Uncomfortable questions


I skirt the edge of my building, avoiding walking under the balconies, because the kids throw condoms filled with urine to kill the boredom.  A man with his daughter is carrying a bag that’s dripping a mix of grease, water and blood.  They’re coming from the butcher’s, where the line announces that some rationed product came in this morning.  The two climb the stairs happily carrying their trophy meat.  The wife is probably already cutting the onions, while breathing a sigh of relief that the protein is back, after several days’ absence.

I’m behind them and I manage to hear the little girl ask, “Papi, how many chickens have you eaten in your life?”  I see the bewildered face of the father, who’s made it to the sixth floor, sweating from every pore.  His answer is a little brusque.  “How would I know that?  I don’t keep a count of the food.”  But the young girl insists.  Evidently she’s learning to multiply and divide, so she wants to take apart the world and explain it—completely—with pure numbers.  “Papi, if you’re 53 and every month you get one pound of chicken at the butcher’s, you just have to know how many months you’ve lived.  When you have that number you divide it by four pounds, which is more or less what a chicken usually weighs.”

I follow the mathematical formula she’s developed and I figure I’ve eaten 99 chickens in my 33 years.  The man interrupts my calculations, telling her, “Sweetie, when I was born chickens weren’t rationed.”   I start thinking about how I grew up with the shackles of rationing attached to both ankles but, thanks to the black market, the diversion of resources from State enterprises, the shops that sell only in convertible pesos, the trading of clothes for food, and a ton of parallel tracks, I don’t know the exact amount I’ve digested.  As I hurry past and hear the doubting phrase from the little Pythagoras: “Oh, Papi, do you expect me to believe that before, in the butcher shops, they sold you all the chicken you wanted…”


  1. Oh well, just be glad you get to eat any chicken at all, eh?

    Also, just wonderin, Where do the kids get the condoms from?

  2. They are often distributed for free to young people along the Malecon. I’m pretty sure you can get them at the clinics cheaply or free. There is a shortage, but I found that they are available pretty easily in Havana.

  3. Of course condoms are ease to find in Havana, that is how the system lures tourist to come visit a sex paradise. All vices that Castro criticized the previous dictatorship, he is doing it hundred times worse than his predecessor.

  4. Talking about Pythagoras…

    For a little while when I worked in Cuba I was a math teacher and remember I was talking about Pythagoras once to my students. I mentioned that Pythatgoras was lucky he was not Cuban.

    Some curious student ask me why I said that.
    Then I mentioned that I have read in a math history book that Pythagoras was so happy after his discovery of what we now called the Pythagorean theorem that he sacrificed a cow to celebrate!

    My student then understood my comment.

    If Pythagoras was Cuban his discovery and posterior action would have landed him in prison!

    It is illegal in Cuba to sacrifice cows even if they are your own cows!

    Luckily for me my students did not commented with anybody else what I have said otherwise for the mere fact of me making that comment I would have probably loss my employment as a teacher!

  5. This entry by Yoani is a strong message about the changing generations in Cuba and a good description of how the ration system is a tool to control the whereabout of Cuba’s citizens. Don’t venture far from home or your family will not get there due. This keeps people from organizaing in large numbers to challenge the Cuban government.

  6. Once, when I was traveling through Havana, my Cuban driver pointed down a particular road and said, “A man was shot and killed there by a soldier.”
    “Why? What did he do?” I asked.
    My driver was speaking in Spanish and not very patient with my fledgling skills. “He was lost and he turned down that road accidently. It leads to one of the beard’s houses and you’re not allowed down it. The soldier signaled for him to stop but he was afraid and he hit the gas. He had a trunk full of cow manure and didn’t want to get caught.”
    “Wow,” I said, “everything really IS illegal in Cuba.”
    But apparently I had misinterpreted the story. The man had a trunk full of cow meat, not cow manure.

  7. Some of the comments here seem very biased.

    SilentVoice – wouldn’t Pythatgoras have had the same problem if he was muslim or chinese?

    Statute of Liberty – that’s a bit ott. Cuba doesn’t have half of the sex tourism problems that many places have, and I don’t it’s nothing like as bad as in Batistas day.

  8. Biased? These are comments and opinions. By there very nature they are about our biases.

    If pythagoras had been muslim he would not have wanted to sacrifice a cow. The point was that Cubans would can’t kill or butcher a cow because they all “belong” to the government.

  9. 50 years ago, they made a revolution to get rid of the same things that,they themselve,

    are doing today. Where is the difference ? Seems like history keeps repeating itself.

    The only difference, 50 years later, is that the others didn’t leave such a mess behind.

    Take care.

