Desertion by Doctor Ramona Matos Opens a Breach / Osmar Laffita Rojas / HemosOido

Dr. Ramon Matos shows her documents
Dr. Ramon Matos shows her documents in Brazil on seeking political asylum. Photo from Internet.

HAVANA, Cuba. — The manipulation by the official press has no limits. The report published in the Granma daily on March 17 by journalist Diana Ferreiro carries a grandiose headline: “White Scrubs for a Better World.”

In said article, it went so far as to say that the seventh delegation of Cuban doctors that left this week for Brazil “will lend international help.”

The concealment of what is really behind the presence of Cuban doctors in Brazil is grotesque. These doctors do not go “to lend international help.” They are simply health professionals hired by the Brazilian government in the “More Doctors” program through the Panamerican Health Organization (PHO).

After prior negotiation by the PHO, the Marketer of Cuban Medical Services S.A. will receive 4,300* dollars monthly for each of the 11,430 doctors who will work for a period of two years in the South American giant.

Ferreiro lies when she claims that of the 1,684 physicians of the seventh delegation, “a great part of them had finished their work in Venezuela and responded to the the new call.” Really what determined that they “step up” is that they know that, after March, they are going to earn 1,245* dollars a month in Brazil, and not the 3,000 Bolivares (the equivalent of 35 dollars monthly) that the Cuban government pays them on the Venezuelan “mission.”

The Cuban government keeps a third of the 4,200* dollars a month that the doctors who work now in Brazil receive as salary.

The official press has not said that the remaining 1,245* dollars will accrue entirely to the doctors. This was possible because of the pressure by the Brazilian authorities on the Cuban government which sees itself forced to put an end to the abusive and exploitative system of 1,000-dollar payments from which the doctors received 400 dollars a month and the remaining 600 dollars was deposited in an account which they could only access on return to Cuba after finishing their work in Brazil.  The change became possible because of the notorious scandal caused by the desertion of Doctor Ramona Matos and other Cuban doctors; something that, of course, Diana Ferreiro does not mention in her article.

To that extent it can be said — although the Cuban people do not know it — that it was Brazil and not Cuba where for the first time a real increase was produced in the salaries of doctors who mostly earn 20 dollars a month on the island.

The Cuban government has seen a goldmine of hard currency income with the exportation of professional services.

The payment of the 11,430 physicians who will work in various Brazilian states, added to the 35 thousand that are in Venezuela, will mean an annual income of over 6 billion dollars.

With the 46,430 Cuban doctors in Venezuela and Brazil, the Cuban population will only have 32,192 professionals at their disposal located in 57 general hospitals, four maternal-infant hospitals, 468 poly-clinics and 11,486 Family Doctor clinics.

The Cuban health system, already plagued by deficiencies, with so few professionals that will remain in Cuba, without a doubt will worsen in the coming months.

Cubanet, March 20, 2014 / Osmar Laffita Rojas

*Translator’s note: The dollar amounts reported in this text do not perfectly track, but it has been translated faithfully from the original.

Translated by mlk.

Neither Fresh Milk Nor Diet Milk / Osmar Laffita Rojas

Havana, Cuba, December, – Last year 2012, the Ministry of Agriculture reported the production of fresh milk at a level of 516,246,500 litres nationally. Out of this total, the province of Camagüey occupied the first position with 96,299,600 litres. Followed, at a distance, by Villa Clara with 51,794,100 litres; Sancti Spíritus with 49,923,100 and Matanzas with 44,352,800 litres.

As part of a long list of inefficiencies and unfulfilled commitments, the state was not able to fulfill its commitment dated July 26th 2007 to guarantee a daily litre of fresh milk to every child under 7 years.

With a few days to go to the end of 2013, this year’s milk production is not known. That silence is a sign that things aren’t going well.

In most of the provinces, they are continuing with the standard sale of 3 kilos a  month of powdered milk, at the subsidised price of 10 cents a kilo. Every 10 days, children under 7 have the right to a kilo of this miik.

Not being able to guarantee the supply of fresh milk and in order to ensure the children get the diet they need, the state had no choice but to import thousands of tons of powdered milk whose price in the international market was over $4,000 dollars a ton.

That imported powdered milk is also for pregnant women and those diagnosed with chronic illness like diabetes, who get a voucher for a kilo of powdered milk a month, whose price is similar to that sold for children.

