Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Photo: Freddy Pérez Cabrera
One listens impassively, as if deaf, when someone mentions that a certain medicine, such as a Rocephin vial or an Azithromycin tablet, is quoted in the informal market at prices exceeding one thousand pesos.
This is a simple reaction, because this type of information is not always completely real. However, we are facing a sad truth.
According to the listings on digital platforms, there are other drugs that exceed 500 pesos, such as Cephalexin, Duralgina, Vitamin C, Ibuprofen, Amoxicillin, Paracetamol, Metronidazole, Tetracycline, Clotrimazole in ovule and Nasalferon, just to mention a few.
One knows that the real basis is the shortage caused by the obstinate economic blockade of a government that cannot stand us as a sovereign country, and hunts us down in order to hinder any attempt to buy medicines and the supplies [needed] to manufacture them -and then they say that it is not to death, that the war they are waging against us is not against the people-. This, together with the world crisis that has unleashed this pandemic.
However, no one can deny that, behind closed doors, the shortage situation is aggravated by the lack of administrative control over the flow of drugs, and by carelessness, irresponsibility and indolence.
In any case, it takes a hard face, and a human face like a rock, to approach a family that is fighting tooth and nail for the life of a loved one, and make the unseemly proposal of selling salvation at a sky-high price.
It happens that, overwhelmed by the illness of the family member, shaken by the desperation caused by the real risk of death, many people get away from what is decent and unceremoniously pay the shameless opportunists for the smuggled medicine or the one brought in duty-free from abroad and which was not authorized for legal sale. On the other hand, necessity means that no one takes the trouble to speculate on the origin of the drug, nor does anyone notice the clear malice of the gesture. It is like a reciprocal effect, the shameless one takes advantage and the needy one solves part of his problem.
On the subject, in recent days it became known that a woman from Matanzas is serving a six-year prison sentence for illicit drug trafficking, an unscrupulous practice which, we insist, has been accentuated in times of pandemic.
The aforementioned author of the crime managed to acquire in several units of the province the analgesic known as Tramadol, for its subsequent sale at an overprice, using the informal market in Havana.
The severity of the sentence also has to do with the fact that the said drug is among those that produce effects similar to drugs, narcotic and psychotropic substances.
After the investigation and the exhaustive review of the facts, the First Chamber of the People’s Provincial Court of Matanzas issued the sentence, which also included sanctions for other persons involved.
This issue, and its different aspects, has been addressed without failing to point out the undeniable link of this practice with the lack of control and supervision, especially within the pharmacies and the whole network of entities involved, in one way or another, with the distribution and sale of medicines.
Successive evaluations of the pharmacy system in Matanzas in less than a year have brought to light the disorder in those establishments, according to the local newspaper Girón. On the other hand, in only two units economic damages for a value of more than 107,000 pesos were detected, a sign of fissures in the organization of the processes.
Even so, no explanation can justify the transfer of high-demand medicines which, as it is known, are not enough to satisfy the demand of the population.
Unfortunately, while some seek any remedy in order to survive the setbacks in the midst of a health crisis, there are those who take advantage of this misfortune to get rich.
There must be an end to contemplation with them, commented in recent days the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party and President of the Republic, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, referring to this unacceptable procedure at the expense of human health.
By Domingo Amuchastegui
August 18, 2018
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
In the time that has elapsed since the social outbreak of July 11, the Cuban leadership has undertaken a number of changes, mostly in the sphere of the economy -of agriculture in particular- without any of them suggesting a comprehensive redesign. In good Cuban fashion, what prevails is a patchwork, patches here and there, seasoned with the usual language, without essentially modifying the statist-absolutist model that has prevailed for more than six decades.
It is a package of sixty-three measures aimed at -according to official statements- increasing food production and satisfying the unmet demand for agricultural products. The costs of inputs, electricity and aerial spraying are reduced, although they are much lower than those announced in January when the Ordinance was enacted.
