Cuba’s Demographic "Winter" in the Times of the Pandemic

The number of births in Cuba in the first quarter of the year, 23,666, is clearly fewer than the number of deaths, 27,269.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor, Valencia, 29 April 2020 — In the midst of the serious crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic, which, unfortunately, is starting to wreak havoc, not only in health but also in economic terms, the State newspaper Granma presents us on the cover with information that, of course, will go down in the history of journalism professional.

Nothing more nor less than a meeting with President Diaz-Canel is referenced to analyze the demographic dynamics of the country, and to report how population data from the first quarter show an absolute decrease in the population, given that the number of births (23,666) is clearly lower than deaths (27,269) and forecasts say that this trend will continue throughout the year.

Astonishingly, Díaz-Canel left the pressing problem of the pandemic for a few moments and devoted himself to evaluating, according to Granma, “the fulfillment of the program of attention to this important matter, in a context of population decrease, low fertility levels and increased aging.”

The data and information, drop by drop, were offered by the supposedly “disappeared” Mariano Murillo, who continues as “head of the Permanent Commission for Implementation and Development,” when we thought he had left office. He was in charge of showing the negative and tragic balance of 3,603 fewer Cubans, a part of the natural decrease of the population of Cuba.

They should have already addressed this problem a long ago. As should have Raúl Castro. Because the demographic “winter” of Cuba is not a phenomenon of now, but has been simmering for more than a decade. It is a problem that does not have an easy solution, but rather has very complex structural aspects and, what is worse, it will not be solved with patches and specific measures, no matter how much “intelligent, intensive work, with adequate follow-up, seeking to have more births, to stop the population decrease” is done by the authorities.

How have we gotten to this situation? What is the seriousness of the matter? And what solutions does the problem have?

The official argument is that we have reached this situation because the Cuban population ages due to a high life expectancy, a positive fact if there were a recovery of the demographic cohorts at the base of the pyramid. But since there are not enough births, the segment of the population of Cubans 60 years of age or older has increased to 20.8% of the total population; a figure that during 2020 will continue to grow up to 21.2%.

There is also talk of treatment for infertile couples, which according to Murillo’s data reached a figure of 138,977 couples, who show up at municipal and provincial consultations and high-tech centers, and it the success of this program is outstanding, having achieved, in 2019 and in the first quarter of 2020, 11,678 pregnancies.

Best of all, Granma announces (once again the propaganda reaches the inadmissible) that “to continue finding efficient solutions, around twenty measures are being studied to stimulate the birth rate, which include greater care and protection for pregnant women, for working mothers and fathers and for families responsible for the care of minors. “

The point is that these 20 or 30 measures are not going to solve the problem. In reality, the stagnation of the Cuban population has a lot to do with the terrible state of the economy, the general poverty of the population, the overcrowding of families in houses that are falling apart, the low purchasing power of wages and the absence of freedom of choice.

One would have to wonder who might want to bring their offspring into the world to see them spend their daily existence between ideological slogans and absurd lines to “resolve things” — the terminology used to define shopping for food and other necessities.

This is the main issue, that Cubans have lost faith in the future of their country, and that the youngest, as far as they can, choose the path of emigration to straighten out their lives. If they analyzed the birth rates of Cubans abroad, they would see big surprises.

Díaz-Canel is not right when he says that demographic dynamics is a matter of the greatest complexity, because it is one of those that most impacts the present and future life of Cuba, its economic and social development.

It is just the other way around, as one has to see. It is because of Cuba’s structural poverty, which its government neither acknowledges nor wants to fix, that demographics are sinking without remedy. The causality of economic relations, in this case, is fully justified.

For more than a decade, the Cuban population has grown little or not at all. Those who have tried to solve this problem without reforming the structures of the old and reactionary communist social system have failed. There is no point in “filling” the Constitution with rights for families if there is then no way to exercise them or to put them into practice.

Daycare centers, grandparents’ houses, attention to conciliation, protection of pregnant women and infertile couples, yes, all that is very good as subsidies that fatten the state budget, but the objective must be to improve the living conditions of Cubans, and that depends on economic forces, especially the private ones.

And to achieve this goal of improving the productive structure, unfortunately, nothing new is on the horizon. Next year, Murillo’s data will be much worse. You can be sure of it.


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