The end of the subsidies


The tedium of this end of year drove me to go see the dreary spectacle of our parliamentarians in their final meeting of 2008.  The formula of posing problems without mentioning their true causes returned to the hall of the Palace of Conventions this December.  The whole style of speaking starts with an initial reference more or less as follows: “Our Revolution has done much to improve retail trade, although problems remain…”  Without this indispensable genuflection, one could fall into an unpermitted audaciousness, or seem to be hypercritical and ungrateful.

The final speech by Raúl Castro reaffirmed the idea of ending subsidies.  Hearing that phrase, we tend to think only of the end of the quota of rationed food we Cubans receive.  But the call to do away with symbolic prices and unnecessary “free” services is a double-edge sword which could end up hurting whomever wields it.  If we were to be consistent in eliminating paternalism, we’d need to start by reducing the burden of maintaining this obese state infrastructure that we feed from our own pockets.  Workers who produce steel, nickel, rum or tobacco, or who are employed in the bar of a hotel, receive a minuscule portion of the sale of their production or of the real cost of their services.  The rest goes directly to subsidize an insatiable State.

Between the symbolic price of a pound of rationed rice, and the enormous “slice” of our salaries taken by those who govern us, we are more the givers than the receivers of subsidies.  Eradicating them should be our slogan, not theirs.


  1. Socialism and Communism promise a better life for the people. But Cuba, North Korea, and Zimbabwe show the real results–very poor people living in what should be good conditions. Failed governments all. Free economies provide a better life.

    Socialismo y Communismo prometan una vida mejor por la gente. Pero Cuba, Korea del Norte, y Zimbabwe muestran los resultos veredades–gente muy pobre viviendo en lo que debia ser conditiones buenas. Todos son gobiernos sin valor. Economias libres providen una vida mejor.

  2. Right on John we should all follow the example of the free empire, were the government bails out “subsidizes” big business with the poor labour’s taxes while white color management gets billion of $$$$$ in salaries and bonuses. OH !!! don’t forget the private jets the corporate pigs arrived to the trough in.
    Or maybe we should drop over to Haiti and witness first hand an island propped up by the empire.

  3. to 291RC
    What a foolish statement.
    It is because our ‘free empire’ abandont free enterprise, that they are bailing out these companies. We are on the road to socialism, which will just be getting worse under the big O.

  4. I do not in any way feel that The U.S government is ideal. It has many downfalls as do many governments. My father was born in Cardenas Cuba in 1935. My family speaks of beauty and love of Cuba. I feel sorry that the Cuban people cannot speak their minds in public,have a repressed society and have very little freedoms. That was what Democracy is about, not the billon dollar bailout, or the corruption. Doesn’t matter all governments are crap. They are all greedy and self fulfilling.

  5. My first post here, a bit long. Take it as a new year’s speech if you like. Maybe as an ‘outsider’ I don’t understand some things at all, then please enlighten me in a rational, insightful manner. I’s only an extract of the stuff swirling around in my head. After all, my advice is a very general one … but I think that’s what makes it valid. When you trace the source of any problem till it gets no more basic, you always end up at the same cause, and the mere awareness of this can make a difference.

    Intelligent/wise solutions will come naturally with intelligent/wise people. Without them it doesn’t matter what they do. You will always get a result that fits to the investment.
    Stop dreaming of systems that have a bad history. CAPITALism cannot make life better in Cuba because the focus of that system is capital, not people. SOCIALism would be nice without the ensuing corruption that leads to the same results as what you implicitly get from capitalism, i.e. transfer of wealth to the few (especially since the current monetary system is designed to support this – watch the “Zeitgeist”-films on the internet to understand). It’s not a system but simply this human behaviour where the problem is rooted, and to solve the problem, don’t fall for systems as a solution; don’t confuse means with ends. Just think about human behaviour. If you really have to give it a name, name it “compassion/humanism/cooperation vs. greed/egoism/conflict”.

