Cuba Has No Ration System

Elio Delgado Legon

Una libreta cubana. Foto: Rene Bastiaassen

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba’s revolutionary government has been much criticized because, at the beginning of the 1960s, it established a supply booklet with which the population can acquire essential products every month.

The ill-intentioned press refers to it as a “ration booklet.” However, it has never been a question of rationing anything, but of guaranteeing that every citizen can access basic supplies at reasonably low, State subsidized prices which cannot be affected by the activities of hoarders and speculators.

Following every revolution, when the people begin to experience a rise in their quality of life and to consume more, speculators invariably appear who have the money to purchase large quantities of certain products, bring about artificial shortages and sell these at two or three times their normal market price. That was what the supply booklet sought to prevent.

We have the clear case of Venezuela, where the government has taken all of the steps it can to guarantee that the working population has access to essential products at low prices, and where speculators continue to buy these products in large quantities to bring about shortages or to sell these across the border, in Colombia.

In Cuba, conditions have changed and the supply booklet has gradually lost its original aim (while retaining one of the basic goals, that of ensuring that those with the lowest incomes have a basic supply of products at subsidized prices).

Even though a minority today is in actual need of those subsidized products, everyone is entitled to them. It would be preferable to prioritize the lowest income population or to raise its income level such that it is able to purchase these same subsidized products offered through the supply booklet at regular markets.

This is the situation in Cuba, where domestic trade is in the hands of a State which, in accordance with the economic situation at a given moment, guarantees a monthly supply of food products such that everyone receives what is essential, at subsidized prices, regardless of whether they purchase the other food products they need at regular markets later.

Venezuela is now experiencing what Cuba did at the beginning of the 1960s: store owners prompted shortages in order to raise prices to unacceptable levels. The situation is Venezuela is worse because smugglers have also entered the scene. These purchase products that the State sells the population at low prices, in order to re-sell them at three times their cost.

The Venezuelan government is implementing measures to protect the population and has announced the establishment of control mechanisms based on fingerprints to prevent, not only smuggling, but artificial shortages caused by the oligarchy, which blames the government for product shortages and uses these in its anti-government campaigns. These measures are already being implemented and the opposition declares it is alarmed by the controls the government is establishing, controls which are aimed at protecting underprivileged sectors from speculators and smugglers.

Neither the control mechanisms announced in Venezuela nor Cuba’s supply booklet seek to ration anything. They are rather aimed at guaranteeing access to food products at fair or subsidized prices, as the case may be, in order to defend society’s most vulnerable sectors.

23 thoughts on “Cuba Has No Ration System

  • Since you live in Cuba, I am guessing that this is a government funded post or else it would not be on the internet. (Cuba sensors reporters)

    Any Cuban citizen who speaks out against the Cuban government goes to jail.
    Just like all the other Cubans who call it a “rationing system”.

  • Elio Delgado Legon exceeded himself in this article. No amount of double talk changes the fact that Cuba has food rationing. Endeavors to portray the Venezuelan government as the victim of the oligarchy, speculators, smugglers and store owners rather than as masters of economic incompetence would be laughable if not so evidently false. This is the government led by Nicholas Maduro – the self described victim of “a fascist plot” in Aruba which turned out to be a drunken Venezuelan who visiting Aruba hired a car, got drunk and drove his car into the front of the small Venezuelan Embassy. Political rogues habitually wrap themselves in the flag of nationalism, Maduro has even had his made into a jacket. His mentor and predecessor Hugo Chavez achieved inflation of 26.9% for five consecutive years, he of course had studied economics at the knee of one Fidel Castro Ruz. Maduro is on course to exceed the inflation rates of Chavez – perhaps he has Robert Mugabe’s records in sight?
    All men are created unequal and never underestimate the power of human stupidity.