  10. After reading Yoani’s blog posting above, to quote an old saying, “that’s a hell of a way to run a railroad.”

    Most people in the Cuban government leadership (with the exception of Fidel) know that major economic restructuring is urgently needed. Interestingly, Cuban state media is trumpeting an upcoming international economists conference in Havana next month. Several of the invited economists are anything but the usual suspects. One is Nobel Prize winning economist Edmund Phelps, who has consulted extensively with the Chinese and Eastern European governments on how to economically restructure their economies along capitalist lines.

    This lends credence to the view that Raul Castro is trying to emulate the Chinese model – introducing market reforms while retaining a one-party dictatorship. Hopefully, the result will be the Eastern European model – a market economy and a political democracy.

  11. Muslei, I think you are missing the point

    Cuba has many prohibitions that do not need to exist. They are commanded by a little group of people in power beyond any law.

    As for the accusation of bias

    The problems of killing a pork for example for Muslim or a cow for Indians it is base on religious grounds and not on a government law that is contrary to the desired of his own people and in this site we are talking about Cuba not about Muslims or Chinese. I do not see the bias.

    If the bias you are talking about is that we focus on Cuba’s problems.
    Then you are right I am bias.

    Unlike the leaders of Cuba that focus on everything else in the world except in the very real problems they have to solve for Cuba and Cubans!

  12. Statue: So its a bad idea to distro condoms to keep down the spread of STDs ? Yea, Cuba needs to confront the sex tourism issue. But wouldn’t withholding condoms only make the situation worse. I don’t understand your logic.

    Speaking of logic, and the Greeks I guess by extension, SilentVoice…your story is a very very week analogy. So Pythagoras would have been jailed if he were a Cuban living today ? If he were a Cuban living today wouldn’t he have sacrificed a pig instead ? 🙂

    Although, maybe I shouldn’t have brought that up because this site is completely riddled with logical fallacies.

  13. I think the ban on slaughtering cows is wrong and an absurd policy….that jail time for this “crime” is also criminal in and of itself. But, the rationing of milk and beef I can sort of understand. Many countries, the US included, use up way way to much land for the production of Beef and Milk. Cows take up allot of space and use up allot of resources. If the country does not have the money to maintain massive beef and milk production why not ration out the small resources that they can maintain. That way everyone gets a little rather than a few getting more ?

  14. Muslei dice: 25 Febrero 2009 a las 16:37

    Muslei, I am wandered about all knowledge you show about things and… Cuba!!!
    I would like to know where got you so much information.

    First let me inform you that: You can kill and eat your own cow everywhere in the world but in certain areas in India (by religious dogma) and Cuba where you get a harder punishment than if you kill a person. That is a fact written in black and white in Cuba’s law code, you only need to read it. So, Pythagoras would be serious problems in Cuba because his celebration!!!

    Second: Under Batista regimen the prostitution in Cuba was restrained to a small area in Havana City in the short street called Colon. Castro made a big propaganda concern about the prostitution in Cuba exactly in the same way he did about the amount of victims under Batista’s repression. But today my friend, today is not only the explosion of the prostitution that has made Cuba one of the majors sex tourism destination in the world what cause the Cubans anger but the parallel explosion of infantile prostitution and the passion it has awaken among world’s pedophiles for move in to Cuba and make of the island theirs permanent residence place. This is a fact that you can also find in all tourism information bureaus around the world,
    Another fact, not publicly findable because the tyranny hides this information, is that the only measurement the tyranny has taken to reduce this situation is to dictate laws forbidding the free reallocation of people from provinces to the capital city, in such way they pretend to cut the arrival to Havana of prostitutes from other cities. Another “measurement” the tyranny implemented was to dictate that all landlords renting rooms or apartments or houses to tourist are in the obligation of watching closely and carefully the movements of the tourist and inform all activities to the police…… but……. In reality, when landlords goes and denounce theirs inquilines performing pedophile activities the only answer they receive from police is: Go there and tell the tourist he/she can not introduce people minor than 16 year old in your property…… that’s it!!!!!!!
    The tyranny has also dictated an order to the police: Live alone our tourist!!!!!
    Pedophiles from every country in the world are moving to Cuba and arranged all needed so theirs retirement checks will be send there……. and the tyranny is happy because it represents millions of dollars.

  15. NoThereThere dice: 25 Febrero 2009 a las 18:33

    this site is completely riddled with logical fallacies.

    Show me one….only one that makes it impossible to me showing you are wrong with confirmed facts!!!!!!

  16. NoThereThere dice: 25 Febrero 2009 a las 18:42

    ………….the country does not have the money to maintain massive beef and milk production …………….

    Cuba 1959 6 millions inhabitants, 6 millions cows, meet consumption 71 lbs/year

    Cuba 2009 12 millions inhabitants, 1.8 million cows, meet consumption 5 lbs/year

  17. NothereThere

    No, I think Pythagoras would have done the same thing that many Cubans do now illegally. Kill the cow and sell the meat in the black market! 😀

    How do you think Cubans get to eat meat?

