Cuban Farmers Call on Government to Open Up or Face Social Upheaval

The state cannot continue to be an exploitative monopoly and a parasite feeding off our family remittances. We have reached our limit,” warn farmers in a letter to Cuban authorities. (Flickr/tTnman6)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 20, 2020 — In a letter to the island’s authorities, a group of independent Cuban farmers call upon the government to “change course before it is too late” and to unleash the the nation’s productive capacity, which they see as the only way out of the current crisis.

Economic measures included in the pending currency unification will “plunge tens of thousands of pensioners and other vulnerable sectors into poverty,” warn the letter’s signatories, Esteban Ajete with the League of Independent Farmers and Lisandra Orraca, a member of the Latin American Federation of Rural Women.

“Given the current situation, it is abjectly irresponsible to destroy the reputation of farmers and self-employed workers by portraying us as selfish because we have been forced to raise prices due to inflation that the state itself has caused,” the activists complain in a reference to government attacks. Official media outlets have blamed the sector for the recent increase in the costs for goods and services.

“The ones who have to lower prices are officials at dollar stores who add 200%, 300% and 400% to their import costs,” the letter goes on to read. Recent price increases come on the heels of a rise in electric rates, which take effect in January. “Who are the real parasites here?” the letter’s authors ask.

Ajete and Orraca call upon authorities to “stop their senseless economic war against agricultural producers and private businesspeople.” They believe the solution to the current economic crisis plaguing the island “is not to slander, attack and oppress those who create products, services and employment but to unleash the forces of production at once.”

“The state cannot continue to be an exploitative monopoly and a parasite feeding off our family remittances. We have reached our limit.” The farmers believe the only rational course of action is to “contain famine, prevent the spread of poverty, and rapidly promote large-scale employment” through economic freedom.

Freedoms they would like to see as the ability to “acquire legal ownership of our lands and businesses as well as to produce, set prices, market, export, import and attract investment without state intermediaries and without limits on economic areas under [private] management or the growth of [private] business ventures.”

The letter’s authors cite the “failed system of state control” as one of the causes for predicament in which the country currently finds itself. They believe that, given the opportunity, Cuban farmers and entrepreneurs could “contain and reverse the famine and poverty that are already spreading throughout Cuba.”

“Set aside the arrogance and abuse of power. The options are clear: either the government provides opportunities for widespread prosperity or it doubles down on repression and hunger, which will lead to an explosive and irreversible situation.” At the close of the letter, the activists use a popular phrase whose tone is unmistakeable: “We farmers speak clearly.”

In August the League of Independent Farmers and the Latin American Federation of Rural Women also sent a letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. “We see an oncoming famine that can be avoided,” they wrote. In the letter they also asked for urgent intervention to prevent hunger on the island.

“The cause is not external or due to some natural disaster. The famine that is just over the Cuban horizon is a consequence of a fierce internal blockade of our productive capacity by the national government,” write the signers, who several months ago launched the campaign “Without Farming There Is No Country,” which called upon the government to abolish taxes on agricultural activity and demanded the right to own farmland.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.