Cuba in the Face of Growing Poverty

Poverty data has worsened very visibly in the last three years. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yaxys Cires, Madrid, 26 October 2023 — Some 28 months after the historic protests of 11 July 2021 in Cuba, with demands regarding political and social rights, the Island’s authorities continue to show no will to carry out the urgent changes that the country needs and that Cubans demand. The immobility of the regime in the face of serious problems, the accumulated crises and circumstantial factors have aggravated the situation of poverty and exclusion for the vast majority of the people.

According to the VI Report on the State of Social Rights in Cuba, considering total household income, 88% of Cubans live in extreme poverty and 62% of those consulted said they have problems buying the most essential things to survive.  Due to lack of money or scarcity, 78% said that they had skipped a daily meal, only 5% had obtained medicines from official pharmacies and 15% took expired medicines.

78% said that, due to lack of money or scarcity, they had skipped a daily meal, only 5% had obtained medicines in official pharmacies and 15% took expired medicines

It is evident that none of these figures have to do with the paradise that Cuban propaganda has sold for decades and that some Latin American leaders present to their fellow citizens as the model to imitate.

Is the unbearable Cuban situation the product of internal or external causes? Without a doubt, the main ones are internal, related, among others, to deficiencies specific to the communist system and the priorities of the Government.

It is very difficult to generate acceptable levels of decent living standards without economic freedom. With few nuances, the Cuban system continues clinging to the Stalinist scheme, with the State as the majority operator of the economy. The Communist Party, which the Constitution considers “the highest leading political force of society,” establishes that it will not allow “the concentration of wealth” (without it appearing that this norm affects its leaders).

These outdated formulas, which have never given good results anywhere in the world, prohibit – for example – the individual exercise of professions such as law or architecture, put absurd limits on how much money an entrepreneur can withdraw from a bank (currently the equivalent of 20 dollars a day), restricts farmers from owning land, directly or indirectly controls the wholesale market and import activity, and does not allow a Cuban exile to buy property in their native country.

But the problem is also one of priorities. Official data on investment (state, foreign, etc.) in the first half of 2023 reflect the predominance of activities articulated around the tourism sector, which is controlled by the military. This is the case of the items “business, real estate and rental services” (25%) and “hotels and restaurants” (5.6%), obviously focused on foreign currency.

In contrast, the total national agricultural investment was only 2.6%, in a country in which the main social concern is the serious food crisis

In contrast, the total national agricultural investment was only 2, 6%, in a country where the main social concern is the serious food crisis. The absence of civil and political liberties does not allow Cubans to criticize the many absurd things they see or to disapprove in democratic elections of those responsible for the disaster.

The Cuban people are talented and hardworking, but political repression, impoverishment and lack of future have driven millions of people into exile. It is time for power to begin the political, economic and social changes that the country needs, opening its hand to everyone who wishes to contribute to their own nation. As it was not when the Soviet Union existed, today it will not be its allies of Russian oligarchic capitalism who will get Cuba out of the quagmire. Neither will Venezuelan or Mexican oil.

The best thing about each country is its own people and a real openness to their talent.

Editor’s Note: The author is director of strategies of the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights, based in Madrid.


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