abroad, through contact with foreign tourists in Cuba, or
through illicit activities) have, for more than a decade, had access to
all manner of foodstuffs from the dollar-stores. Cubans with no such
luck have had to fend for themselves.
Since coming to power on Feb. 28, 2008, Raul Castro has had to balance
the Cuba he inherited from his brother Fidel with the reality of an
economy ravaged by the aftermath of three destructive hurricanes
followed by a global financial meltdown.
"In the face of the current crisis, the ration booklet has become too
much of a farce for the government of Raul Castro to keep up," Vicent
wrote in El Pais, concluding that the Cuban government could no longer
distribute food among its 11 million people in any reasonable manner.
Under Raul Castro, the Cuban government has been purging the
"Fidelistas" and replacing them with "Raulistas." The most stunning
example was the dismissal of Foreign Chancellor Felipe Perez Roque and
Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage. With most of Fidel's protégés removed
from power, Raul is now beginning to dismantle what he views as the most
inefficient relics of Cuba's Socialist principles.
Miami Cubans remain wary of any "reform" that does not include the
opening of the political system and the reintroduction of capitalist
reforms. In fact, the demise of the ration booklets was long rumored
over the summer; a roundtable discussion was posted on YouTube that
addressed the structural limits of the Socialist economic model that has
hampered Raul Castro's efforts to reform the Cuban economy.
Cuba is now confronting a critical cash flow precipitated by the
consequences of devastating hurricanes that swept across the island in
2008, the global financial crisis and the consequences of a lingering
dispute with the European Union, which, under the auspices of Spain,
provided emergency food assistance to Cubans on humanitarian grounds.
Before the hurricanes, Cuba imported a little more than half the food it
needed from aboard. Today, more than 80 percent of what Cubans eat comes
from abroad – and with foreign reserves dwindling, the Cuban government
is out of cash and out of credit. It is this reality, more than
ideology, that is forcing Raul Castro to take urgent measures, which
will strike hardest the oldest and youngest Cubans who depend on the
state distribution of foodstuffs for sustenance.
For Cubans, the majority of whom are under 47 and have lived their
entire lives with the "Libretas," the abrupt ending of the food ration
booklets is seen as a refining – and revolutionary – moment, as if
Americans were to wake up one morning to read that Social Security and
food stamps have been abolished.
And the harsh reality that confronts most of humanity will dawn on
Cubans first thing in the morning: Where will I get enough calories to
get me through the day?
Cuba Ends Food Guarantees, Steps Back from Socialist Ideal – NAM (23