The poverty in Cuba is one of the elements that the foundations of socialism rest on. It is a necessity, a prerequisite to being able to hold the reins of power and social stability. Shortages are regulated. They are controlled by bureaucrats and strategists who make sure that there are no interruptions or delays.
Everything is a part of a long-term domination plan. Nobody on the island dies of starvation; famine may only exist as a concept in the minds of those who employ their neurons in widening the scope of the tragedy. It is true that some parts of the country are governed by famine and shortage but one can always find a way out – be it that of conformity, astuteness or the narrow paths of the fortune.
Countless areas of the capital and inland agricultural regions are facing very dramatic consequences of shortage. In such places it is much harder to find alternative solutions due to many adversities: since there are not enough houses, people live in shacks; breakfast is minimal, lunch is modest and dinner is only a matter of chance. To close the circle of misery, if anybody has a TV set, it is black and white. The only things that are new are fridges, which were given to people during the last populist move of the government. They are standing side by side with furniture that is gradually falling apart and fans - the very weapon against the impiety of the tropical Sun - that have reached the limits of their usable life.
For thousands of Cubans, ration cards are the pole which helps them to keep balance on a tightrope. For one thing, they are a modest remedy to uncertainty, and partially they are also able to soothe the unquiet Cuban stomachs. The most skilful players in the survival game view ration cards with indifference, however, those whom the political experiment with breaking human identity have left on the edge of society worship them. Skilful rogues, habitual speculators and people with relatives abroad are those who have an advantage in this fierce race for chewing one’s own flesh and soul organized by the government of the Revolution.
Shortages are a part of the one-party soldiery. They are like invisible battalions scattered around the country, besieging and submitting the will of the people. Systematization of misery was one of the most significant historical achievements of the last 50 years. It is the source of unanimity and fear, resignation, or urgency to leave the borders of the island for any other place in the world.
Some days ago a friend of mine told me that the lunch and dinner of several of his neighbours consisted of rice and malanga potatoes. Despite giving me the details of their alarming menu, his statement did not surprise me.
I know similar stories and I would say that some of them are even more dramatic. There are no credible justifications that would explain the origin and preservation of a misery that - although being much lesser than that of Burundi - is still felt like a burden and humiliation.
Cuba does not have a tribal history and in some regards it is ahead of the countries of the third world. How do we explain that the number of physicians and engineers per capita is comparable to the figures from the developed countries and that, on the other hand, the country wasn’t able to achieve food self-sufficiency although its climatic and cultural conditions favour of an outstanding agricultural production?
It is presumable that the existing situation is a part of a plan to mould society by implementing a “controlled poverty”. The fact that the state has thrown people into dependence and made it impossible for them to rise on the social class ladder, gaining the corresponding degree of autonomy, are proofs of its steely determination on the road to absolute power. Egalitarianism in poverty is an essential part of the control machinery of the communist party.
Thinking back about the poor nourishment of my friend’s neighbours I forgot to ask if indigestion is served with or without oil, which is a very relevant question in Cuba. What’s the matter in the Caribbean proletariat paradise?
Cuban poet and journalist Jorge Olivera was sentenced fro 18 years in prison for giving the true information about the real Cuba. He was arrested together with other 28 other independent journalist during so called Cuban Black Spring in 2003, when there was a crackdown on the Cuban opposition. He was sentenced in 24 hours without the possibility to talk to his defender. In December 2004 he was released on medical parole – he almost lost his sight and his health conditions were rapidly worsening. Now, Jorge Olivera Castillo is a head of unofficial PEN Club Cuba.