Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

Nov. 25, 1999, Cuba Free Press.


HAVANA - On March 13, 1959, speaking to the Cuban populace from the old Presidential Palace, Dr. Fidel Castro said, "We have vowed to turn Cuba into the most prosperous country in the Americas. We have vowed the Cuban people will reach the highest standard of living of any country of the world."

Today, 40 years after those words, the Cuban people are not only very distant from that promised prosperity but fighting a hard, daily battle for their most basic necessities, especially in the area of nutrition, the basic health need of all human beings.

Nobody can deny the deterioration experienced in our nutrition since 1959. It was the rationing by booklet which controlled and gradually saw a dwindling in the quantity, quality and frequency of our foodstuffs. The successive reductions created survival rations barely able to sustain a person alive. Incapable of replenishing energy and contribute to the growth and development of children and youth this precarious nourishment affects us all now and will certainly affect our future generations.

Not all Cubans suffer such privations. There are sectors of our population unexposed to those dangers, having access to additional food sources. Some because of their rank or standing with the regime. Others because of the dollars they receive from their relatives overseas. And others, favored by our government employment agencies, get a chance to work in the "mixed enterprise" industries.

But the great majority of the Cuban people do not have access to enough food and can only hope for the scant, low quality products their government doles out through the rationing system. The rationing booklet - the "libreta" - has lasted 40 years.

The regime makes no effort to eliminate the 'libreta' since it serves as a psychological instrument to help force the populace into submission. It is a diabolical instrument of repression. This is well known by all: those monthly quotas can barely cover the nutritional needs of a person for 10 to 12 days, even though most months continue to have 30 or 31 days.

To the preceding we have to add our comments on the transportation crisis, even as we are told of higher fares to be charged! Clothing and footwear have unreachable prices. Many of the health facilities - hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices - show a telling lack of basic supplies and hygiene. There is a need for teaching materials in many schools which also are in awful physical shape. Many living quarters - which are insufficient to meet needs - are in need of repair!

The situation is aggravated by the salary freeze which took place years ago, in spite of the constant climb in prices. So far we see no signs of an effort to address these problems. Even as we hear of the positive effects of foreign investment in the Cuban economy, we see nothing at our level.

To get food or procure the money to buy it has become the daily, urgent goal of the majority of Cubans. All type of activities are pursued: from misappropriation to other economic crimes, which those with the "right" jobs may commit - robbery, assaults, pick-pocketing - behaviors more frequent in the marginal elements. We oppose crime but the reality is that operating at the margin of the law has become a necessary alternative for the majority of the population which faces the economic disasters of our society.

Our salaries are insufficient to pay our rent, utilities and the new taxes recently imposed and still try to cover the high prices of the "dollars only" stores or the agro-farm markets.

While historically we have blamed the embargo for most of our economic woes it is impossible to continue to blame it for the obvious lack of capacity of the Cuban officials charged with solving our grave socio-economic problems. It is urgent that these problems be seriously studied, their true cause identified, even if we end up putting a number of people behind bars.

However, such jailings will solve nothing. You can not reeducate anybody who is hungry. So the crimes will repeat themselves as long as those in power do not do away with the reasons so many people operate outside the law. This situation shows no visible spite of the severe punishment dictated by the new Law 88 of the Penal Code. In fact, that law may lengthen the process. The basic problems can only be solved by the elimination of the obsolete and inefficient socialist economy, imposed by our political system.

Socialism has never born any fruit...nor does it seem capable of delivering the benefits the Cuban people have waited for...for 40 years! It is time to put an end to this calamity!

Jose Orlando Gonzalez Bridon, Cuba Free Press.

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