Sunday, 18 November 2007

More about Cuba

My visit to Havana, Cuba last week really left an impression on me. I feel so sad for the wonderful citizens of Cuba who barely get by - barely get enough food to eat.

I checked a couple of sources and got more specifics about the food rationing system each person lives under.

From wikipedia:

"The vast majority of Cuban families rely, for their food intake, on the Libreta de Abastecimiento (literally, "Supplies booklet") distribution system, instated on March 12, 1962. The system establishes the rations each person is allowed to buy and the frequency of supplies. Most of these products are distributed at the local bodega (convenience store specialized in distributing these rations), and in the case of meat, poultry or fish, at the local carnicería (meat store). Other industrial products are also included in the libreta, such as cigarettes, cigars, matches and cooking fuels (liquefied gas, acohol, kerosene or even charcoal, depending on each person’s means for cooking). Other products can also be distributed through this method, such as light bulbs and other home supplies.

Products vary according to age for example, children up to the age of 7, the ill, elderly and pregnant women also get 1 litre of milk per day.

Here is a listing of the rationed goods, the weights allowed per person per month and the cost in pesos (25Pesos = approx. $1 USD):
Rice 6 lb 0.70 / lb
Beans 20 oz. 0.32 / lb
White (refined) sugar 3 lb 0.15 / lb
Dark (unrefined) sugar 3 lb 0.10 / lb
Milk (only children under 7 years) 1 lt / day 0.25 / each
Eggs (September to December)
12 0.15 each
Potatoes/bananas 15 lb

Meat (each portion is per person every 15 days):
Beef 0.5 lb 0.70/lb
Chicken 1 lb 0.70/lb
Sausages 225 gr 1.70/225 gr
Ham 0.5 lb 3.00/lb
Ground beef 0.75 lb 0.60/lb
Fish 1 can/425 gr/month

Citizens are issued the ration book each year. This booklet contains pages indicating the exact number and age groups of persons composing the family nucleus (typically, one booklet is released per family nucleus), as well as eventual dietary indications. Persons can only get goods from the bodega in their area, which in Havana would be a few city blocks in area. Meat is distributed every 15 days. Allocations are 1/2lb. of beef per person every 15 days, 1lb. of chicken per person every 15 days. "

The prices are very low for these goods as they are subsidized by the government however, the system was imposed in 1962 as a "temporary palliative to a crisis" and has lasted over 45 years. The government is also capable of preventing and punishing dissidents by resorting to the fear of being suspended from the distribution of rations. The government claims humanitarian aid is distributed to the people but there is no evidence that this is true.

We walked by a bodega when we were in Havana and the shelves were virtually empty.

Here is an interesting article a writer from the Boston Globe wrote about trying to live on Cuban food rations: Living On Cuban Food Ration Isn't Easy.

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