It seems like the milk production in the past year has not been what was hoped.

Last August 5th, the weekly Trabajadores, official publication of the Cuba Workers Centre (CTC) , announced the construction of a powdered milk factory in the province of Camagüey with capacity to produce 100,000 litres of milk a day, using milk from the dairies in the Camagüey area.

Production testing of the factory in question will be started at the end of September.

They are putting up the new factory in the place where the old factory was to have been in the 90’s, which would have been the first powdered milk factory in Cuba. Construction was held up for lack of funding. Since then, the state has kept on importing powdered milk, thousands of tons, paying tens of millions of dollars.

The powdered milk factory which they are putting up in Camagüey is fitted with Chinese and Italian technology and its cost has reached 528,000 dollars. It should produced 2,350 tons of powdered whole and low-fat milk a year and 1,100 tons of butter.

The newspaper Granma, on 31st August, announced that work on the project was over 70% advanced  and that at the end of September they will start assembly of the machinery and, if there are no holdups, they forecast completion for the end of December. But, up to now, they haven’t given any more information on this.

At the beginning of December, they announced that pregnant women and the chronically sick in the provinces of Mayabeque, La Habana, Artemisa and Santa Clara, who received powdered milk for their diet, by way of an experiment, will, from January, instead of that, receive a new dairy formula made up of casein, lacto-whey, water, and animal or vegetable fat with different levels of protein.

On this point, the Vice Minister of Internal Trade, Bárbara Acosta, said that this measure was taken because of the over-consumption of powdered milk and assured the deputies that it would not be extended past the date indicated

It seems like there was a setback in the production of milk in the second half of this year.

In the Foreign Currency Recovery Stores* (TRD, from its Spanish initials) they have not offered butter or condensed and evaporated milk produced locally for months.

You only find cheese in certain supermarkets, and not always. The price is about $15 a kilo, which is in fact prohibitive for most Cubans, whose salary doesn’t exceed $20 a month.

The official press keeps completely silent about the crisis in the production of fresh milk. It seems like the government has ordered that they don’t touch on such a sensitive topic.

Translated by GH

*Translators note: This interesting name makes clear the government’s interest in operating stores that sell products only in hard currency; their purpose is to “recover” the remittances sent to Cubans from family and friends abroad. Products in these stores are generally sold at significant markups.

23 December 2013 / Cubanet

Cuba Imports Rice it Could Produce / Osmar Laffita Rojas

cub18-300x295HAVANA, Cuba, October – Of the approximately 770,000 tons of rice consumed by the Cuban population last year*, 440,000 were imported from Vietnam, Brazil and the United States. As a ton of rice trades on the world market at $450, the Cuban government had to spend $200 million for the purchase of this food.

Two years ago, rice production was going through a severe crisis in Cuba. There were great difficulties in the harvest due to the advanced deterioration of agricultural machinery, lack of means to transport the grain and the total abandonment of the roads. Inability to harvest the rice at full maturity is a source of great losses.

There were few dryers, mills, silos and warehouses, and the vast majority were in pitiful condition, unmaintained for years. With limited industrial capacity and storage, some provinces were forced to send the harvested grain to other provinces that had dryers and mills for processing, thus incurring costs for fuel, wages, etc.

This situation resulted in low yields that did not meet the needs of the population. The deficit in rice production was offset by foreign imports.

But as of mid-2011, the Ministry of Agriculture launched an investment and retrofitting process to reverse the situation. The state allocated substantial resources for the purchase of agricultural machinery and means of transporting the grain. It embarked on a process of building new kilns, mills, silos and warehouses, while the existing facilities are being repaired and modernized.

Similarly, it undertook the rehabilitation of irrigation channels and roads.

Take the case of the new Guama River diversion in Pinar del Rio, which, with El Punto Dam in the town of Consolación del Sur, ensures irrigation of the Vuelta Abajo rice plantation through a more than 12-mile system of channels.

Since last year, the cultivation of rice in Cuba has undergone positive changes. The provinces of Pinar del Rio, Villa Clara and Cienfuegos reported 86,000 acres harvested in cold and spring sowings. Timely delivery of fertilizer, herbicides, fuel, more efficient water use, among other assurances made it possible for these three provinces to report a production of 42,000 tons of wet rice this year, which represents an increase of 35% relative to what was reaped by those provinces the previous year.

