Apparently Cuba was a great place to visit through the 1950s, sort of an island paradise. Then Fidel Castro came down out of the woods and ruined the party. He stayed in power first by offering Russia a bit of real estate 90 miles from the Florida coast in exchange for financial support, then by selling his medical and security personnel into indentured servitude across Latin America. But even that isn’t working out so well.
With client states like Venezuela running short on everything and Cuba still under a trade embargo from the U.S., the island nation is at the end of its rope. To assist is citizens in staying alive, the Cuban government has a new plan; help them grow their own food.
The Communist government is calling for citizens to produce more of their own food, including in big cities, in whatever spaces they can find, from backyards to balconies.
José Ramón Machado Ventura, 89, deputy leader of the Cuban Communist Party, said:
“Cuba can and must develop its program of municipal self-sustainability definitively and with urgency, in the face of the obsessive and tightened U.S. blockade and the food crisis COVID-19 will leave.”
The Caribbean island imports roughly two-thirds of the food it consumes at a cost of around $2 billion annually, in addition to key farming supplies like fertilizer, machinery and animal feed.
Output of Cuban staples like rice, tomatoes and pork fell 18%, 13% and 8% respectively last year, and now the virus has brought tourism to a standstill.
Last year, the government urged farmers to use oxen instead of tractors due to fuel scarcity.
Communist Party activists are signing up in some provinces to do voluntary work in the fields while authorities have distributed leaflets to neighborhood leaders in towns and cities on expanding family farming.
This isn’t exactly the way to build a workforce trained to solve the technical issues of tomorrow. Instead, Cuba is falling back to subsistence.
We’ve seen this before in Russia, Cambodia, Laos, and China. It never ends well.
But hey, maybe things will be different in Cuba. Let’s hope so, because their lives depend on it.