    As for your comments on my weak logic then allow me to write my statements as logical syllogism here

    “All Cubans not authorized by the Cuban government to kill a cow Caught killing one cow will go to prison.”

    That we know is a true statement

    Now we have the next

    “Lets assume Pythagoras is Cuban and he kills a cow and is Caught by the Cuban goverment killing a cow.”

    Since all of this matches our premises then we can infer using the modus ponens that the Cuban citizen Pythagoras will go to Prison in Cuba!



    NothereThere, Will that demonstration satisfy your strong logical requirements ? 😀

  18. It’s interesting that Yoani risks her life and freedom everyday to bring us this blog and we have the time and freedom to publicly argue whether are arguments are valid or not. Yoani, your voice is so important. I pray for your continued safety as you courageously keep writing. http://talkingcuba.wordpress.com/

  19. Everyone — Don’t forget Yoani’s great post about when her father was a train engineer… and the people in the countryside would tie a cow to the tracks so only its head was on the track and then the train would run over it (but not spoil the meat). WOOPS… Look! The cow walked in front of the train. What can we do, not our fault, well I guess we have to eat it!

    #20 — I don’t know and I would like to know. Please tell us!

    Also everyone — I probably eat less than 5# of meat a year — by choice — and there’s no question but that very high levels of meat consumption use a lot of resources and generate a lot of pollution. (Of chicken, fish and meat combined — i.e what I call ‘dead animals’ — I probably eat about a pound a month, maybe slightly more… maybe 15 pounds a year… gee… maybe I should just move to Cuba… the Island Paradise.)

    BUT… this is completely irrelevant to the Cuban case.

    The regime does not limit meat eating to preserve resources, save the planet or even improve people’s health. It limits meat eating and milk drinking because it can’t figure out how to produce and transport (don’t forget you need refrigerated warehouses, trucks and train cars and all that) and store and sell meat and milk. Because it’s a completely bankrupt unworkable system.

    The regime ‘brags’ about its ‘organic’ agriculture practices… yes, a good thing for people, the earth, etc… IF you can do it in a way that produces enough food. The regime hasn’t made this choice for these reasons… it’s made this choice because it can’t afford to buy chemical fertilizers and pest control poisons. What do you want to bet all the rice imported from Vietnam is NOT organic… that all the food imported from the US is NOT organic. If their agricultural practices were so great they’d be feeding their own people all that great organic food they brag about… not letting the whole country get overrun with the marabu weed.

  20. To Michele & Muslei.

    If you did not live under the previous and present regime you are not qualified to make wrongful statements that tend to confuse those who are not at part with history.

    Some of you are considered experts because of your one time visit to Castro’s paradise.

  21. Andy

    for people

    Article 263. for killing a person the prison term is from 15 to 20 years to capital punishment.

    For killing a cow (Article 240) is from 2 to 5 years.

    Therefore for the Cuban government killing 4 cows is equivalent as to kill a human!

    If you are caught buying illegal meat or with illegal meat in you home then you could also go to prison from 3 month to a year!

    If you are caught selling or transporting the illegal meat then you go to prison for 6 month to 6 years!
    and lastly

    If you do not notify the proper authorities for verification purpose and kill a cow that have suffer an accident will get penalize with a ticket from 100 to 300 pesos.

    Therefore you can see that this cows in Cuba have a big probability of having an accident!
    as Andy was commenting! 😀

    ARTÍCULO 263. Se sanciona con privación de libertad de quince a veinte años o muerte, al que mate a otro concurriendo cualquiera de las circunstancias siguientes:

    ARTÍCULO 240. 1. El que, sin autorización previa del órgano estatal específicamente facultado para ello, sacrifique ganado mayor, es sancionado con privación de libertad de dos a cinco años.

    2. El que venda, transporte o en cualquier forma comercie con carne de ganado mayor sacrificado ilegalmente, es sancionado con privación de libertad de seis meses a dos años o multa de doscientas a quinientas cuotas o ambas.

    3. El que, a sabiendas, adquiera carne de ganado mayor sacrificado ilegalmente, incurre en sanción de privación de libertad de tres meses a un año o multa de cien a trescientas cuotas o ambas.

    4. El que, sin ponerlo previamente en conocimiento de la autoridad competente para su debida comprobación, sacrifique ganado mayor que haya sufrido un accidente que haga imprescindible su sacrificio, incurre en sanción de multa de cien a trescientas cuotas.

    for the cuban penal code


  22. Just to keep things in perspective



    Afterwards, the Prime Minister sketched his plan, which he said was
    born of necessity:
    “First: to restrict the importation of luxury
    articles to save foreign exchanges.

    Second: to undertake to attain the
    maximum production of all articles that are presently imported.

    Third:to export meat, up to 100 million dollars, and canned products and
    other articles, to invest the proceeds in machinery and factories.

    Fourth: to [Unreadable text] tourism. Fifth: to use all the foreign
    exchange, thus saved for the industrial development of the country.”