In Villa Clara a mill has been built that will process 220 tons of rice a day, and three silos were built, each with with a 1,100 ton capacity, plus a warehouse with a capacity of 1,980 tons. With these investments, by next year the province may end a daily transfer of 275 tons of wet rice to Sancti Spiritus and Matanzas for industrial processing.

But not everything is going smoothly. In Los Palacios in Pinar del Rio Province, the Air Services Company’s failure to meet its commitments in rice planting, along with the delay in the application of fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides, caused severe damages to this year’s production. Rice production was down 43,700 tons and there was a significant decrease in yields per acre.

The agricultural aviation executives argue that their priority is not the rice companies, but spraying against mosquitoes in Havana, in the tourist resorts of Cayo Coco and Cayo Largo, and in the city of Pinar del Rio.

Osmar Laffita Rojas,

*Translator’s note: Roughly 140 pounds per person

Cubanet, 31 October 2013

The Pittance That Cubans Earn / Osmar Laffita Rojas

HAVANA, Cuba, October, – After five years of the presidency of General Raul Castro, the country remains trapped by severe economic problems. Instead of improving, the economy is worsening.

The Cuban economy isn’t even treading water. It’s enough to look at the low salaries of the workers, which in the period of 2008-2012, according to the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), nationally averaged 17.70 dollars per worker.

The unions, directed by the government’s Cuban Workers Union (CTC), limit themselves to suggesting that salaries will increase when productivity increases.

To that we add the dual currency system, in force for twenty years.

The disastrous results in the first half of this year have led to the decapitalization of a great part of the system of production and basic services. From the monetary and financial point of view there are no real conditions to proceed with the elimination of the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only currency, and much less for it to circulate with parity to the U.S. dollar.

Enough already with the lies and fooling the Cuban people. End hunger, misery and poverty in Cuba.

Let’s look at how wages behaved (in dollars) by province and sector in 2012.

According to the National Office of Statistics and Information, of the 15 provinces plus the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud, those reporting higher average monthly wages per worker were Ciego de Avila ($ 20.60), Matanzas ($19.32), Cienfuegos ($19.00), Sancti Spiritus ($18.92) and Pinar del Rio ($18.84).

Those who reported the lowest monthly wages were Isla de la Juventud ($18.04), Guantanamo ($17.36) and Santiago de Cuba ($17.32).

The sectors with higher wages paid in 2012 were construction ($23.20), Mining and Quarrying ($22.64), Electricity, Gas and Water ($20.80) and Agriculture and Fisheries ($20.52).

The poorest paid sectors were Services Companies ($17.28), Community Services ($17.00) and Trade, Food and Hotels ($15.04).

Such miserable salaries, that aren’t even enough to eat badly for two weeks, are the cause of the black market and corruption.

The salaries are even lower in Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo. In both provinces in the last five years there have been no new sources of employment, young people, on reaching working age, decide — at whatever cost — to emigrate to Havana, although they have to pass through a thousand and one nights.

Young people work miracles to get a place as a shopkeeper, a worker in a snack bar or restaurant or to achieve the golden dream of a being staff in a tourist hotel. The dollars they “find” (generally no less than $200 a month), not infrequently with shady under the table deals, allow them standards of living that are horrifyingly different from what a doctor or any other professional earns.

The monetary union that the government says it is going to carry out will change nothing about the miserable salaries Cubans earn.

Osmar Laffita Rojas

Cubanet, 22 October 2013

Starting This Month, Thousands More Will be Unemployed / Osmar Laffita Rojas

Privately run clothing store.
Privately run clothing store.

HAVANA, Cuba , October, – Of the 436,342 Cubans reported, as of the end of June, to have licenses to practice in the private sector (with the greatest presence in Havana, Matanzas  Villa Clara, Camaguey, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba), the number of contract workers accounts for18%. This is evidence that in the past two years small private businesses have been the main source of employment for men and women, mostly young, at a time when the State sector reported excess payrolls, with a million workers who will have to be dismissed.

Among that 18% of contract workers, are those who work as clerks in the thousands of stores that sell imported clothes — a very great number — after those working in small restaurants, pizzerias and cafes, and drivers of cars and trucks rented for the transport of passengers and goods.

For residents of the major cities of Cuba has become normal to see in the doorways of many houses and premises areas adapted for the sale of factory-made clothing brought from abroad, which is very popular with the public, given that the clothes are more attractive than those found in the State’s Foreign Exchange Recovery Shops (TRD) — which is the formal name for hard currency stories.