  • I like to be accurate in the use of words. The meaning of a word matters. Rationing is the controlled distribution of scarce resources, goods, or services, or an artificial restriction of demand. Homelessness is a tragic condition, but it is not “rationing”.

  • I think we agree on the facts, even if we disagree on interpretation. You agree that some people in Canada would like to own houses but cannot because they do not have enough money. You point to others ways of finding housing such as rentals. Of course you are right. But I think that you would concede that even with all these different ways of finding housing, some people in Canada live out of doors.
    In my small town of Ladysmith, after a man died out of doors on a cold night, a program was established to take homeless people to find shelter in Nanaimo when cold weather is forecast.

  • These ideologues nonchalantly skip the fact that the Communist Party was in charge. They forget that the main obstacle is the inefficiency of the system. Despite periodic “rectificacion” or “actualizacion” it simply does not work.
    And wasn’t there 3 or 4 decades when the only food and clothing available was through rations?
    Keep up the good work.

  • Had the communist party not been in charge the theologians in the left would have it all dismissed and forgotten.

    There were times when there was nothing available outside of the libre ta, not food, not anything else. Just rations.

    You do a good job. Keep it up. Cheers.

  • Cuba, China, the Soviet Union (and others) may have used the terms Socialist/Marxist/Communist, but they were never an accurate description of the systems they operated under.

    Cuba today is absolutely not Communist. It is a textbook example of State Capitalist.

  • This article is twisting the facts

    So when I was hungry and asking my mum for an extra piece of bread before going to bed, she wasn’t able to give it to me because the government saw her as a potential hoarders and speculator? I can’t visualise my mum re-selling a piece of bread, a piece of chicken knowing that I was hungry. I though that it was because the communist government was inefficient and created the rationing system as a way to rob people their freedom.

  • Rationing is the restriction of goods or services. The Supply booklet is the opposite of that, it’s a minimum standard that everyone gets IN ADDITION to whatever they are free to purchase on their own if they have the means to do so.

  • These are not subsidies, they are “rations”….insufficient ones at that. And regardless of whatever euphemisms you wish to categorize it a “libreta”, remains a ration book.

    A ration can be a noun (a fixed amount of a commodity allowed a person) or a verb (allowing each person to have a fixed amount) And they perfectly describe what the Cuban “Libreta” is. These rations are the inevitable result of communism, as can be seen in the old Soviet block, North Korea, Cuba, and recently (a version of it) Venezuela. What characteristic do these countries all share I wonder?

    Interesting that you don’t currently enjoy the benefits of the socialist Cuba you admire so much. ….I can tell you that I certainly did not!

  • Houses in Canada are not rationed. They are for sale on the open market. The home ownership rate in Canada is 69%, which is relatively high. Given that there is a significant number of people who chose not to own a home, your imaginary legions of people who want to own a home but cannot is actually fairly small. This fact is supported by the steady sales in homes across Canada.

    In addition to houses for sale, there are houses for rent in Canada, along with condos and apartments for rent. There are even publicly subsidized apartments available in Canada. There is a difference between rationing and economics. But I wouldn’t expect a leftist to understand anything about rationing.

  • “Even though a minority today is in actual need of those subsidized products…” Really?!? In the Cuba I know, where I’ve lived, only a minority *don’t* need these subsidized products. I wish that more of my Cuban friends lived in the Cuba where this author apparently resides.

  • Cuba has an ineffective rationing system from the point of view as the Cuban people. The few subsidized goods are not enough to survive on and often not all of them arrive. As such the author is right: Cuba has no adequate rationing system.
    I disagree with the author that most of the Cuban people don’t need the rations to survive. They do and the removal of this – wholly inadequate – part of their food supply would hurt all but very few Cubans.
    Rationing in Cuba – and Venezuela – is no means to ensure that all get the food they need at reasonable prices. It is to ensure that some of the goods that are lacking in supply end up with certain people. The reason for the scarcity of goods is not hoarding and the black market but the failing system of producing and / or importing of the food a people needs.
    Rationing – as proposed in Venezuela and as in place in Cuba – just makes the problem worse as farmers have to sell their production at unsustainable prices and imports have to be sold below cost. That is untenable in economic terms.
    A good working economy that produces enough “wealth” in goods and services to ensure adequate salaries for all is the only solution. That has been lost in Cuba and that is on the verge of being lost in Venezuela due to dogmatic mismanagement of the economy.

