Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

03 de Marzo del 2000

IS THE EMBARGO THE CULPRIT, OR WHAT? By Orestes Martín Pérez, Cuba Free Press.

Havana.- It is unusual to find revelations in the official press like those in the weekly summary of the government newspaper Rebel Youth under the title “Miracles Without Magic” by columnist Yamiles Rodríguez. She reports some of the calamities that Cuban women suffer in these times.

The article begins, “When they arrive home (referring to the women) they wish they had a magic wand” but these “fairy godmothers stripped of all magic face a daily challenge - and on many days suffer - in these times.”

The next paragraph ends, “To live this anguish due to the shortages and rigors of daily life is a form of economic violence upon the woman.”

She later says women “still endure sexist standards deeply rooted in the collective conscience,” and men unjustly behave at the moment of sharing their homes’ chores. “The restrictions on cooking gas and the supply of electric energy, as well as the shortage of products, equipment and services to satisfy the basic needs of the home, means a heavy burden which women carry at the second work shift.”

She says later only a third of women obtain needed sanitary pads. The others must use alternative resources that can lead to infections that cannot be treated with suitable medicines because the latter are so scarce.

She cites the lack of means for cancer tests like x-ray equipment and replacement parts for portable mammography equipment and shortage of contraceptive measures, thus increasing the risk of premature and unwanted pregnancies. She says there is an increase in diabetes which has reached a rate of 16.5 cases per 1,000 people. Many diabetics are insulin-dependent.

Referring to nutrition, Yamiles Rodríguez reports “family nutrition is a constant worry for the women of the homes” and adds, “Frequently many haven’t yet cleared the dishes from the table when they ask themselves what they are going to cook tomorrow.”

The result of this, she says, is “the increase in the percentage of pregnancies with nutritional problems as well as the numbers of children with low weight when they are born” and “higher than normal incidences of hip fractures in elderly adults for lack of calcium from an early age.”

But don’t be astonished, dear reader, because the aforesaid is not the result of a miracle that has occurred in Cuba: Freedom of the press. Nothing like that.

Yamiles Rodríguez may refer to such sensitive subjects with a certain harshness because, according to her, “the sole cause which gives rise to similar misfortunes for our women, is the North American ‘blockade’ of the island.” (Does she not know what a blockade is or could do, if imposed?)

Is this a journalistic trick to report calamities that the current propaganda tries to hide? Or is indifferent ignorance responsible for so much contention? Just in case, some clarifications may be needed.

To start with, we would say that reporter Yamiles cannot be blaming the Cuban woman when she speaks of the deterioration in the Cuban woman’s life. Instead, she points to the generalized disorder and does not cite the chronic inefficiency that has characterized state-controlled production.

It’s no secret that the agrarian policy leads to inefficient forms of production. And the authoritarian handling of the economy is the foremost factor responsible for the never-ending shortage of food. The few independent farmers, notwithstanding the discrimination and unfair competition the state imposes on them, have demonstrated only too well that just a little encouragement in their sector would be enough to end many problems.

One good reason, also remote from the “blockade,” can be found in the Nov. 9, 1999 edition of Granma. There Minister of Agriculture Alfredo Jordán reveals the state and some individuals sell $200 million worth of agricultural products to the tourist sector. In national currency this means four billion pesos. That’s double the money for all sales to the general population in the agricultural markets in 1999. That total, according to the balance sheet of the Ministry of Agriculture is 1,733,000,000 pesos.

In other words, the nearly two million tourists who annually visit the island must be eating too much when compared to consumption by the 11 million stomachs to whom our national patriotic duty should give priority.

Regarding the public health problems, I invite the reporter to read the national budget for 2000 published in Granma Dec. 22, 1999. It showed that none of the shortages which she referred to were given priority when distributing the 2,050,000,000 pesos given to “MinFAG” (the Ministry of Agriculture) while in the same newspaper on Feb. 2, 2000 a decrease was mentioned in that ministry’s budget on the order of 50 percent from previous years.

Shouldn’t she also note the excessive imbalance that exists in the health sector? Meanwhile, should the government advertise zones for tourism investments that “guarantee” an annual return of more than 30 percent?

And what about the obscure but obviously very high amount set aside to pay for government politics inside and outside of the island? Is that justifiable in light of the difficulties she cites?

Singling out medicine, it cannot be denied that although the United States will not sell us pharmaceuticals, still a portion of what the Cuban population now consumes comes from that very country! And if one day the United States decided to sell them to us, it would be very difficult to set aside money for their purchase. Actually, we could now be acquiring them in other places but do not do so.

The same situation occurs with medical equipment and other items where the spending is not associated with the embargo.

And it’s not about whether we agree or disagree, Yamiles Rodríguez, with an embargo law which the years have shown has been quite useless, although granted that it has not even been fully put into effect.

If we want to minimize the vicissitudes not only of our women but of all the people, the priority should be to pay attention to our mistakes and cruelties rather than making the embargo our “totí bird”(meaning a scapegoat) since, like the big black bird of the cage, we blame it for everything while turning a blind eye to responsibilities this side of the sea.

Orestes Martín Pérez, Cuba Free Press.

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