The owners of these establishments, who are licensed as seamstresses or tailors, have paid their taxes monthly and submitted the affidavits of their sales, in which they state the number of employees hired.

yXu5r.St_.84-300x192In general, business was good, until Marino Murillo Jorge, vice president of the Council of Ministers, at meetings of the National Assembly of People’s Power held on July 6 and 7, expressed alarm that the private sector, according to his remarks, “Is demonstrating indiscipline, among many of them, as is the case for those who have a license for one activity and undertake another.” He gave the example of dressmakers and tailors, who are involved in selling imported clothes. He said that this can not continue, “It will have to be rectified with a new legal standard that fixes the scope of each activity.”

On the first of September, without waiting for tResolution 42 to go into effect, the Administrative Councils of the provinces of Pinar del Río, Sancti Spiritus and Cienfuegos banned the sale of imported clothing in all their municipalities.

And most recently, on the 26th of the same month, in a special edition, No. 27, of the Official Gazette of the Republic of Cuba published Resolution No. 353/2013 from the Ministry of Finance and Prices, referring to the rules for the taxation of persons engaged in private activity and monthly minimum tax account payments. Resolution No. 42/2013 from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MTSS) was also published, setting out the rules for the authorizations of private businesses.

DEC1D69F-C375-4618-9612-67A7660B81E3_mw1024_n_s-300x252The MTSS Resolution clears up any doubts about activities that have been engaged in for a long time but that, according to Murilla, were never authorized by the license. It clarifies that the owners of seamstress and tailor licenses may engage in, “Making, fixing, and transforming clothes, performing simple and complex tailoring and sewing to measure, and this does not include trading in industrially manufactured or imported clothing.”

But this issue, as it is raised, causes a huge problem: Of those who have a license to engage in private activity in Cuba, 68% had no State employment, and 32% were retired State workers, which makes clear the negative effect the prohibition of sale of imported clothing will have.

Starting this month, thousands of people will join the ranks of the unemployed and their families will be plunged into poverty.

All indications are that the enforcement of the above Resolution is the result of pressure exerted by the colonels and generals who control retail trade in dollars. Looking at the balance of sales for the first semester set off alarms about the low “recovery of dollars” in the State stores. The  precipitous drop in sales in the majority of TRDs is attributed to small private businesses engaged in selling imported clothes, which had won — fair and square — more than 85% of the clientele.

Osmar Laffita Rojas,

From Cubanet, 11 October 2013

Agricultural Production Continues to Plummet / Osmar Laffita Rojas

02F141AA-F3F1-4CEB-A461-FFB2AAF53BBD_mw1024_n_s-300x191HAVANA, Cuba, October, – Of the 6.5 million hectares of agricultural land is in Cuba, only 32 percent was cultivated in February 2008, when General Raul Castro assumed the presidency. There were 2 million acres covered with the invasive marabou weed or other weeds, and badly cared for. In other words, one third of the arable land was idle.

Twenty years after their creation, the Basic Unit Production Cooperatives (UBPCs), with the 1.77 million hectares of land they own, only managed to cultivate 219,100 hectares in 2012. With the exception of land used for growing sugar cane, coffee, cocoa and cattle breeding, these cooperatives reported 23% of their land to be idle, covered with marabou and other weeds.

EL_15green.embedded.prod_affiliate.84-300x197To help turn around this deplorable situation, the government enacted Decree-Law 259, in July 2008, which authorized the distribution of land, in a form of leasing known as usufruct, up to a limit of 13 hectares per person, for a period of 10 years, with possibility of extensions. In the last five years, 1.7 million hectares has been distributed to 174,000 lessees. Of this figure, 53% is destined for livestock, 23% to vegetable crops, 7% to livestock breeding, with small areas under cultivation in tobacco, coffee and sugarcane.

But right now the process of distribution of land in usufruct is hampered and limited by of bureaucratic delays in the approval of applications. This is compounded by the slowness and delay in beginning to work the land, sometimes caused by the lessees’ inexperience of the farm work. Also due to the fact that they face a shortage of the means of labor , their high prices and poor quality.

However, the major obstacles confronting the delivery of lands in usufruct come from the State farms, which hinder and are reluctant to declare vacant the 500,000 hectares of land that remain unproductive.

