Are We Living in a New Special Period? 

The ration store in my neighborhood.

By Pedro Pablo Morejon

HAVANA TIMES – An old classmate from pre-university was arguing with me about the so-called “Special Period” years. According to him, we’re much worse off now.

I remember that back then, he had a more favorable situation. His father was a well-to-do man thanks to his high-ranking position as a regional leader, and maybe he barely felt the effects of those years.

Philosophy isn’t normally a subject that I believe in as it’s just ideas, goes against Science that puts his hypotheses in the field of experimentation, but if one thing is real in philosophy it’s this phrase that goes: “a man thinks as he lives” (which by the way is attributed to Karl Marx).

This is something that can be proved and as a result, is accurate. It must be the reason he thinks this way and not because of the facts of reality today when he has none of those privileges anymore.

Yet, there are details that could prove him right, including one that we’ve been seeing for over a year. The Regime can’t even guarantee the population its meagre “basic rations”.

A few days ago, when looking up his answers about the current situation, I came across an article by Cubadebate called “Interior Commerce announcement on the rationed family food basket in July.”

In this typical article, the Ministry of Interior Commerce doesn’t explain the reason for shortages of rationed products, but it does claim the following:

“… sales of expected products, beginning on the 1st with rice and sugar, in instalments in different regions, which will be made up over the month, with supplies available across the country…”

Also “…distribution of salt and split chickpeas and recovering delays in the selling of coffee and cooking oil in May, slowly, depending on deliveries from Industry.” All of them depend upon the domestic industry’s availability, among other things.

At the end of the day, this article is a real reflection of extreme poverty nationwide, where a hungry and miserable people are waiting, with passion bordering on delirium, for the subsidized quotas that the benefactor and savior State gives them, even though it isn’t enough to feed them for a week.

The reality is that the fact that they can’t even guarantee this anymore reflects the harsh times we’re living in, which are just as hard as the ones we suffered in the early ‘90s.

A situation that could be easily resolved if the regime moved towards a democracy with a market economy, where Cubans, free from redtape, could develop their inventiveness and ingenuity which they’ve already shown, not only in the most pleasant places they emigrate to in the world, but also in Cuba, where despite its poor governments still couldn’t conceive the tragedy that would sink in completely after 1959.

Up until the moment of writing this article, only three pounds of rice and one pound of sugar has come into the bodega ration store in my neighborhood. Maybe my former classmate is right.

Read more from the diary of Pedro Pablo Morejón

Pedro Morejón

I am a man who fights for his goals, who assumes the consequences of his actions, who does not stop at obstacles. I could say that adversity has always been an inseparable companion, I have never had anything easy, but in some sense, it has benefited my character. I value what is in disuse, such as honesty, justice, honor. For a long time, I was tied to ideas and false paradigms that suffocated me, but little by little I managed to free myself and grow by myself. Today I am the one who dictates my morale, and I defend my freedom against wind and tide. I also build that freedom by writing, because being a writer defines me.

5 thoughts on “Are We Living in a New Special Period? 

  • I don’t know which of Marx’s works if any John Bohannon refers to specifically, but much of the Marx oeuvre focused on impoverished people freeing themselves from slavery/servitude/serfdom etc.
    Do we blame Jesus for the gazillion sicko atrocities perpetrated by Christians over the past couple of millennia?

    Jupiter Johnson writes: “As an American I feel the (Cuban) regime is holding on to the old concepts as a source of Nationalistic pride.”.
    By Jupiter!! you’ve hit the nail on the head sir!!!

    One of the biggest drivers of Fidel Castro’s crazy levels of popularity in Cuba was his constant nationalistic preaching that Cubans are an exceptional people and that they’re fighting a righteous battle against tyranny. The Cuban Revolution used the same kinda propaganda that (the slave owning) George Washington and his homeboys used to spur on folk to rise up against the tyranny of the British.
    I’ve met many Cubans who, on nationalistic grounds, would have followed Fidel Castro if he’d decided to take on the devil and attack hell itself. And I’m talking about people with no discernible interest in Communism or politics at all.
    Nationalism is a ridiculously strong sentiment.
    Look at how many Russians support the invasion of Ukraine. The propagandist lie is that its a rightful action to protect national interests, national security and national integrity.
    Go back a couple of decades to the invasion of Iraq. The US government justified that merciless slaughter with the blatant bare assed lie that Iraqis were responsible for bringing down the twin towers (it was Saudis who committed that atrocity).
    The British Government justified their involvement in the same invasion of Iraq with the very different but equally blatant bare assed lie that the Iraqis had the capability and intent to strike the UK within 40 minutes.
    All of this justification was complete BS.
    But crucially it was nationalistic BS.
    Both the US and the UK ended up leaving Iraq ultimately defeated and with their tails between their legs (although their well organised propaganda machines suggested otherwise). In other words – surrender.