    In 1959 he had meat to export for the value of 100 millions!
    What happen?


  23. SilentVoice dice: 25 Febrero 2009 a las 20:39


    for people

    Article 263. for killing a person the prison term is from 15 to 20 years to capital punishment.

    Hi S.Voice, this law you found is the old one made in 1987. The new Penal Code modified in 1999 can be found at:


    There you will find the following!!!!!

    CHAPTER XVI: About illegal sacrifice of major cattle and meet transportation and sell.

    Article 240.1 (modified)- Whom be found guilty of sacrificing major cattle without the state previous approval, shall be sentenced to imprisonment from 4 years up to 10 years
    2.- Whom be found guilty of transporting and selling major cattle meet, shall be sentenced to imprisonment from 3 years up to 8 years

    TITLE VIII: Crimes against the Life and Corporal Integrity

    CHAPTER I: Homicide

    Article 261: Whom be found guilty of killing another person, shall be sentenced to imprisonment from 7 years up to 15 years

    So, what you find here is that a person who kill his cow and goes by mom’s and left there a leg for the old lady soup, can be jailed for 18 years……….. and…………. a person that kills another person can be jailed for 7 years!!!!!!

    For cuban dictatorship a cow is more important than a cuban !!!!!!!……… I guess it is so because they need the cow to feed the american tourists they are waiting for!!!!!!!

    In such an surreal scenario you can find possible news like the followings:

    Teacher in Havana that killed a 12 years old student beating his head with a chair, is sentenced to 8 years in prison.


    Farmer found guilty of sacrificing his cow and sharing it with relatives, is sentenced to 15 years in prison.

    Both news are real…………….

  24. Someone just posted this on the Spanish site:
    In Cuba, a boy returns home after school, tired and hungry. He asks his mother, Mama, what is there to eat?
    Nothing son, she says.
    The boy looks at their parrot and says, why not parrot with rice?
    Because we don’t have any rice, the mother says.
    Baked parrot?
    There’s no gas.
    Grilled parrot?
    There is no electricity.
    Fried parrot?
    There’s no oil.
    Then the parrot happil;y shouted: Long Live Fidel!!

    En Cuba , un niño regresa de la escuela a su casa, cansado y
    hambriento y le pregunta a su mamá:
    Mamá, ¿qué hay de comer?
    Nada, hijo.
    El niño mira hacia el loro que tienen y pregunta:
    Mamá, ¿por qué no loro con arroz?
    No hay arroz.
    ¿Y loro al horno?
    No hay gas.
    ¿Y loro en la parrilla eléctrica?
    No hay electricidad.
    ¿Y loro frito?
    No hay aceite.
    Y el loro contentísimo grita:



  25. Carbo I am sorry thanks for setting me straight

    So a cow is more valuable to the Cuban government that a person!

    I guess it complain a lot less about lack of freedom!

  26. Here is a fragment of Fidel Castro speech in 1961 SPEECH CONFERENCE OF SMALL FARMERS IN HAVANA
    is interesting to see the kind of problems they had back in the 50s and 60s compare to the problems they have today.
    How much worst is Cuba now compare to the Cuba of 1959?
    Naturally they will blame the US embargo. But is it because of the embargo?

    My answer is NO.

    The reason for the economic problems of Cuba has nothing to do with the embargo but with an economical system that is a failure proven not to work for anybody.
    As far as I know there is no country that has made the command communist economy work.
    When will they learn that lesson?
    Government is too inefficient to manage and direct the whole economy of a country even for a small country like Cuba.

    The basic reason why they do not want a capitalist economy is because they know that once people get economical freedom from the state they will have loose one of their most powerful mechanism of intimidation they have at their disposal.

    Now Cuba import chicken from the US and many other farm product that could have being produce in Cuba.

    Why are this products not produced in Cuba?
    Who is to blame? Is it Marabu’s fault?
    Who let marabu(thorny bush) invade the fertile lands because the government did not let farmers cultivate it?
    With absurd farming collectivization that was a failure!
    Why did’nt he follow thru on the promises he made?

    Was this just a piece of communist fiction?

    “If the consumption of meat is to be tripled, what must we do? Livestock
    needs a long time to triple itself, so the production of other articles
    along with meat must be raised. Fish, poultry, hogs, and any article which
    can provide meat of one sort or another must be increased. A worker must be
    well fed, otherwise he cannot produce at his best. Our people have been
    very poorly fed.

    Boys and girls know that, for they know they are better fed today than they
    were at home. The results are to be seen in the changes in the young
    people. We see the results of better feeding in the militia too. Our
    country must see to creating a healthier nation. If we create a better-fed
    generation, it will work for us when we are old; its efforts will be more
    productive. Such problems were not discussed from public platforms in the
    past but they deserve our attention.