Of the total land owned by agricultural enterprises, cooperatives, farmers and the lessees, only 1,353,519 hectares were cultivated in 2012.

The poor results in agricultural production require the government to spend 1.5 billion dollars in food imports, most of which could be produced in Cuba.

The situation is such that between January and March of this year there was a drop of 7.8 % in agricultural production, reporting a significant reduction in the production of beans, potatoes, citrus fruits, eggs and milk.

Osmar Laffita Rojas, From Cubanet

8 October 2013

The Eternal Wait for the Glass of Milk / Osmar Laffita Red

You finally brought me my glass of milk. // Hmm… no. It’s sugar water. But it was made by a self-employed person.  Try it, bobita… By Garrincha

HAVANA, Cuba , October, – More than six years ago, President Raul Castro announced that he would guarantee a glass of fresh milk to the majority of children as a result of the plan to distribute this food through a group of bodegas (ration stores), experimentally. He said that as production increased, it would be extended to the whole country.

As of today, it is unknown how many bodegas and municipalities are distributing daily milk to children. Something that did not work as expected.

At the end of 2012, nationwide milk production was 516,246,500 liters. Of that amount, livestock enterprises produced 62,660,200 liters, but it is unknown what really was the destination of this production, because in none of the bodegas in the major cities in Cuba, nor in the chain stores selling in hard currency, is fresh milk or butter produced in Cuba offered.

Of the remaining 453,586,300 liters, most of it was provided by farmers who delivered 341,834,400 liters. Agricultural Production Cooperatives (CPA) and Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPCs) produced 111,751,900 liters.

Given their dispersal throughout the country, both private producers and cooperatives were assigned the task of ensuring that fresh milk reaches the majority of the ration stores in the municipalities that are contemplating the sale of milk.

This would be very important substitution for imports, as the price of a ton of milk powder exceeds 4,000 dollars, but it’s unknown if, in the last legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power, the issue was analyzed by the deputies and government.

It seems that substituting for milk powder, which costs so much, for domestic production, is not among economic priorities of the current Cuban government.

With regards to milk production, the official press does not provide any information. When it does, it is very general. Evidently they are not authorized to go into detail on the matter.

Nine months into the present year we do not know how many millions of liters of milk are produced, how much has been destined for industry, what number of bodegas directly distribute it in how many municipalities, total households that receive it and what this represented in foreign exchange savings through import substitution.

The latest data available are for the period January to March, when there were 84,778,800 liters of milk. Of these, livestock enterprises reported a production of 11,297,800 liters, the remaining 73,481,700 liters were collected by cooperatives and private producers. The latter produced the most, with a delivery of 55,233,200 liters.

An example of how rapid the decline in milk production in livestock enterprises has been, we have in the province of Camagüey the largest producer of milk nationwide. In 2012, its dairies reported a production of 96,299,600 liters. Of that total, livestock enterprises only produced 43,896,600 liters. Between January and March of this year, it was reported that 14,507,500 liters were produced in Camagüey. Livestock enterprises only produced 761,800 liters.

Historically, drought served as justification to hide the poor results, but since June it has rained continuously throughout the island. Those who tore out the marabou weed, prepared the land and planted king grass so there would be no shortage of food for cows, and also provided the dairies with water and lighting for twice a day milking so that they could meet their respective production plans with no complications.

From January to August, most livestock enterprises, despite the good performance of the rain, recorded very low milk yields. Serious organizational problems, the lack of control, lack of demand, lack of foresight, have adversely affected production and brought these poor results.

By Osmar Laffita Red /

From Cubanet

2 October 2013

Hurricane Season: Risk of Collapse, If There is Wood, There are No Nails / Osmar Laffita Rojas

Havana, Cuba, September, Osmar Lafitta, — For many Cubans, having a house or apartment, even fifty-four years after the current rulers came to power, is an impossibility. Repairing or building a home using their own resources remains the only option for hundreds of thousands of families.

And the start of cyclone season is a time of great anxiety for many in the population.

There are 3,000,000 homes making up Cuba’s housing stock. Of this figure 61% are reported to be in good condition. The rest, which have not been maintained for decades, are in poor condition.

The government’s home construction programs are showing signs of accelerated decline due to the ineffective economic model imposed on the country, which has led to inefficiency and corruption.