    Try to see things from the perspective of other people, even if you have good reason to despise them. Try to recognize their fears. I can understand why the Cuban government might limit some personal freedoms. They’re afraid of capitalistic predators waiting to do their destructive deeds. OK, Chavez tried another approach: He allowed all the corruptive propaganda of private media corporations. It almost broke Venezuela’s neck. What saved the day was the people who – thanks to Chavez’s wisdom if I’m not mistaken – had been educated about their rights, about their constitution and were ready to take to the streets to defend it. Democracy is no yes/no-problem. You measure it in the power of every individual and the people as a whole. The right to bear arms for example can help democracy. Allowing the government to take them away from you weakens it again. You see, in the end, it’s no means, no system, no law that keeps democracy alive, but living its idea(l)s!
    Imagine Cuba allowing total free media: Cubans might start to cherish capitalism and Cuba would become little more than a clone of any other country of the world. That would be stupid, wouldn’t it? Divide et impera, it’s so very old! Leave people only two shitty choices and they will say: “I have the freedom of choice! I chose the RIGHT side”.

    I see that Cuba’s government is far from perfect. Hopefully deep in their heart they still believe in what they originally fought for; then I see hope, no matter how screwed up they might be. But people fearing other people wanting to destroy their aspirations don’t respond well to opposition, to force. If you don’t have the force to counter and surpass theirs, it will only strengthen their view.

    Fighting hate creates hate. Love neutralizes hate. I’d say the best way to improve things in Cuba (and everywhere else) is to act with love in all directions, and theoretically I’m truly convinced of that, but in praxis – like said before – it’s also a matter of strength. Too little love on a mission to cure hatred will be crushed by it, and a system that gives little incentive for love to blossom is a dilemma. And it’s also a matter of growing intellectual inflexibility when you grow older
    Where to get the energy from? This is a spiritual question. You could just react to the conditions of your environment, but somehow some people manage to find that inner source of energy that makes them not respond, but counteract.
    History shows that sometimes aggression (not being passive) can lead to improvements. I guess you have to find out in what language to ‘talk’ to different people. Some might tragically only understand the language of asskicking. But the moment you stop honestly bemourning that you didn’t have the strength to peacefully reach a solution, you become corrupted like ‘them’. Then you will believe that in fighting for your just cause the ends justify the means and the feeling of the necessity to defend against those who oppose you requires violence and oppression on your part, that you don’t do it deliberately but are forced to do it by the circumstances. You become comfortable with believing it is necessary, because you can.

    I wish for all the people agreeing and disagreeing with the Cuban government to never fall for the sincerity-killing lure of power that is answering to the name of corruption. It is a far more treacherous enemy than any person could be, and the farther you’re drawn to it, the harder it gets to recognize it.

  6. Thinker…

    You say “Fighting creates hate.” Then why is it the Hamas is shooting rockets against civilians? Are they interested in peace? You say “Love neutralizes hate.” Please go over there and hug a member of the Hamas and tell them to stop. And on your way back stop over and give a hug to Robert Mugabe.

    In other words do the Hamas and Mugabe love others?

    And ask Castro if he loves his people or does he love his power.

  7. @John

    It’s all in my comment. Why the Hamas fighting? Because they don’t feel powerful enough to reach a peaceful solution. Israel takes a foolish approach in negotiations when they speak like: ‘C’mon, you know that we’re a lot more powerful than you, give up! You have no chance. It creates anger and desperation by destroying hope.’ (Imagine the metaphor of the cornered wounded beast.) Also, Hamas is an organization with a specific cause. They’re more inclined to resort to violence than the simple folks who only want peace, who might remember a time when muslims and jews lived together peacefully. And of course religious fanaticism fuels the conflict, too. It’s the same, mentioned mechanism where people give their power away to structures that don’t serve the people but their own cause. It is the perception of the people giving away their power to them instead of ‘lending’ it. And often people are OK with this, and that is a problem. The palestinians might oversee the fact that their ‘representatives’ pose a threat as dangerous to them as the Isreali government.

    Love neutralizes hate, but like I said, don’t take a task too great for you. A little love neutralizing a lot of hate results in a little less hate and no love left. When you found that inner energy source, it will ‘replenish’, but that takes time … like time heals every wound. And the language think comes into play, too. Maybe your love is seen as a weakness. This can be countered by decisive but fair action. You know, enemies can still feel respect for each other, and when they do, the first step to a solution has been taken. They might even feel compassion for each other, then there is no hate left, but it’s still a matter of different beliefs about what’s right.
    Understand that violence is a sign of fear and insecurity and thus a weakness. In cases where a government resorts to violent suppression of the people, they are really worried about their power taken away from them; for power is a self-imposed dependency, and this dependency easily takes control of you.

    Also, in many cases certain interest groups try to heaten up a conflict in order to profit from this. You never know what interests are truly behind the violence. The basic guideline of de-escalation is a good way to counter those intentions. Verified actions of positive core values like love, respect and sincerity are always a good indication of one’s true intentions.

