Changes in Cuba?
The Western press has been untiring with respect to the changes happening in
The media announced with great fanfare that Cubans were now free to acquire electric devices and household appliances, making it seem that before they were completely forbidden to be sold. (2) However, the reality is clearly different. The sale of these items has never been prohibited in Cuba, aside from some computing and other products which consume large quantities of energy such as electric stoves or microwave ovens, in a period in which energy production in Cuba was insufficient to meet the population's needs.
In fact, during the special period which began in 1991, after the disintegration of the Soviet block,
Thanks to the ingenuity of the Cubans, to the efforts supported by the population and new commercial relations with countries like
Now the achieved energy savings allows meeting the needs of the population's demand, which explains the progressive elimination of restrictions regarding the acquisition of new electric appliances, computers, and others, like video players. This way, Cubans have access to a much larger selection of consumer goods. Therefore, the limitations were explained because of only one economic factor, which is a lack of energy production. The Western press has not bothered in tackling these elements in coverage of the subject.
The media rushed to emphasize, with good reason, that many Cubans would not have access to the articles on sale at market prices due to their high cost with respect to the current, relatively modest salaries in
According to the last report from the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on food insecurity in the world, 854 million people in the entire planet, including 9 million in industrial countries are malnourished. (3) On the American continent only three countries have already reached the objectives of the 2015 World Food Summit:
The information multinationals always avoid bringing up Cuban reality with relation to Latin American and
Access to cell phones has also been increased in
During that period
In this case nether is it specifically Cuban. The reality is the same in any city in the first world, such as
Returning to cell phones, the second obstacle was technology (it is still the case for Internet access since
Regarding hotels, the media also showed their bias. Until April 1, 2008, access to luxury hotels were not prohibited, as the western press affirmed, but limited. Here, the explanation is social and economic. In the 1990s, the resurgence of a phenomenon which was eradicated when the Revolution triumphed in 1959 concerned authorities a lot: prostitution. In order to try to channel this problem which arose from the difficulties the Cubans faced, the Cuban government decided to limit access of the population to the tourist infrastructure. Thanks to the work of social workers and to improvement of the economy, this social phenomenon, if it has not yet disappeared, has been substantially reduced. The second explanation is the economy. In fact, with the dizzying development of tourism from the 1990s, the Cuban hotel capacity has developed insufficiently in order to accommodate foreigners and Cubans at the same time. Authorities welcomed foreigners, above all in high season, coming from an economic reasoning. A tourist, whose summer vacation demands were not satisfied, would spend their money outside the country, which would generate a significant business interruption for the country's economy. On the other hand, the small category of Cubans who have the necessary resources to pay for a luxury hotel would spend their money on other sectors but this would remain in the country.
The Western press also stopped at the relatively prohibitive tariffs for the average Cuban. According to the Associated Press, there are very few Cuban who can pay for a room that costs $173 per night at the hotel "Ambos Mundos" (four stars) in Old Havana one of the most prestigious tourist establishments, which was preferred by Ernest Hemingway.(11) It's correct. But once again, it forgets to emphasize that access to a room at a renowned hotel is a luxury for all the habitants of the
Are these reforms perhaps leading towards certain liberalization of the Cuban economy? (13) It would be mistake to think that. It is necessary to remember that in the 1980s Cubans had abundant access to consumer goods. It is merely about the abolition of restrictions which no longer have any reason to exist. Other should quickly follow. In the same way, the government decided to rent idle land to small private producers with the goal of augmenting agricultural production, at the time in which prices of raw materials have reached their peak. (14)
Real changes in
(1) Will Weissert, «Raul's Reforms May Strengthen Communism», The Associated Press, April 2, 2008.
(2) Will Weissert, «Castro Reforms: Dvd's, Farms for Cubans», The Associated Press, April 2, 2008.
(3) Organisation des Nations unies pour l'alimentation et l'agriculture, L'état de l'insécurité alimentaire dans le monde 2006 (
(4) Ibid., p. 17.
(5) Institut de statistique de l'UNESCO, «Alphabétisme», April 9, 2007. http://www.uis.unesco.org/ev.php?URL_ID=6401&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201 (website consulted on April 15, 2008).
(6) UNICEF, La situation des enfants dans le monde 2008. La survie de l'enfant (
(7) The Associated Press, «Cuban Restrictions Eased By Raul Castro», April 2, 2008 ; Will Weissert, «Cubanos hacen largas filas para comprar celulares», The Associated Press/El Nuevo Herald, April, 15 2008.
(8) Droit au Logement, «Le logement en chiffres: exclusions et inégalités», 2002. http://www.globenet.org/dal/index.php3?page=SOMMSITUCHIF (website consulted on April 15, 2008).
(9) Ministère du Logement, de l'Equipement et des Transports, Questionnaire de la Commission de la Production et des Echanges. Projet de LFI pour 2001 & INSEE, enquête 2001 sur la population «fréquentant les services d'hébergement et les distributions de repas chauds», in Droit au Logement, op. cit.
(10) Droit au Logement, op. cit.
(11) Will Weissert, «Thanks Raul: Cubans Can Stay in Hotels», The Associated Press, April, 1st 2008.
(12) Hôtel Ritz Paris, «Tarifs». http://www.ritzparis.com/jump_to.asp?id_target=1250&id_lang=1 (sitio consultado el 15 de abril de 2008).
(13) Reuters, «Les téléphones portables désormais autorisés à
(14) The Associated Press, «Cuba Lends private
(15) Alessandra Coppola, «Socialismo, ma con meno proibizioni», Corriere della Sera, March 27, 2008.
Salim Lamrani is a professor, writer and journalist specializing in Cuba-United States relations. He has published the following titles:
Translated by Dana Lubow, 4-24-08