The sign reads, “No unauthorized persons in the warehouse.” Below it is a list of building materials and prices.

The blame for everything

The official position is that the embargo is to blame for everything. However, responsibility for the housing shortage rests with the all-powerful State, whose micro-brigades — made up of amateur carpenters and bricklayers — had a monopoly on home construction for almost half a century, denying the public the chance to repair or build their own homes.

This absurd centralization is what led to the very serious housing problem now facing the country. In 2008 Raúl Castro changed his tune. Now houses can be bought and sold, and credits and subsidies are available for those who do not have the money for construction materials. But…

Most Cubans who want to repair their homes earn only twenty dollars a month and cannot afford to pay five dollars for a bag of cement, or three and a half dollars for a cubic meter of sand. Businesses that sell construction material remain empty in every city in the country.

There are also shortages of concrete blocks, bricks, roofing tiles, and flooring material. The suppliers, using various excuses, cannot guarantee that these materials will ever be in stock.

To find what they need, customers must make pilgrimages to various flea markets. And when they do find it, they have to add transportation costs to the high price of the product.

The 90 points of sale and 33 stores that sell construction materials in Havana province have very few products available most of the time.

The situation is just as disastrous in Holguín province. The shortage of many materials poses a serious problem for its residents, who have still not been able to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

According to management

“The shortage of building materials is due to a lack of transportation. The stone mills have stockpiles of different types of aggregates and the cement factories’ warehouses are packed but there are no trucks to get the material to the points of sale.”

Even a partial solution to the serious housing shortage would require building no fewer than 70,000 units a year. Last year 26,000 were built. Of those only 1,000 were built by the State; the rest were built by the owners themselves.

In Havana the housing deficit is even more alarming. 5,471 families have spent more than a decade in temporary shelters. This figure does not include those living in buildings that have been declared uninhabitable, some of which are in danger of collapse. To prevent their roofs from falling in on them requires building 28,000 homes to house these people.

 The effects of Sandy

Last year Hurricane Sandy destroyed thousands of houses in Guantánamo, Holguín and Santiago de Cuba. Before the storm, Santiago de Cuba had a total of 329,129 homes, 40% of which were reported to be in fair to poor condition. Sandy left the city in a state of chaos. In Santiago de Cuba 171,000 homes were damaged. One year later only 44% have been repaired.

Many residents complain that “there are no materials.” When there is cement, there are no concrete blocks. When lumber arrives, there are no doors. If there are no windows or roofing tiles, then it becomes a veritable ordeal, which no one explains and which is never resolved. Where are the materials that are supposed to be going to the storm victims?

What are the commissions set up to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba doing?

In the three eastern provinces 26,000 homes were completely destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. In the first six months of this year, only 4,690 were rebuilt, an average of 130 houses per month in each of the affected provinces.

The situation is very serious. Forty-thousand homes damaged by previous cyclones to hit Cuba have not yet been repaired.

Among the things destroyed by Sandy were 61,310 homes, whose inhabitants are losing hope.

Osmar Laffita Rojas

From Cubanet

September 9, 2013

Reservoirs Overflow While Farms Lack Water / Osmar Laffita Rojas

HAVANA, Cuba , September, – In Cuba there are 242 reservoirs, administered by the Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH). Together, these reservoirs can accumulate 9 billion cubic meters of water. Not to mention hundreds of small dams belonging to the Ministry of Agriculture and Sugar (AZCUBA), which have the capacity to store 500 million cubic meters.

But of the total reservoirs, 106 are not used. Without having a convincing explanation for why, the INRH has assigned resources to undertake the required maintenance.

In these dams out of service today, serious problems have accumulated over the years, leading to the paralyzing of the diverters, the master channels, and the irrigation systems so needed for the crops.

The unjustified waste of water accumulated in reservoirs , throughout the whole country, and its negative effect on agriculture, highlights the fact that the Cuban government has to allocate 1.8 billion dollars for food imports, most of which could  be produced in Cuba without any problem.

The underutilized reservoirs are located in the provinces of Pinar del Rio, Artemisa, Cienfuegos, Villa Clara, Camagüey, Holguín, Las Tunas and the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud. In these territories, the use of reservoir water is down 75%. And in another 35 of these reservoirs water use is down 25%. However, in the territories mentioned, accumulate 566 million cubic meters of water with virtually no destination. These provinces, until recently, were noted for their high agricultural production.