    Like I said, I’m no insider in Cuban politics and its difficulties, but when you get the chance to in any way establish a dialogue to representatives (or other people disagreeing with you), you should keep all this in mind and try to build a real bridge of mutual understanding. In a metaphor: There’s a sky-high pyramid, you’re down at its base and want to get up to the top. What do you do? Try to jump that high? No, of cource not. You take one step after the other, for each following step is an easy task to accomplish.

  8. STOP YOUR COMPLAINING, YOANI! I don’t see Cuba anywhere in article.


    Canadians are world-class complainers – about the government, the economy, the weather and a host of shortcomings in their lives.

    But in spite of the global economic turbulence, Canada remains one of the best countries in which to live.

    Dozens of other nations make the lives of their citizens a misery with dire scenarios ranging from civil war to brutal repression, poverty, famine, disease, criminal violence and environmental catastrophe.

    The result is floods of refugees and migrants heading for safer shores, or a decent standard of living: moves that often leave their countries even worse off, with the best and brightest fleeing if they can.

    Many of the countries at the bottom of the “worst” lists in one category are also low in others. Those that are consistently low are at risk of becoming failed states.

    But the competition for bottom place is heavy, and there’s often little between the contestants.

    Rating systems are uneven and may depend on statistics that are hard to come by.

    At best they are indicators, rather than the full story.

    Here are 10 of the worst places to live in 2008, and the factors that made them unliveable.

    Pollution: Urumqi, China

    Once a Silk Road hub, the western Chinese city of Urumqi has the bad luck to be downstream of sulphurous soil dust from nearby agricultural areas, as well as deadly industrial pollutants. China’s environmental scientists say it now outranks Linfen, previously named as the world’s most polluted city.

    Corruption: Somalia

    Declared a failed state, Somalia is so violent that millions have fled their homes. But it is also at the bottom of an annual global corruption index by Transparency International, which points out that in desperately poor countries, bribery and extortion can be life and death issues if people are forced to pay extra for basic necessities.

    Dictatorship: North Korea

    Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s ailing ruler, was named the world’s worst dictator of 2008 on Parade magazine’s annual list.

    It says he runs the most isolated, repressive regime in the world, where three generations of a family can be punished for one member’s alleged crime. About 200,000 citizens have been jailed, many tortured.

    Personal security: Iraq

    In spite of the much-praised “surge” of American troops, and a diminished death rate in the past year, Iraq ranks lowest on the Global Peace Index’s scale as a country with easy access to weapons, a high murder rate, poorly functioning government, low respect for human rights and political instability.

    Homicide rate: El Salvador

    Latin America has the highest murder rate in the world for young adults, 15-24. But El Salvador tops the list of the world’s most dangerous countries for the young – and has one of the highest murder rates for people of all ages, according to the Latin American Technological Information Network.

    Inflation: Zimbabwe

    When inflation in the southern African nation shot above 1 million per cent in the past year, worldwide cries went up for President Robert Mugabe’s resignation. Now Zimbabweans carry sacks of newly printed cash to pay for a loaf of bread, and those with jobs choose between lunch and a bus ride to work. Mugabe is still in power.

    Gender gap: Yemen

    Greater equality between the sexes means better health, living standard and lifespan for women. The reverse is true in Yemen, where, the World Economic Forum says, lack of education, poor health care, lack of job opportunity and inability to press for change through the political process put women at risk.

    Life expectancy: Swaziland

    Afflicted with dire poverty and the world’s highest HIV infection rate, the tiny southern African kingdom of 1 million has a shockingly low life expectancy of 32 – less than half the world’s average. The royal family has a monopoly on the economy, and the majority of Swaziland’s people live on about $1 a day.

    Literacy: Mali

    The large, landlocked West African country was, ironically, one of the world’s centres of Islamic scholarship, and is believed to have founded the first university. Now, fewer than 23 per cent of men and women can read and write, according to the UN Development Program, which rates it at the bottom of the global literacy scale.

    Freedom of speech: Eritrea

    Since the government banned all privately owned media in 2001, things have grown steadily worse for journalists, with crackdowns on media, arrests, reports of torture, disappearances and deaths in custody. “President Issaias Afeworki and his small clan of paranoid nationalists continue to run the country like a vast open prison,” says Reporters Without Borders.

