90 Miles From Tyranny : Cuba Rations Food As Its Socialist Economy Enters Crisis Mode

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Cuba Rations Food As Its Socialist Economy Enters Crisis Mode

While it is fashionable to talk about Venezuela and its notorious shortage of basic goods such as toilet paper, flour, and milk Cuba is now implementing a rationing program to combat its very own shortages of basic goods. A CBC report indicates this program would cover basic items such as chicken, eggs, rice, beans, and soap.

What has caused these shortages has been a subject of debate. Cuban Minister of Commerce Betsy Diaz Velazquez blames the Trump administration’s stiffening of the trade embargo with the island nation. Others contend that decreasing aid from Venezuela has contributed to Cuba’s newly emerging rationing dilemma. Over the past few years, Venezuela has provided Cuba with subsidized fuel and other forms of aid in order to keep its basic infrastructure intact.

Although these explanations do have validity and will be touched upon later, there is another factor that is not being considered. The lowest common denominator in the Cuban economy during the past five decades is excessive government control.
When Fidel Castro took control of Cuba in 1959, the Cuban state maintained an iron grip on the economy. For decades, the country has been a communist garrison state with very little respect for property rights and civil liberties such as free speech. More than 140,000 Cubans perished under the Castro regime, according to certain estimates, while millions of Cubans fled to the United States to start a new life.

During this timespan, economic stability was never really an option in Cuba. Because of the economic dislocations caused by state control of many industries, the government has had to provide citizens with Libretas de Abastecimiento (supply booklets) to ration out basic goods like rice, sugar, and matches. This system was established in 1962, in response to the economic sanctions the American government placed on Cuba which caused shortages of food, medicines, and supplies. From a free-market perspective, these sanctions should be condemned. They not only infringe on the rights of Americans who wish to do commerce and travel to Cuba, but they also do very little to topple tyrannical regimes.

But in the case of Cuba’s economic problems, there is a reason to believe they go beyond America’s embargo on the country. Jose Alvarez of the University of Florida does initiallyconcede that “Cuba was forced to establish a rationing system for basic food and industrial products. This has brought serious limitations to consumers and their choice availability” after the initial blockade by the U.S government.

However, Alvarez adds that solely pinning the blame on sanctions is misguided:

“To blame US economic sanctions for the existence of a rationing system of basic food products is not a very sound argument to justify Cuba's socialist system. It is an admission that Cubans cannot even produce what grows very easily on Cuban soil. If one lists the food products that have been rationed since 1962, it becomes evident that almost all of them were in abundance before the 1959 revolution and were...

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