    Production must be increased at all cost. Pork is in short supply now;
    production is deficient, so pork has gone up. There is a big program under
    way for producing pork and poultry. But time is needed. About a year and a
    half will be needed for the plan to be fully developed. Pork is an article
    which can be produced here but was being imported.”

    you can read the whole thing at


    SilentVoice dice: 26 Febrero 2009 a las 19:37

    Translator I believe my comment 29 broke the formating of the site’s comment
    the problem maybe in the link I place.
    Please delete my links and place

    go to


    and search for

    If we create a better-fed generation,

    and then click on line 39


  27. Are we supposed to feel sorry for Cubans who are provided, at highly subsidized prices and without prejudice, a good portion of the food they need (36%) through the ration system? The other major portion of their diet is provided by the State at workplaces and schools – for free. This is a system that has been praised by UN experts in this period of food crisis, where at least 50 day a day on nearby islands. Meanwhile, not one person in Cuba ever dies of hunger.

    When I was in Cuba 4 years ago, Cubans were receiving 2 pounds of chicken per person each month (not 1), in addition to ground beef, hot dogs, ham, fish, plus all the potatoes, rice, beans, sugar, oil, coffee and milk (for kids), you could want. And of course, there are places all over selling other things like pizzas and fried chicken in pesos (pennies).

    It is not a perfect system, but it has achieved its goal of preventing hunger. There has been talk of slowly dismantling it, because is costs the Government a lot. But this sort of attack on the program is grossly unfair. Is Yoani aware that there are food riots happening all around the developing world demanding their Governments do something to subsidize basic food, like Cuba does?

  28. Anonimo, who are you going to believe?
    A dictator or his slaves?
    I am sure if you asked any of the Slave owners they would have probably said the took care of their slave that they even educated them and took care of their health etc.
    I know that what you mention above is not true.
    Why do you defend with lies a criminal regime?
    Who says that in Cuba people do not die from starvation?
    Who do you get that information from?
    The Cuban government?
    In my whole life in Cuba I only got to eat ham once! At an international meeting
    (I guess one similar to the one that give you the impression that Cubans eat ham!)
    never saw a hot dog before coming to the US. etc etc
    As for the milk even Raul Castro will wish that what you said is true but he recognize in a not too far ago speech that they have problems giving milk to children. After they have certain age they can not provide milk for them.
    So are you saying the Raul lie to everyone? 😀

  29. Anónimo, I think you miss the point. The food distribtuion is both insufficient and used to control the people of Cuba. Are you suggesting that Cuban’s shouldn’t complain because there are people worse off somewhere else in the world? They shouldn’t complain? The Cubans are not asking for better food rations, they are asking for the freedom to work and provide for their own families, freedom to pursue their chosen careers, and freedom to express themselves the way that you and I are able to in this discussion. http://talkingcuba.wordpress.com/

  30. Nothing have changed since i left Cuba 30 years ago, same misery, same angst, same calamities, traped in their surreal universe looking out for a chance to scape and experience what life is like in the real world… in color, like in the movies.

  31. Another Expert on Cuban Affairs.

    Anónimo visited Cuba 4 years ago and when he had a need to use a public facility (bathroom), there was no toilet paper so he got hold of what most Cubans use on a daily basis, the official newspaper of Cuba (Granma). He read in the paper “how benevolent” the Butcher of Biran is and that was enough for him to become another expert on Cuban Affairs.

    Anónimo, I have a suggestion to you. Move to Cuba permanently, then try to escape in dinghy and if you are lucky to land someplace, send of a message and report to us about your experience.

  32. #32 and #’s 33-36

    av2ts See Profile I’m a Fan of av2ts I’m a fan of this user permalink

    Are we supposed to feel sorry for Cubans who are provided, at highly subsidized prices and without prejudice, a good portion of the food they need (36%) through the ration system?

    etc etc etc blahblahblah
    Here’s the same comment on Huffington Post from our “old friend” av2ts — one of the regime’s apologists. I guess he or she has decided to go anonymous here because he or she can’t take the heat?

  33. A few One more things Anonimo

    “The other major portion of their diet is provided by the State at workplaces and schools – for free.”
    This is a lie or you have not being properly inform.

    When I was a teacher I had to pay 50 cents per lunch and I use to earn a salary of 250
    pesos that represents about 7 percent of my salary
    Just to keep this in perspective
    Imagine our government ask us to pay 7 percent of our salaries for your “free”
    lunch for a person making let us say 3000 dollars a month it will be equivalent
    to 230 dollars or 11.53 dollars per day. And let me tell you this was almost 20 years ago.
    I am not sure how much they charge now.
    As for the kids receiving free lunch. Do you know they have to work without payment in the fields?
    collecting tobacco or oranges or any other thing
    In another time that would have being called slavery.
    Do you have a different work nowadays for that?
    I think slavery is the appropriate word.

