Author Topic: Cuban food ration system marks 50 years amid controversy  (Read 664 times)

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Offline happyg

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Cuban food ration system marks 50 years amid controversy
« on: July 13, 2013, 12:47:27 PM »
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba's food-rationing system marked 50 years on Friday amid controversy, with President Raul Castro facing popular resistance to his plans to end the benefit as he moves the country from broad subsidies of goods and utilities to targeted welfare.

Castro quickly began market-oriented reforms in 2008 after he replaced his ailing brother Fidel, who installed a communist government on the island nation in the early 1960s. But the younger Castro has criticized the rationing system as "paternalistic, irrational and unsustainable."

The country spends 25 billion pesos (around $1 billion) annually on rationing, subsidizing 88 percent of the cost, according to a source close to the government.

The law establishing the system, known as the "libreta," was passed in 1962, and hundreds of ration stores opened on July 12, 1963.

A lifesaver for some and obsolete for others, eliminating rations has proved perhaps the most controversial policy Castro has proposed.

"For many, the ration is necessary because it guarantees each month a little rice, a few eggs, some sugar and milk," said Ignacio Lima, who manages a small, dark and dingy ration outlet in Havana. "It is not enough, but it helps a bit and then you go find what you need on the open market."

After he spoke with a reporter, four shoppers at the store quickly began debating the merits of the system - a discussion much like the one that has raged across the Caribbean island for decades.

Olga Raquel Vazquez, 49, said there had to be a better way to feed people. "The time has come for the ration to disappear," she said.

But Verena Rodriguez, a 72-year-old pensioner at 250 pesos per month, the equivalent of $10 dollars, insisted she couldn't live without her "libreta".

"It has to stay because without the ration some of us will eat and others won't," she said.

"Who has money can buy everything and who doesn't can't," Rodriguez said, adding that with 10 pesos, or around $0.45, she could buy what was coming to her on the ration this week.

A LACK OF CONFIDENCE

Cuba has become a more stratified society since the collapse of its benefactor, the Soviet Union, in the early 1990s. Reforms, such as an opening to international tourism and foreign investment, the loosening of restrictions on small businesses and the welcoming of family remittances, were introduced to manage the economic and social crisis that followed.

As a result of the reforms, small businessmen, farmers, residents with family abroad and others now enjoy an income many times that of state workers and pensioners, yet everyone receives the ration and subsidized utilities.

"Undoubtedly, the ration book and its removal spurred most of the contributions of the participants in the debates, and it is only natural," Castro said in a speech to a Communist Party Congress in 2011, after sponsoring three public discussion on reforming the economy since taking over from his brother.

"Generations of Cubans have spent their lives under this ration system that, despite its harmful egalitarian quality, has for four decades ensured every citizen access to basic food at highly subsidized derisory prices," he said.

Despite communism having its roots in social equality, Castro openly opposes egalitarianism as harmful, saying that people should get what they deserve through individual effort.

The Congress, as part of a five-year plan to institute further market-oriented reforms, voted to do away with the ration, promising it would be replaced by support for poorer Cubans.

But the government, faced with a popular outcry, has instead opted to chip away at the libreta in hopes of gradually weaning the public off it.

Soap, detergent and cigarettes were first removed, followed by potatoes, chickpeas and sugar. This month, the government cut in half its monthly offer of 10 eggs.

Bert Hoffmann, a Cuba expert at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies in Hamburg, said the resistance to ending the ration revealed a lack of confidence in the government.

"It's only natural that people hang on to the "libreta", nobody likes to give up virtually cost-free provisions if he gets nothing in return," he said.

"And this is where Raul's reforms have failed: Cubans don't trust that the targeted welfare system that the government promises will be better, reliable or work at all."
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/12/us-cuba-reform-ration-idUSBRE96B0NP20130712

Offline Oceander

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Re: Cuban food ration system marks 50 years amid controversy
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2013, 02:55:35 PM »
Like every other narcotic drug, once people become addicted to socialism, the withdrawal symptoms are always painful.

Offline happyg

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Re: Cuban food ration system marks 50 years amid controversy
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2013, 03:08:35 PM »
Like every other narcotic drug, once people become addicted to socialism, the withdrawal symptoms are always painful.

Yep, and when more get hungry, we will see them on our shores to get our benefits. Then, we will end up like Cuba.