To the problem of under-utilization of the accumulated water in the reservoirs, we must add 778 million cubic meters of water that could be used for fish farming.

The other issue for which INRH has no solution in the offing, is the leaks in the hundreds of miles of major canals and their connection and distribution networks. Due to the deterioration of age and lack of maintenance, millions of cubic meters of the precious liquid are lost every day.

Cuba has no major rivers. Their courses, generally from north to south, are short. The rainfall has become more erratic due to the greenhouse effect. Therefore, the filling of reservoirs and groundwater in recent years has not been as reliable as in the past.

The water problem in Cuba is potentially critical. According to the index of the potential availability of water per capita, the country ranks 105th out of 182 countries, with a range of consumption of 3,404 cubic meters of water per capita.

At present, the government talks a lot about the need to achieve food security as collateral for the material welfare of the population, but it is pure slogan and talk, without concrete results.

From Cubanet

6 September 2013

Self-employment or Private Property / Osmar Laffita

HAVANA, Cuba, 30 August 2013, – Resolution No. 32 of 7 October 2010, issued by the Ministry of Work and Social Security, relaxed private work with the approval of 181 activities of self-employment.

According to the newspaper Juventud Rebelde, on 17 August of this year, at the end of July licenses has been issued by the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT) to 436,342 people.

In a year and a half there was an increase of 110,395 Cubans who established these private micro-enterprises or contracted as workers of these small businesses. The government has directed — in the official press and satellite organizations, like the unions — that what, in reality, is private activity with owners and employees, is to be called self-employment.

At the end of July, the private businesses with major expansions were the snack bars and restaurants, cars and trucks engaged in carrying passengers and merchandise, and the renting of rooms and houses. These businesses account for 29% of the total.

Wage earners working for private owners

Cuba already has an incipient sector of private micro-enterprises. Of the total licenses issued by ONAT, 18% are to contract workers. Of them, 68% did not previously work for the State. Now they work as wage-earners for owners of private businesses.

The greatest number of people with licenses for self-employment are concentrated in the provinces of Havana, Matanzas, Villa Clara, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba, which account for 65% of the licenses awarded in the country.

In the capital, at the end of July 110,000 people were engaged in private activity. In the municipalities within the capital, the greatest number of licenses were in Central Havana, with 10,479; Playa, with 9,915; Plaza, which registered 9,724; and Rancho Boyeros, which reports 9,514.

Materials on the black market

The government has not guaranteed the opening of wholesale markets so that the proprietors of these small businesses and micro-enterprises can acquire inputs to make their activities less onerous. To be able to keep their businesses open and meet their excessive tax obligations, the self-employers have not other option than to acquire resources on the black market. This means that the prices at which they sell their products and services are not within reach for the majority of Cubans, whose salaries don’t exceed 20 dollars a month.

One element that has contributed to the capitalization, expansion and sustaining of private activity in Cuba has been the sending of family remittances from abroad. In the great majority of cases, they have made it possible for locals to cover the expenses of their businesses, buying inputs under the table, or on the hard currency stores — called “Stores for Collection of Hard Currency” (TRD) — at prices with a mark-up of 250% of the actual value.

Though the government doesn’t report it, at the end of last year the remittances from Cubans living abroad, principally in the United States, totaled 2.605 billion dollars.

If this amount is added to the value of others items sent — food, medicines, appliances, clothing, shoes and trinkets of all kinds — the figure would rise to 5.105 billion dollars.

Remittances exceed revenues from tourism

Last year, remittances to Cuba greatly exceeded the revenue from tourism (2.613 billion dollars), nickel (1.413 billion), and the sale of medicines (0.5 billion). Indeed, if the costs of each item were known, the difference might be significantly greater.

The Cuban leaders, although they remain silent, know that relaxing controls on private activity has exponentially fostered the sending of remittances. This money contributes to the financing and consolidation of private micro-enterprise in Cuba, which even with its limitations, and despite all the obstacles imposed by the State, today constitutes the only moderately successful element of the reforms.

About the Author

Osmar Laffita, Holguín, 1945. Merchant marine for 20 years. In 1991 he began working in tourism and did so until 1994. In 1993 he joined the Democratic Socialist Current, and in 2007 linked to the Democratic Solidarity Party. Since then he collaborates with Cubanet and Primavera de Cuba. e-mail:

From Cubanet

29 August 2013