    Notice in the fragment from one of Fidel Castro’s speeches from 1961
    how he care

    “If we create a better-fed
    generation, it will work for us when we are old; its efforts will be more
    productive. “

    He wanted his slave well feed so that they will work for him better and produce more!

  34. #32
    >>Is Yoani aware that there are food riots happening all around the developing world demanding their Governments do something to subsidize basic food, like Cuba does?

  35. #31 — oh.. and on that suggestion about moving to Venezuela… I wasn’t too far off the mark, was I… I hadn’t even read this yet.

    Hey folks, Here’s an av2ts (‘anonimo’ to us) comment about venezuela… again from Huffington Post:
    Newsweek is telling Americans what we want to hear. In fact, despite the astonishing fall in the price of oil, Venezuela is well positioned with no years of budget surpluses and tons of reserves http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/oil-prices-and-venezuela-s-economy/ The authors conclude that Venezuela is unlikely to run into foreign exchange constraints in the foreseeable future, and can pursue expansionary fiscal policies to counter any economic downturn.

    posted Feb 19, 2009 at 14:12:46

    Here’s a link to his/her own little comment page… if you can’t get enough of him/her over here… you can go over to Huff Post and just have a heck of a good time reading the mad ravings of a sick mind:


  36. My own #39 — most of my comment got cut off?

    Anyway… I suggested “anonimo” go on down there from his/her comfy LA home (I think that’s where s/he told us s/he lived) and check it out… and then log onto Gen Y from an internet cafe in Havana and tell us all about it… um.. that is if… in the workers paradise he even CAN log onto Gen Y… and if not (what? because of gov’t censorship? oh I DON’T believe it… surely santa claus, I mean fidel, doesn’t censor anyone… he just brings presents).. but, if not, anonimo aka ac2ts arrange to call a devoted geny reader who will take his dictation and post his report here for him.

    I also suggested he interview the goons — the proud gorillas — who ‘guard’ Yoani and ask them how they like their jobs — take a few pics, post them on his/her blog for us… ask them what they’re planning to do AFTER. Move to Venezuela. Join FARC?

  37. Other countries are asking the government to subsidize basic food because of severe shortages, not so that their government can control them like Cuba does. We ask our government to subsidixe food for the poor, that doesn’t mean we want them to take away the rights and dignity of the poor. The fact that hunger exists elsewhere in the world is not a validation for the Cuban government. http://talkingcuba.wordpress.com/

  38. Posted by av2ts #31: “It is not a perfect system, but it has achieved its goal of preventing hunger.”

    The real goal of the ration system seems to be to make Cubans dependent on the state. As other posters have pointed out, Cuban is blessed with a favourable climate (fertile soils, warm temperatures, abundant rainfall), and with proper policies in place should be an agricultural power house. Instead, it is an agricultural basket case. Whose fault is that? Certainly not the long suffering Cuban people. Rather, it is their leadership.

  39. John Two , Andy and Tim

    you guys got it!!!

    Everything in the system is design to control people to coerce and intimidate people into doing what they want you to do.

    That is how you get people to go and fight wars for you in countries and for reasons that many Cubans could not care.
    That is how you get doctors and teachers to abandon their families to go and work for Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez in exchange for oil.
    Etc etc
    The list is too long.

  40. This is a fragment from a TV interview

    in the same site look for


    These speeches are treasure trove of information that will allow us to understand how cuba
    got into the mess is now.

    And we are getting the info directly from the horse mouth!

    Amazing in 1959 the were thinking in exporting beef
    and now they do not have any!

    Does this proof the point that communist economy is a disaster impossible to manage?


    Castro Ruz: Yes, because we are not going to pay any attention to the
    protests of the large magnates, since we want to encourage the production
    of high-quality beef for export. The same cannot be done with poultry
    meat, as the latter can be produced in the United States under similar
    conditions. With beef, it is different, however,and there is a possibility
    of exporting 500,000 head annually in a 5-year period, with a value of
    80,000,000 pesos. If we buy jerked beef from Uruguay, we can sell them
    alcohol and sugar, so it won’t be detrimental to the domestic production if
    people consume jerked beef. This is the best business our nation can make
    because it will provide foreign exchange, thus permitting the development
    of an important economic line of business. What happens is that the large
    cattlemen, middlemen, and cattle feeders controlled the most market, and
    each time they wanted to increase the price of beef, they blackmailed the
    Government, caused a meat shortage by suspending the supply of meat, and
    came into an agreement with government officials to increase its price. In
    this way, the price was considerably increased. Each time they caused
    prices to go up, they didn’t do it on the basis of cost-of-living
    conditions but through blackmail, just as they have been doing with us,
    threatening us to leave us without meat; but we are just waiting for it.

  41. #45 — re site formatting

    Thanks! I’d sent off a “help” bulletin — I’ll cancel it now. I saw the problem but thought it might be my browser, which acts up. So I waited until I could log on from a different computer to be sure there really was a problem.