The problem of non-payments is of the utmost importance. For decades the State has been collecting the crops which, after countless delays and formalities, reach the markets in reduced quantities. It is now said and repeated that “whoever buys has to pay immediately”, but the real fact is that this does not happen, and producers (private farmers -the most productive-, tenants and cooperatives) must wait for months. This has been a problem for more than sixty years. At present, these producers are owed 43 million pesos.
Last June, the provincial newspaper of Camagüey reported the case of a lost peanut harvest due to bureaucratic obstacles (Photo: Leandro Pérez Pérez/Adelante).
The pricing policy is also redefined, in products such as cattle and milk, as well as various agricultural products. But, all this “after fulfilling their contracts” with the persistence of the Acopio mechanism, which ensures the state monopoly over all forms of production and the phenomenon of non-payment: Acopio collects crops and livestock, but does not pay!
Finally, it is announced that the cooperatives that have no possibility of productive and economic recovery will be extinguished and their lands will go to the state fund instead of being immediately redistributed among tenants and individuals or among the cooperative members themselves. Or is it not an irrefutable truth that two-thirds of Cuba’s agricultural production is contributed by private farmers, a premise that should guide any agrarian policy? The real panorama is symbolized and summarized by the well-known phrase -originated in the defeat of the English King Richard III- of a Cuban economist: “My kingdom for a sweet potato”.
At all times the sweetened phrases of official optimism are repeated: “processes of objective and subjective factors”, “consolidate what we have been doing and project ourselves in other actions”, “how much we still have to do”, “the economic actors will not change with the new models if we continue with the old practices”, “foreign investment, despite the blockade, continues to be an opportunity that has not been taken advantage of (…)”.
Phrases such as: “backwardness in everything: in good practices and conceptions in agriculture, housing, in the industrial base, in agriculture…” are used again and again. But is it worth asking – sixty years later – “backwardness” or irrefutable proof that the model has not worked, and does not work?
All provinces face equally serious problems of non-compliance with respect to the areas committed for the coming harvest, which suggests -unquestionably- a harvest well below the lowest production levels of recent years. Salvador Valdés Mesa, vice president of the country, exhorts to “produce sugar with a business mentality”, as if such exhortations -which are repeated on a daily basis- had a magical effect on a population that is going through its worst economic and social moments.
Tinkering Salvador Valdés Mesa, vice president of the country, exhorts us to “produce sugar with an entrepreneurial mentality”, as if such exhortations had a magic effect (Photo: Azcuba/IPS)
In a meeting with economists and accountants, where numerous criticisms and proposals were made (not disclosed in the official press), President Díaz-Canel went so far as to state that: “The problems raised [at that meeting] are set out in the Central Report of the 8th Congress of the PCC and in the closing speech, and now you ratify and support them”.
Nothing could be further from reality. A load of criticisms and proposals made in the referred meeting -which includes a document of fundamental importance signed by five renowned economists-, goes far beyond what Díaz-Canel affirms. The most critical economists who, for years, have been raising the need to remodel the system in its essential aspects, were present there.
On the other hand, in a radio interview, the secretary of the Party in the province of Santiago de Cuba and member of the Political Bureau, Lázaro Expósito, pointed out that in his province there are more than 5000 hectares without cultivation; and that the promised hectares of sugar cane are not being fulfilled. He described as unacceptable what is happening in Public Health and Communal Services and his conclusion was categorical: “The cost of making a mistake can be very high”.
In similar terms, Prime Minister Manuel Marrero characterized the situation in the province of Cienfuegos after a recent inspection visit. Both Cienfuegos and Santiago were provinces that until just a decade ago were classified as examples of good functioning and today face extremely serious situations, a situation that extends to the rest of the country, with even more serious cases such as that of Matanzas.
MSMEs and non-agricultural cooperatives (NACs0
The role that MSMEs and NACs will be called upon to play has been highlighted a lot these days. There is no speech or newspaper report that does not highlight the issue, including their possibilities of interacting with foreign trade. However, very little has been specified to date.
Where are these MSMEs going to get the financing funds or the foreign currency they need to start their projects? The development banks are still conspicuous by their absence and nothing is being done to make their access to foreign currency investments viable. The handling and circulation of dollars continues to be subject to various restrictions, starting with remittances and how they can be freely used.