  9. TheSocialist, so Yoani is supposed to stop complaining (your word, not hers) because Cuba failed to make some reporter’s ‘top ten worst places in the world to live’ list? And the reporter’s point is that Canada, not Cuba, remains one of the best places in the world to live, a sentiment I agree with despite the frigid weather of late.

  10. “Workers who produce steel, nickel, rum or tobacco, or who are employed in the bar of a hotel, receive a minuscule portion of the sale of their production or of the real cost of their services. The rest goes directly to subsidize an insatiable State.”

    Well, with or without “Socialism”, this is anywhere else the same problem. The worker never gets more than peanuts from the millions of earnings that is made with the product he produces. So when you think twice its always a better solution to give that money to the state, rather than giving it to the hands of single persons like factory or patent owners. Cos a private person can run away with your money, a state can not. And if you dont like your politicians, then get rid of them. But dont be a fool and fantasize about “free markets”-they dont exist, not in Cuba, not in USA, its a fiction.

    If Cuba should be “free” one day, they should do that very very slow. Take a look at the german wall fall-anybody in eastern germany was smiling because of the won freedom. Today they got a higher unemployment rate than ever before, the lifestandard did not change much or where it did only a very few can effort it, and young people leave the states to begin new in “west”.

    Cuba should not repeat such mistakes and free itself from inside first and when it managed to run “free inside” it can connect itself to rest of the “free world”. Otherwise the rest of the world will swallow cuba and cuba is lost.

  11. I thought Yoani was too smart to allow her true free market colors to show. With this post, we can now confirm that Yoani opposes the very idea of richer sectors of society helping out the poorer. She opposes the production of nickel subsidizing health care and schools. She is against well-off hotels helping out those that are struggling. Now one can understand why she wants to get rid of the Revolution and go back to the days when companies were “free” to extract resources and exploit cheap labor without contributing to Cuban society. After all, “subsidies” are always bad right?

  12. Hey,

    People in America pay $one hundred thousand for a medical operation, sometimes half a million or more than die due to debt induced stress. That is if they even make it to retirement only to find out they have no pension waiting for them.



  13. P.S. Since when do subsidies have something to do with doing away with free services? I think you have it wrong, I think the type of subsidies he is referring to are those given to businesses, but need not be. Meaning, he doesn’t believe certain sectors need as much support as they once did.

    That doesn’t mean that he wants to take free services away, it means he wishes to save the country money. I don’t understand why you all don’t have gardens in every little space available either. Even beautiful hanging gardens like that of ancient babylon.
    You have a lot of land, there can be gardens everywhere. There really is no need to worry about food in such a tropical habitat. You just need to have the proper equipment and know how to store food incase you have a bad year or two.

    The reason you have not much money is due to health care which costs a tremendous amount of money, I don’t think you seem to understand the costs involved in such things.

    Again, you complain about making bricks, mortar and roof. Why is this?

    You complain about food in a tropical environment, why is this?

    You put words in people’s mouth, but don’t even give us a transcript of what is said, why is this?

    You complain about how your treated and indoctrinated, but I don’t see what your talking about with all your petty complaints. I don’t see them hauling you away and torturing you.

    I don’t get it.

    You say they don’t talk about the true causes of the problems, yet all I see is you being the true cause. You don’t seem to work in your backward to grow herbs, vegetables and fruit. It seems all you wish to do is play on your computer all day. You don’t seem to run for mayor and fix some problems, you don’t seem involved. All you do is complain, you don’t seem to do anything to help your own community, besides work to feed your own pockets by pointing fingers at everyone else.

    I suggest you find out how you can make bricks immediately. I’m sure you will find suitable stone somewhere around. And clay too, just go to your local beach.

    Take care.


  14. P.P.S You can see how my sentence structure is falling apart writing these words? I find the answers too simple and too boring. I loose interest and patients trying to explain the obvious.

    I bet some wacko is reading this thinking they aren’t allowed to use stones to make bricks in Cuba, that just isn’t allowed!

    Well to such wackadoos I reply, how about dirt? You can use dirt to make homes right? Clay to make roofs right?

    You can make wonderful gardens of your own, no?

    Clothes, you are clothed there in Cuba correct?

    Plus see my earlier statements about growing a major artistic community involving all the various mediums in order to combat the imperialist known as the American media.

    Please try to understand there is much cash flow in trying to pursue a major fashion industry in Cuba.

    Now what does the government supposed to do for you again, protect you? WELL BRAVO!

    Enough of this, I am going back to my studies.

    Kids, class is dismissed.

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