    All is well now… and I’ve learned something so I can fix it myself quickly if it happens again.

  42. #31 and others.

    I do not think there is widespread ‘starvation’ in Cuba — but nor do I think people can have “all the hotdogs, ham, fish” they want, and certainly not the eggs they would like to have.

    But let’s say… let’s just say people get “36%” of their food from the ration (I love numbers like 36%… are you sure it’s not 37%? 35%? Maybe like the father on the stairs someone lost count one day… maybe it’s 38% for heaven’s sake and who could complain about that?)

    For the sake of argument let’s forget the retired people — although as the population ages they become a bigger and bigger percentage.

    And let’s say, on average, people eat 90 meals a month. And work 21 days.

    So they get 21 delicious, well-prepared, protein-stuffed meals at their workplaces (not like the pea soup they had to eat every single day in the special period)…. 90 less 21 leaves 79 meals. And 36% of 90 is another 32 meals. So now they only have to scrounge for another 37 meals… or a little over a meal a day. (You’re right as usual, what whiners… I mean why don’t they just skip a meal a day and stop whining…)

    But… let’s say one person in the family is a teenage boy… how inconvenient… they REALLY like to eat, those teenagers. OK… let’s go scrounge for some food.

    So… you do the work. You suggest to me not only the PRICE of food for another meal a day for a family of three (sorry folks, you don’t have room for more kids anyway, so you probably just have one)… AND… this is very important… HOW MUCH OF THEIR TIME THEY HAVE TO SPEND TRAVELING AROUND THE CITY AND STANDING IN LINE TO GET THAT FOOD? How many hours, that could otherwise be used for productive work or pleasurable leisure, does that last meal cost them?

  43. #31 to continue

    OK OK I KNOW… I lobbed you a soft ball.

    But just in case you don’t come back here…. let me also note for other readers (not the Cubans, y’all know all this)… that… the teenagers, many of them, the heading-to-college ones… still go off to boarding schools. And the boarding schools feed them 5 days a week. (4-1/2?) AND, their ration is not cut.

    SO THEIR FAMILIES GET A HUGE BENEFIT BY LETTING THEIR KIDS GO AWAY TO SCHOOL… they get a ration for 36% of their food (I have not idea what the number is so I’ll accept yours for now)… and only have to feed the kids less than 15% of their meals. WOW! The parents can get fat with ease while the kids are away.


    The sad thing is — well sad if you’re a psychopathic totalitarian dictator… is the kids aren’t stupid. It’s not working. No, they don’t starve. But they don’t ‘believe’ either.

  44. STICKING UP FOR YOANI… everywhere we can

    Let me suggest to all the faithful readers and commenters on this blog… please please please go to Yoani’s page on Huffington Post (there’s a link in the sidebar) and start leaving comments there as well. They can be two sentences of support. They don’t have to be long.

    But now that we know we have people like av2ts or whatever ‘it’ calls ‘itself’… spreading their stupidity over there… we can’t leave the field to them. A lot of people read Huff Post who will never come to this site and some will read the comments there as well. We need to support Yoani there as well.

  45. # 31
    plus all the potatoes, rice, beans, sugar, oil, coffee and milk (for kids), you could want.

    about those POTATOES

    Woops… sorry… here’s today’s news fresh from the horse’s mouth (excerpts — with extremely rough translations):

    Papas por la libreta de racionamiento

    LA HABANA, Cuba, 26 de febrero, (Frank Correa / http://www.cubanet.org) -Luego de haber capitaneado la lista de productos ausentes en los agromercados por buen tiempo, en el día de ayer trajeron a La Habana el primer cargamento de papas para vender a la población.

    TRANSLATION — After having been missing for a long time… the first potatoes showed up in Havana

    La cola frente … creció en proporciones inusuales… por ser la primera vez en el año que el estado vende este preciado tubérculo.

    TRANSLATION — The line grew to unusual length…. the first time this year the precious tuber is for sale….

    Antes de comenzar la venta hubo un murmullo general y protestas por parte de los consumidores, cuando el administrador de “El Puesto” escribió con tiza en la tablilla de información que la papa se vendería a razón de libra por consumidor nada más, y exigió de forma rigurosa que los compradores debían presentar su libreta de racionamiento.

    TRANSLATION — before the sale started consumers started to complain and protest because of the amount of potatoes they would get, and the firm requirement to present their ration books.

    Se había vuelto una costumbre prescindir de esta libreta para comprar papas y venderla sin limitaciones de cantidad… Hace poco los kioscos particulares que antes vendían viandas, frutas y vegetales, fueron demolidos luego de permanecer por un periodo de varios meses cerrados por falta de productos.

    TRANSLATION — It had been the custom to sell potatoes without limit… but no more folks.. and all the other fruit and vegetable vendors have been shut down for lack of products.