Card obligations and deductions hinder their free circulation, including the most elementary buying and selling actions; meanwhile, the official exchange rate remains at 24 pesos to the dollar, while under the table the exchange rate is 70 to one.
A positive step has been to allow MSMEs the free hiring of up to one hundred workers and the announced boost. But it has not been clearly defined which areas will be open to them. Textiles and footwear; technologies, services, tanneries, furniture and construction, housing, others? Very little or nothing has been clarified or specified. What investment funds and salaries are involved in an industry with a hundred workers? What specifications are to be defined in terms of investments from abroad?
These questions have yet to be determined, and so on, until foreign investment is reached: 100% direct or through forms of association in which the State does not have to reserve 51%? The long run of failures in this field is a dismal precedent. And foreign investment in the form of small businesses (as has prevailed until now) contributes very little. Meanwhile, the tourism industry is still reluctant to move beyond management contracts.
by Esteban Morales
August 22, 2021
Translated by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
I believe that with the 8 resolutions recently approved by the Council of State and which have already been published in the Official Gazette of the Republic, our economy will enter into what can be considered the hard core, so far not taken into account by our economic policy.
Our economy, in order to become a socialist economy, must be a transitional economy.
It is that, between capitalism and socialism, there is a historical period, aimed at transforming the former into the latter. There is no direct conversion, nor automatic transition, between capitalism and socialism. Between them there is a Period of Transition, within which the struggle for the transformation of capitalism into socialism takes place. Under the power of a state, which is the representation of the conquest of political power.
Cuba, called socialist until now, had not yet entered this period of transformations from the first to the second.
The fact is that neither the state enterprise is socialist, nor state property. Both have problems that must be overcome. Together with those of an excessively centralized planning, such as ours.
The state enterprise is gradually transformed into socialist, only within a transition period, in which it, as a whole and competing with the rest of the forms of property and management, becomes the dominant one, becoming then social property or property of all the people, which is what really transforms the state enterprise into a socialist enterprise and state property into social property. As long as this transition period is not covered, which is a period of struggles and transformations, neither the state enterprise becomes socialist, nor state property either.
It is only now, when the economic policy gives the rightful place, in the process of its application, to private, medium and large property, to cooperative property, to self-employment and SMEs, all functioning as forms of management, together and coherently, with state property and foreign investment, that the objective conditions begin to be produced for us to enter into the true period of transition towards socialism. In the meantime, we were nothing. That is why our economy could not grow systematically.
When the Revolution took political power, what it achieved was only to have the capacity to begin the economic, social and political transformations to convert Cuban society into a socialist society. A process in which to convert the Cuban economy from capitalism into a socialist economy. Without this, Cuban society cannot become socialist.
And this is essentially the reason for the continuous failures in making our economy grow.
Now that we will put the economy to work in line and in a coherent manner, with all forms of ownership and management, Cuba enters into the transition towards a socialist economy and socialism.
If we had tried to do so from the moment we entered the so-called Special Period, making the real economic transformations that were required to give stability to the process of economic growth, we would not be, as we are now, headed for a new Special Period, with no time to overcome it. Well, time has already run out.
We have gone around the wheel many times, with designs and redesigns, without putting anything into practice, exhausting the political capacity of our state to achieve it.
Here is, in part, the explanation for July 11, but also, a cause, if not the only one, then the fundamental one, of Biden’s decision to betray Obama and his own campaign promises, taking up Trump’s policy towards us. Following the so many times failed, Miami’s extreme right.
And that today Cuba is facing a situation that almost surpasses all the dangers experienced until today, being necessary to put into practice, in a coherent manner, the 8 Resolutions of the Council of State, which will be what will allow us to get out of the critical juncture in which we find ourselves.
August 22, 2021.
Received by email from the author. Photo by Walter Lippmann
Por Esteban Morales
22 de agosto 2021
Creo, que con las 8 resoluciones aprobadas recientemente por el Consejo de Estado y que ya han sido publicadas en La Gaceta Oficia de la Republica, nuestra economía entrara, en lo que puede ser considerado el núcleo duro, hasta ahora no tomado en cuenta por nuestra política económica.
