2004 February 24 Tuesday
Food Shortage Worsens In Cuba

Food scarcity is not yet as bad as it was in the early 1990s. But the amount of food available per person in Cuba is declining.

It is nevertheless clear that monthly subsidized ration allowances have grown slimmer over the years, providing Cubans with what most experts agree is less than two weeks worth of food for every month. Eggs, for example, are restricted to 6 to 8 per person per month.

To supplement their subsidized rations, many Cubans must shop at up to nine different types of state-run and independent markets that charge higher dollar prices - in a country where the average monthly salary is about $10 - although many Cubans receive dollars from relatives abroad.

The article notes that an increasing portion of Cuban food imports come from the United States as the US has loosened agricultural trade restrictions with Cuba. But Cuba doesn't have enough to sell to the rest of the world (the vast bulk of which does not maintain US-style sanctions on Cuba) to provide the revenue to buy enough food for its populace. Somehow Castro missed out on learning about the great historical discovery that socialism doesn't work. Why haven't some visiting Canadian or European Union leaders let him in on the secret?

What is happening in Cuba is still only bush league hunger. To get up into the really big hunger leagues Cuba is going to have to compete with North Korea. Hunger in North Korea is so bad and so sustained that North Koreans are, on average, 8 inches shorter than South Koreans.

Update: The current level of crop sales to Cuba are a fairly recent turn of events.

The heightened tensions come amid a surge in American food sales to Cuba, which totaled $256.9 million in 2003, an 80 percent increase over the previous year, according to the New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

The rise in sales has been quite dramatic in just 3 years.

Cuba in three years climbed from last to No. 35 on the United States' list of food export markets despite continued tightening of American sanctions against the island, according to a leading Cuba-U.S. business group.

The legal change that made crop exports to Cuba possible happened in 2000.

Under the Trade Sanction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, which was established in 2000, the United States can send some food and medical supplies to Cuba.

Part of the cash that Cuba uses to buy US food is coming from Cuban-Americans who take money to family members in Cuba.

On a recent visit to Miami, Treasury Secretary John Snow suggested that the administration might toughen current rules that allow Americans to send up to $300 per quarter to relatives in Cuba. These rules also allow Cuban-American travelers to take up to $3,000 to Cuba each quarter to be divided among 10 households.

Past US interventions in Cuba bear some resemblance to what the US is trying to do now in Iraq.

General Leonard Wood and the Rough Riders commanded by Theodore Roosevelt, liberated Cuba from Spain. Wood, as governor of Cuba, accomplished something similar to what President Bush is trying to do in Iraq. Wood did many good things for Cuba: He built roads, bridges and schools, established the Correctional Courts and improved sanitation. He also created the Rural Guards Corps to police the countryside.

Of course Cuba ended up going communist. The US did not ultimately succeed in transforming Cuba permanently for the better. Now it faces hunger and continues under communist rule.

US rulers of Cuba from 1899 thru 1903 made many good reforms and improvements.

Brook's administration restored some services while controlling customs, postal services, sanitation; and health agencies. In December 1899 General Leonard Wood initiated the second period of United states administration in Cuba. Wood was a very energetic man who led the most impressive United states-administered reconstruction programs in Cuba. As a former United States surgeon general, Wood undertook a campaign for the eradication of malaria and yellow fever in Cuba. Dr. Walter Reed, an army surgeon, worked on epidemiology and tropical parasitical diseases projects using research results obtained previously by Dr. Carlos Juan Finlay of Cuba. A census taken in 1900 gave a bleak picture of the island's population of 1.5 million (200,000 less than in 1895), in both economic and educational terms. Schools were built, students were enrolled, special training was provided for teachers, and the University of Havana was restructured. Several public works programs were also established for the improvement of railroads, roads, and bridges.

Cuba's past history has a number similarities with Haiti's past and present. Just as the US occupied Haiti for a number of years so it did with Cuba as well. Plus, just as with Haiti the US left and the government called for the US to return when rebellions sprung up.

In the "August Revolution" disgruntled Liberals rebel against Estrada Palma. The Cuban government is unable to defeat the insurgents and requests U.S. military intervention.

The United States military occupies Cuba and governs the island through a provisional government.

There are places in the world that can get better under US rule but which will deterioriate once the US military and US administrators pack it up and leave.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 February 24 11:53 AM  Socialism, Capitalism


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