    Una libra de papas equivale a aproximadamente a sólo dos papas y esa es la cantidad asignada por la libreta de racionamiento a cada consumidor.

    TRANSLATION (AND HERE’S THE KICKER) — A pound of potatoes is only about two potatoes {well at least they’re nice BIG potatoes} and THAT IS THE AMOUNT ALLOWED EACH CONSUMER.

    A muchos les pareció ridículo esperar una hora de cola para llevar cantidad tan ínfima.

    TRANSLATION — To many it seemed ridiculous to stand in line so long for so little {here we have the complete waste of people’s lives forced to stand in line for almost nothing}

    Las protestas y los comentarios se hicieron agresivos, pero los elementos de “respuesta pasiva” -técnica utilizada por el gobierno para neutralizar los síntomas de malestar y disgusto en la población, para lo cual emplea retirados de las Fuerzas Armadas, el Ministerio del Interior y los viejos militantes comunistas que abundan en las colas- hicieron su labor, manifestando que algo era mejor que nada, que esto sucedía por ser el primer envío del año y tenían que racionarlo para que alcanzara para todos, que ya era hora de ponerle fin al robo y a la malversación de los empleados estatales sobre los productos que el estado produce con tanto esfuerzo y sacrificio para el pueblo que “trabaja y construye”.

    TRANSLATION {and the best for last} — so folks in line got a little nasty… but the government knew they would and the line was well seeded with retired army, MININT folks and old communist militants… who threatened their fellow citizens to make them shut up.



  46. Andy

    you Sir are a quick learner!!


    Precisely that is the reason they place kids as young as 10 and 11 in boarding schools and also parents did not had any other choice for their education. That is what happened in Pinar del Rio. I am sure everywhere else was similar.
    Once there they were brainwash for 15 days (in my school they will allow me to go every 15 days home for 2 days Saturday and Sunday)

    I was in a good school what they used to call “Escuela Vocacional” “vocacional school” (In this schools they place the best students) and also had better teachers other kids did not have my luck.
    My brother for example was send to a school similar to mine but it was very far away in Sandino (That’s the far east of Pinar del Rio) and the teachers were very bad.

    In Havana kids were sent for a few month also to work in tobacco in Pinar del Rio and possibly to other places.

    Their idea was to form the new man thru work.
    (work without pay) (what the called new man )

    I will call now a brain wash SLAVE!!

    I guess they would never think that once those kids grow up they will realize on their own what was wrong!

    They almost got me convince when I was 11!


    I remember I use to see wrong things happening. Like cooks an teachers stealing food assign to us and how things were not working.
    For example one the cooks was feeding pigs close to the school from the food that we did not eat I guess he had a vested interest in making bad food! 😀
    He probably made some money there.
    Those are the things they never thought would happend. The in predictable, the things you can not planned for.
    As you say before a teacher may have a hard time just controlling little kids how could you control 11 million people?

    Their recipie is


    “Brain Washing”



    “Manipulation of truth”


    “elimination of independent sources of information”

    The Fear started at the beginning of the revolution
    with “PAREDON de fusilamientos” equivalent to the being sent as food for the lions in the Roman Circus but in Cuba they did not need lions (They have Che and others for that).

    You see nowadays they have goons following Yoani.

    That’s how they keep themselves in power for 50 years.

  47. Just to make an analogy here

    Let’s assume Fidel Castro is a Slave owner with 100 slave
    he decide to give them their freedom
    and tells them ok I will give you free education and free health care and in exchange you have to work for me for free or very little money maybe sufficient for you to be able to eat.
    If you abandon my farm you will be consider a traitor and can never return.
    If I give you education and you are a doctor or other profession I will ask sacrifices from you because I need to get oil from Venezuela or other things from other countries.

    All of this we will do for a better future for all of us.

    But If you talk bad about me I sent you to prison and everything the other farms owners are saying about you not being free are lies!

    To think there is still 11 million people living like this!
    I feel sorry for Venezuelans they do not know what they are getting into.

  48. Translator
    Any time this site get broken on formatting or anything you are welcome to write me for help.
    You got my email.

    I am a computer programmer.

  49. #55 — THANK YOU!!! I am NOT a computer programmer and your help is greatly appreciated!

  50. I dont know how many of you that have seen the cuban soap-opera (novela) “Al compas del son” , but it deals with the batista era and the problems in that novela with harrazment of the press, students, abuse of power, prositutes (el solar), etc etc is just an exact copy of the problems cubans have today (and have had for a long time). I wonder how many cubans actually interpreted that novela in the same way as I did, namely as a criticism of fidel instead of a tribute.
    Its kind a copy of the Animal Farm, by George Orwell.

  51. It’s tragic that Cubans have lived so long without freedom, with no rights.

    It’s also tragic that the United States is heading towards becoming just like Cuba. It will be sad that so many Cubans risked their lives to get to the U.S. only to have it become another country ruled by dictators.

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