In this second part of the diary post I’m not so much interested in discussing the fate of the ration book (a theme that is nonetheless fascinating), but that of the destiny of the Food Distribution Control Offices (OFICODA).
If the ration book disappears, those offices will also vanish. The state has already begun trying to reassign them the function of “consumer rights protection” (though perhaps many people will find it new to learn that consumers in Cuba do indeed have rights. Even on TV demands for the due respect for these offices is being promoted). But that option still hasn’t “stuck,” and the basic function of OFICODA continues being the registration of residents.
I mentioned England in the Second World War, and what came to my mind was an historical analogy. At that time the British had a developed a network of consumer cooperatives. These, the product of the autonomous initiative of workers, expanded across the country to become part of the landscape. When the Nazis attacked, the British state decided to use this already existing infrastructure of the cooperatives to organize the supply of rations.
In Cuba, OFICODA is an initiative that came from the state itself, and its offices also became part of the landscape. It is what I would describe as a monumental institution; I say this because I do not fail to recognize the enormous amount of accumulated work involved in registering the entire population of a country – despite the dysfunction, misery and corruption that has also accumulated. However, I believe that the best thing that can happen to OFICODA is to turn it into the basis of a future retail trade cooperative in Cuba.
That solution, in my humble opinion, would maintain fairness while instituting the democratic leadership of citizens in the self-management of such cooperatives.
In any event, this would be much more bearable than any approach involving privatization or leasing, which would return the state-owned bodegas to private grocers. I have nothing against grocers, but when rationing is eliminated, I would prefer that —instead of a network of private markets— that there would remain (as a memory of the present a system of consumer cooperatives) a system in which the grocers would participate in the distribution of products along the rest of the residents.