Far from clearing out any doubts, the recent speech given by the President of the State Council, Raul Castro, just created more confusion and worry among the population. Cubans fear that the rationing/supply booklet will be removed. The man who is also Prime Minister says that this supplement is confused with a “social achievement that should not be abolished.”
The subsidized quota, which in the past year was significantly reduced, contributes to the feeding of most citizens for a part of the month. Since early this year the government took some of regulated products off the ration, with the aim of gradually extinguishing the ration card. This happened with potatoes, peas and cigarettes.
The fears are not unfounded. The measure primarily affects elderly people in a population that has aged considerably. In doorways and street corners, retirees sell some products from their ration quota, such as toothpaste, cigarettes and coffee, matches, soap, laundry detergent and pasta.
Most wonder if Papa State will be able to keep the markets supplied to meet demand. Another concern is whether the price of deregulated products will exceed what they can now be bought for in the black market. Can a nation of workers acquire what they need with their current salaries, or will they have to steal?
Concerns increase with the number of family members. Josefa, my neighbor, is a 48-year-old homemaker. She was born under the Revolution and its system of rationing. Her husband is a custodian, and his salary is the only one coming into their home to support their three young daughters. She cannot imagine how she will feed them, without the aid of products on the ration card.
Joaquin, an old man of 73, in the debate on the issue at the butcher shop while waiting for his turn to buy the soy “ground meat.”, asks: “With the 200 pesos monthly pension paid me, after paying for electricity and my loan on the appliances from the Energy Revolution, how many pounds of chicken can I buy at 23 pesos a pound?
In the end, the liberalization of regulated products leave few happy. They do not believe the scarcity, which has been with the Revolution since the beginning, will end, or that the government has measures to combat it. Anyway, the point is made, the renewed Cuban socialism has nothing to do with subsidies and freebies.
January 10 2011