Attention to Vulnerable Groups: Another Black Hole in Cuba

A study has revealed that in 21% of Cubans who live below the poverty line often go without breakfast, lunch or dinner due to lack of money. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 9 September 9, 2023 — The two refrains that the Cuban communists repeat ad nauseam fall apart in a spectacular way. The first, that “the United States crushes us with the embargo” sounds more and more like a hollow shell. The US sends Cuba more than 8 billion dollars a year in remittances, so no one can believe the “persecution,” and if they do it’s for political reasons.

The other thing that is repeated like a broken record is that “in Cuba no one is left helpless or abandoned to their fate.” This is even more difficult to believe once the bases of collectivism have been broken since the entry into force of the so-called Ordering Task.* In a nutshell, the Cuban communists are running out of excuses.

Not many days ago, Cuban President Díaz-Canel promoted a meeting to evaluate the progress of social programs aimed at the care of people who are in a vulnerable situation. The state press at the service of the regime has not missed a single opportunity to build a false reality.

The meeting was attended by, among others, First Vice President, Valdés Mesa, Prime Minister Marrero and the Minister of Labor and Social Security, Marta Elena Feitó. The latter was in charge of a speech to update everyone on the state of implementation of each of the programs of care for the vulnerable and to highlight what still has to be done in each of them, “to give continuity and preserve the social accomplishments achieved.”

The propaganda message of this meeting is that it was the so-called revolution that was responsible for the “main achievements with the universalist approach to social policy.”  Specifically, those in Education, Health, Social Assistance, Social Security, and others were cited. Obviously, the minister of labor can say what she believes, but surely she would be surprised if instead of being the informant, she uses public opinion, the expressions of Cubans, about the state of these services. Maybe she knows them, and that’s why this meeting says just the opposite. The more the communist leaders distance themselves from the people, the greater the rejection they will receive.

The alleged social equity of the Cuban communist regime is going at great speed down the drain of history. And without that fundamental basis, little more can be done on that unfortunate Island, where every day the leaders launch new experiments to gain a time that they no longer have.

The minister made an express mention of the “children’s programs” whose family nuclei deserve attention, or those destined for “communities.” In both cases, these are  “experiments” of the regime that do not have the slightest justification except to maintain and reinforce control over a population that lacks resources to improve their life prospects.

These experiments continue to bet on collectivism “in a multidisciplinary way,” because the programs include the ministries of Public Health, Education, Higher Education and Culture, as well as the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation. Imagine the cost of these useless programs and the impact they have on the budget, since the situation of Cubans does not improve.

The communist leaders emphasize that they want family and community participation, but in reality this participation is “directed” and “controlled” by the single party that thus instrumentalizes social segments to consolidate political, bureaucratic and ideological structures. Meanwhile, who is producing and what do they produce?

Hence, absurdities are raised such as offering Cuba’s ninis — a term used to describe young people in vulnerable situations who do not study or work — jobs in the neighborhoods in which they live and also for the benefit of the community itself. They don’t realize that those young people, frustrated with their reality, leave the country as soon as they can to build alternative and prosperous lives in other countries, where they quickly leave the status of nini behind. Perhaps Cuban communists should ask themselves why, in an economy as social and collectivist as the one they say they have created, these ninis even exist.

Castro policies do not solve these problems, just as they don’t serve to achieve a prosperous economy. In reality, those “benefits and services,” which have been created by the so-called “revolution,” do not help vulnerable families to overcome their situation. The budget resources allocated to these activities artificially inflate an unsustainable public deficit, which is at the origin of the lack of monetary control that exists in the country and causes double-digit inflation of the highest in the world.

In fact, many of these programs could be eliminated and things would not change significantly, except for the plethora of officials, communist politicians and bureaucrats who live from their implementation. The minister emphasized that the cost is 6 billion pesos, but in reality it is much more if Education and Health items are added. More than 60% of the public budget is committed to collectivist programs, the results of which are well known. In Cuba, groups at risk of social exclusion are flourishing and increasing, and I’m not the only one saying this: the communist leaders themselves say the same thing.

That failure of the policies of benefits to families and vulnerable people is symptomatic of other structural ills that afflict the Cuban economy, placing it close to total bankruptcy. The situation of collective vulnerability spreads and increases incessantly, and the government is unable to face the process.

Basically, there are not enough resources to meet those needs and they have to be financed. Nothing is free. Mobilizing billions of pesos for the vulnerable means that the money cannot be used, for example, to build hotels, and the political priorities have become very clear in recent years. The economic resources available can’t be stretched, even when it comes to those segments of the population who are vulnerable, which, according, to official sources, have been increasing in recent years. Apparently there are no policies for this situation.

The communists are worried because the State can’t handle it anymore and has to make cuts in certain benefits, which breaks the collectivist vision of the revolution. Problems grow and the tourists observe poverty in the Cuban streets, not only in the distressed buildings but in the people, and time is running out. That is why they affirm that “it is important not only to demand of the State, but also of the families who have the obligation to take care of those people, because it is a collective responsibility to take care of them.” Things are getting quite complicated. They have already begun putting the responsibility on others, and for that they use the family code.

The Minister of Labor said that “we are going to begin to better update the population on all the services that exist and where to go to receive them.” She did not talk about reducing expenses and improving management efficiency. Everyone left happy from the meeting convened by Díaz-Canel to talk about the disadvantaged groups. The regime is getting further and further away from social reality.

*Translator’s note: The Ordering Task is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso (CUP) as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency, which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures targeted to different elements of the Cuban economy. 

Translated by Regina Anavy


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