    Back to Cuba. The Cuban Government propaganda is that they surrender to nobody. It’s powerful propaganda and based on a certain amount of historical evidence. But ultimately this nationalistic line is wearing off in its effectiveness as a propagandist tool. The Cuban Government will lately throw in it’s lot with anyone who throws a short term economic lifeline.
    Basically the Cuban Government needs to introduce the same free(er) market measures as have the Chinese and the Vietnamese otherwise it’s ‘Goodnight Irene’ time.
    Cuba will become more capitalistic. Its as inevitable as the sun coming up tomorrow.
    If the Cuban Communist Party don’t get on board the train, they will be run over by it.

    Just one further point:
    Stephen, I greatly respect your take on things and read every word of your comments. On this occasion I would question your use of the word ‘oligarch’. My humble understanding is that an oligarch is someone who moves in to capitalise on (or ‘exploit’ if preferred) the opportunities which arise due to privatisation of previously state-run services. This occurred massively in Russia, Ukraine etc (and even in places such as UK to a certain degree and in a slightly different fashion). As of right now this has not occurred in Cuba.
    If, Stephen, you are suggesting that there are those in Cuba who are positioning themselves for this potential opportunity, then I would then concur.

    The age of the Oligarch is something that Cuba may be going through before too long………

  • First, I agree with Carlyle MacDuff”s response to Jupiter’s post.

    Jupiter Johnson writes: “As an American I feel the regime is holding on to the old concepts as a source of Nationalistic pride.” A totalitarian regime like the one in Cuba today, no matter where it exists in the world, holds on to not “Nationalistic pride” but to absolute power and absolute control of the state. Now, if that absolute power and absolute control implies Nationalistic pride so be it, but if it doesn’t and it truly does not, the totalitarian state could care less.

    If the current Cuban communist government had any “Nationalistic pride” in its economic endeavors, why is the Cuban economy in such a mess? If the Cuban government had any pride in its economic endeavors would it not make economic sense to at least listen to Cuban economic experts who have been telling the government to change course for the betterment of all Cubans. But no.

    The Cuban totalitarian government chooses not to do so because its modus operandi is to hold on to, and as Jupiter Johnson rightly says, its “old concepts”, that is, 1959 Revolution ideas/Marxist/Leninist/ philosophies that have proven an abysmal economic failure and has caused untold human suffering worldwide.

    Nationalistic pride for any country does not mean imprisoning Cuban youth for years and years for simply shouting on the streets for some liberty and human rights. In fact, such deplorable government initiated actions are antithesis to a country’s nationalistic pride and standing in the rest of the world.

    With regard to the idea of having a Hong Kong free market zone in Cuba, you ask: Is this a good idea? Carlyle provides a good explanation. Furthermore, China was never enamored with the liberal, democratic, free market economic situation in Hong Kong because its liberal, democratic, free market approach to business contradicts the mainland Chinese communist philosophy of doing business. Hong Kong had to relent to communist China rule.

    There is no way the Cuban communist authorities would allow one inch of its Cuban territory to be open to liberal, democratic, market driven business methods because, like the Chinese example, would violate its philosophical existence as postulated in its sacrosanct 1959 Revolution.

    Business in Cuba must be done according to not free, liberal, democratic market forces but to the dictates of a few totalitarian oligarchs. In the final analysis, this is not a good idea.

  • Jupiter Johnson has been snoozing! The one country, two systems in Hong Kong was abandoned three years ago. The repression in Hong Kong is now equal to, if not in excess of that in mainland China.

    The last thing that the Cuban regime possesses is nationalistic pride. That is evident, as the Republic of Cuba is secondary to the Communist Party of Cuba. Hence when introduced, or spoken about in Cuba, Diaz-Canel is called “First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba AND President of the Republic”. The State plays second fiddle to the Party!

    As for “feed the people”, although in the past, the largest sugar producer in the world, and a major producer of fruit, Cuba now has to import sugar along with over 80% of food, while tens of thousands of acres of good agricultural land reverts to bush.

    As one who has written for Havana Times, may I suggest that Jupiter Johnson,reads ‘Cuba Lifting the Veil’ to obtain an overall picture – it is on the web – including Amazon.

  • The only philosophical thing that Marx got right was the simplicity of enslaving a people, simply promise them equity without effort.

  • I love the writing of the Havana Times! Thank you, you all are excellent writers. As an American I feel the regime is holding on to the old concepts as a source of Nationalistic pride. Feed the people! I believe that it is time to introduce Democracy and Free Market back to Cuba but in a unique manner and slow manner. China has done an excellent job at this one country two systems government. A region of Cuba should be deemed Free Market like Hong Kong! The resources start flowing in, it’s properly managed. And then properly allocated to the socialist sectors. Everybody wins! Is this a good idea?

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