Nuestra economía, para pasar a ser una economía socialista, tiene que ser una economía de transición.
Es que, entre el capitalismo y el socialismo, media un periodo histórico, dirigido a transformar el primero en el segundo. No hay una conversión directa, ni transito automático, entre capitalismo y socialismo. Media entre ellos un Periodo de Transición, dentro del cual se produce la lucha por las transformaciones del capitalismo en socialismo. Bajo el poder de un estado, que es la representación de la conquista del poder político.
Cuba, llamada hasta ahora socialista, no había entrado todavía en ese periodo de transformaciones del primero en el segundo.
Es que, ni la empresa estatal es socialista, ni la propiedad estatal tampoco. Ambas arrastran problemas que tiene que ser superados. Junto a los de una planificación, excesivamente centralizada, cómo la nuestra.
La empresa estatal, se trasforma paulatinamente en socialista, solo dentro de un periodo de transición, en que la misma, de conjunto y compitiendo con el resto de las formas de propiedad y de gestión, va convirtiéndose en la dominante, deviniendo entonces en propiedad social o propiedad de todo el pueblo, que es lo que realmente transforma a la empresa estatal, en empresa socialista y a la propiedad estatal en propiedad social. Mientras no se cubre ese periodo de transición, que es un periodo de luchas y transformaciones, ni la empresa estatal pasa a ser socialista, ni la propiedad estatal tampoco.
Solo ahora, cuando se da, por la política económica, el lugar que le corresponde, en el proceso de su aplicación, a la propiedad privada, media y grande, a la propiedad cooperativa, al trabajo por cuenta propia y a las PYMES, funcionando todas, como formas de gestión, dé conjunto y de manera coherente, con la propiedad estatal y la inversión extranjera, es que se comienzan a producir las condiciones objetivas, para que entremos en el verdadero periodo de transición hacia el socialismo. Mientras tanto, no éramos nada. Por eso nuestra economía no puede crecer de manera sistemática.
Cuando la Revolución tomo el poder político, lo que logro solo fue, tener la capacidad de comenzar las transformaciones económicas, sociales y políticas, para convertir a la sociedad cubana, en socialista. Proceso dentro del cual, lograr convertir a la economía cubana, proveniente del capitalismo, en una economía socialista. Sin lo cual, la sociedad cubana, no puede transformarse en socialista.
Y de ello provienen, esencialmente, los fracasos continuos en hacer crecer nuestra economía.
Ahora, que pondremos la economía, a funcionar en línea y de manera coherente, con todas las formas de propiedad y de gestión, es que Cuba entra en la transición hacia una economía socialista y el socialismo.
Si lo hubiéramos, tratado de hacer desde el momento en que entramos en el llamado Periodo Especial, haciendo las verdaderas trasformaciones económicas que se requerían, para darle estabilidad al proceso de crecimiento económico; no estaríamos, como ahora, abocados a un nuevo Periodo Especial, sin tiempo ya para sobrepasarlo. Pues el tiempo, ya se nos agotó.
Hemos dado muchas vueltas a la noria, con diseños y rediseños, sin poner nada en práctica, agotando la capacidad política, de nuestro estado, para lograrlo.
Aquí está, en parte, la explicación del 11 de julio, pero también, una causa, sino la única, si la fundamental, de que Biden, haya decidido traicionar a Obama y sus propias promesas de campaña, retomando la política de Trump hacia nosotros. Siguiendo a la tantas veces fracasada, extrema derecha de Miami.
Y que hoy Cuba se encuentre frente a una situación, que casi sobrepasa todos los peligros vividos hasta hoy.Siendo necesario poner en práctica, de manera coherente, las 8 Resoluciones del Consejo de Estado, que será lo que nos ira permitiendo salir de la coyuntura critica en que nos encontramos.
Agosto/ 22 del 2021.
Recibido por correo electrónico del autor. Foto de Walter Lippmann