Offline Rapunzel

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Re: Cuban food ration system marks 50 years amid controversy
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2013, 11:35:41 PM »
Yep, and when more get hungry, we will see them on our shores to get our benefits. Then, we will end up like Cuba.

I've mentioned before about the blog I follow for American's who are boating around the world on their yacht (they got rich making gaming software)  Currently they are in Croatia.  Just left Montenegro.  Was really interesting to read their comments about Montenegro.  You see due to the high taxes in Greece the millionaires are moving the big yachts to Montenegro - which just very, very recently jointed the EU - and there is a building boom going on in Montenegro.  He said they were eating dinner at a seaside resturant the other night and all of a sudden this huge yacht pulls in, spins around, unloads a ramp and this well-dressed couple walk off to be seated at the restaurant.  The yacht pulled out into the bay to wait for them... so he asks the waiter about it and he said "oh that is a rich Russian couple, they come here all the time, they pay someone to bring them in by yacht for dinner, costs about $1000 US a trip..... said there is a LOT of Russian ex-pats in Montenegro and they are big spenders...

The average wage in Montenegro is $618 a month.  Yet he noted there was all these couples dressed quite nice strolling the boardwalk usually pushing a stroller.  Asked his waiter about this, too... turns out this is the "poor" locals. But they like to get dressed up in their best and stroll down there with the real rich people and feel like they are one of them for a little while.

This American blogger commented that when he and his wife were in this area back in 1991 - before the war - you could not find food, that they stopped at a half-dozen stores one day trying to find something to eat, found nothing but empty shelves, so from that standpoint things are much better now and it is a growing and booming nation thanks to "Capitalism."

Now the funny part was on his trip from Montenegro to Croatia they hired someone to help on the boat when they dock in Croatia (it is Med-Moor) and on the way to Croatia was asking this kid about "healthcare" when they make so little money -- the result of the question reminded me of our own LIV's..........

This is the link.. it's funny to read the conversation with this young man and his observations on a formerly communist now EU country.....

http://www.kensblog.com/aspx/m/Home/beid/745054

Offline happyg

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Re: Cuban food ration system marks 50 years amid controversy
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2013, 12:07:21 AM »
Nice blog. I enjoyed reading it. I was never on a yacht, unless you could call a huge houseboat on Lake Cumberland one. It had everything in it, along with six bedrooms. We stayed on it several days without docking, and only then for gas.

Offline Rapunzel

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Re: Cuban food ration system marks 50 years amid controversy
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2013, 12:19:22 AM »
Nice blog. I enjoyed reading it. I was never on a yacht, unless you could call a huge houseboat on Lake Cumberland one. It had everything in it, along with six bedrooms. We stayed on it several days without docking, and only then for gas.

I've been following it for at least two years now, if you have a boring rainy day go back and read it from the start when they left Seattle and then went up to Alaska and crossed the Aleutian chain to Russia down to Japan and parts south where they had their boat shipped to Turkey for last summer and this year they crused from Turkey through Greece and up to Croatia..... he is reallly good at getting a lot of the local "flavor" economically without running off readers of his blog by getting too deep in politics.  When you read last summer in Turkey and what they found when they flew back this year for the season you can see how much things changed in the year.. but they loved Turkey and the people they met last year...   BTW the info they shared on their trip across the Aleutian Chain was fascinating to me... and the east coast of Russia sounds like night and day from what we hear about Russia... I think Japan was their least favorite and where they were hassled the most frequently by their version of the coast guard.


Offline happyg

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Re: Cuban food ration system marks 50 years amid controversy
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2013, 12:23:08 AM »
Thanks. Will do that. For one of my birthdays, Dad gave me Wm. Buckleys, "Miles Gone By". He talked about his love of sailing and took readers along with him. Your friend reminds me of that book.

Offline Rapunzel

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Re: Cuban food ration system marks 50 years amid controversy
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2013, 12:25:52 AM »
Thanks. Will do that. For one of my birthdays, Dad gave me Wm. Buckleys, "Miles Gone By". He talked about his love of sailing and took readers along with him. Your friend reminds me of that book.

~LOL~ I don't actually know them, just happened upon his blog and because geography and travel has always fascinated me I just fell in to reading it regularly.  His writing is easy to follow.


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