The Cuban Government Will Deliver Food Packages with the Support of the United Nations

Lines for the delivery of donated food packages during the pandemic in Cuba. (14ymedio/Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, October 5, 2022 — The authorities will begin distributing food packages this Thursday in the provinces most affected by Hurricane Ian, in a attempt to calm the population. Havana, where more protests have occurred in recent days, will be the last to start receiving them, in the middle of the month, “because of the large number of people,” the Minister of Internal Trade, Betsy Díaz Velázquez, said on television on Tuesday.

The population of Pinar del Río, Artemisa, Havana, Mayabeque and Isla de la Juventud will benefit from a “food supplement” that includes three more pounds of rice for the entire population and canned meats per family nucleus. “This measure will benefit more than 3,553,000 consumers,” she said.

The initiative assumes that all inhabitants, regardless of their needs, will be treated equally, a formula criticized by the Cuban economist Elías Amor Bravo, who is stunned — although accustomed to being so — that such a strongly centralized model doesn’t know how to “discriminate aid based on the personal circumstances of the applicant.” Similarly, in construction, the regime has decided to offer a 50% subsidy on construction materials regardless of who is the beneficiary.

“The minister still has time to change the aid formula and stop distributing products as if it were an old parish charity office,” says the expert, annoyed by the public management carried out by the regime.

In detail, the additional food planned for the west of the Island also includes two pounds of potatoes for Pinar del Río and, later, for Havana; while in Artemisa, the amount will depend on the provincial authorities. Also in Batabanó, Mayabeque, potatoes will be received, without further details about the quantity or clarifications with respect to the rest of the territory. Grains are increased for these areas, as well as cleaning products, whose distribution “has been affected in recent months.”

The World Food Program, which will be responsible for delivering the packages in some municipalities, has provided some products, including tents, tarpaulins, lamps, mobile warehouses for food protection and kitchen kits, in addition to 478 hygiene kits, which were delivered in the Surgidero de Batabanó and to vulnerable people.

But the first problems with special aid after Hurricane Ian have already begun to appear. The Government promised to finance mattresses for those who requested them, and, according to the minister herself, not everyone will get one “because the effects [of the hurricane] are still being felt, but there’s a level of support for cases that need it.”

Díaz Vázquez tried to explain during her speech that another consequence of Ian is the delay in the delivery of the family basket, given that the dates have coincided. But then she began to relate the number of products that are being distributed now but with a delay of months.

“We’re concluding the distribution of coffee, except on the Isla de la Juventud and Holguín; a substitute for yogurt that couldn’t be produced is being completed and the delivery of meat products from last month in eight territories such as Havana, Mayabeque, Pinar del Río, Sancti Spíritus, Matanzas Ciego de Ávila, Holguín and Granma. In addition, she acknowledged the delays with salt and added that it hasn’t been possible to distribute the oil in Pinar del Río because the flow meter to measure it only works with electricity. “Yesterday the marketing of rice, other grains and sugar began in all the ration stores,” she added after saying that they have already finished distributing milk for the children, which had been the priority.

Díaz Velázquez assured that all the products in the basket are in the country and asked the population for calm, although the discomfort is evident and not limited to food.

One of the most disturbing reports provided by the minister was that the distribution of charcoal for cooking has begun in Pinar del Río. “That is, back to the most remote past,” says Elías Amor.

Of the 871 retail stores that were damaged with the passage of Ian, 520 were state ration stores, and within them, 429 were in Pinar del Río, a province for which everything is bad news.

It has even been necessary to set up offices to serve the population and multiply points of sale for construction materials. In addition to the blow to its main crop, tobacco, there are 63,133 damaged homes, of which 7,107 are totally collapsed. Díaz emphasized the innovation of the installment sale of construction materials and recalled that bank credit can also be accessed and evaluated for the 50% subsidy.

“What is processed in a unique and generic way, is the same for the Cuban who earns 2,500 pesos per month as the one who receives 5,000 pesos. That is communist equality, which then ends up generating painful distortions in society,” writes Elías Amor. “But, in addition, 50% of the materials are subsidized for those who are without housing or shelter, destroyed by the hurricane, and where only a roof or a wall has collapsed that requires minor work. Has no one thought about adjusting the percentage of the subsidy?” asks the economist based in Spain, for whom the measures are “pure communist demagoguery and show little desire to work for the benefit of the community.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.