  • I must again thank Mr. Goodrich for promising not to reply to those who quite properly scoff at his continual promotion of Chomsky and continual endeavor to define socialism and communism to suit his own purposes. He obviously has no acceptance that the reality of those who practice socialism/communism is what matters to the world at large rather than some hare-brained (mad March hare) interpretation of his own.
    Mr. Hiebert has his own contradictory view about housing in Canada. He says there are not enough houses for all those who would like to own a house but then says that those who have sufficient money can buy a house. I have the same problem with caviar, I would like to eat it swilled down with Moet Chandon champagne, but I can’t afford it and have to be content with fish and chips washed down with beer, Similarly those in Canada who have insufficient funds to buy a house can rent one. His statement that those with money will always go ahead of those who don’t is
    self evident – would he reverse it? He should go ot Cuba where selling the average casa is almost impossible because no-one has the money to purchase. There is no rationing of houses in Canada. Methinks Mr. Hiebert has a belly-full of sour grapes.

  • John is right.

    Cuba (and China, and the Soviet Union) may have used the words socialist and/or communist to describe their systems, but they never really were. State Capitalist is a much more accurate term for the system that Cuba operates under.

  • The people who called Cuba & the USSR socialism were the rulers of Cuba & the USSr, along with their legions of admirers in Western academia. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union it became “awkward” to be seen using the term, or to be remind of their previous praise of the Soviet dictatorship, so they conveniently re-labeled their shop-worn product.

    Same shit, different bottle, peddled by the same discredited academic hacks and armchair revolutionaries.

  • In Canada we have rationing in a different form. Eg. houses. There are not enough houses for all those who would like to own a house. Those who have a certain minimum of money can have a house. Those who do not have that minimum amount of money cannot have a house. There is no point in getting on a waiting list. Those who have the money will always go ahead of those who do not.

  • You are well-able to redefine the failed economic systems in the defunct Soviet Union and the moribund Castro dictatorship any way you choose. In doing so, if you prefer the far narrower path hewed by Chomsky as a means to keep the stench caused by these failed regimes from attaching to the socialist paradise of your wet dreams, that again is your choice. But if the Soviets called themselves socialist/communists and if the Castros do the same, why should I split hairs with them? What is important here was best described by Shakespeare. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Socialism by any other name still stinks.

  • Thanks to the government’s subsidy of these basic products, the Cuban Revolution, and now the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution, avoided one of the key problems which brought an end to the most radical phase of the French Revolution. Had he adopted such measures, my beloved Robespierre might have kept his head!

  • For Moses and Griffin:
    Excerpted from a Paul Street article at ZNet :
    “One can debate the meaning of socialism” Noam Chomsky noted in the wake of the Soviet Union, “but if it means anything , it means control of production by the workers themselves, not owners and manager who rule them and control all decisions , whether in capitalist enterprises or an absolutist state.”
    Bearing that consideration ( true to Marx) in mind and adding in the question of who controls the economic surplus , the U.S. Marxist economist, Richard Wolff reasonably describes the Soviet experiment as a form of “state capitalism”
    Under the Soviet model , “hired workers” produced surpluses that were appropriated and distributed by …state officials who functioned as employers ( JUST as in present day Cuba) .
    Thus, Soviet industry was actually an example of state capitalism in its class structure . By calling itself socialist, a description of (both) “Marxist Russia” ( and “communist/socialist Cuba” that U.S. Cold warriors and business propagandists ( hello Moses) eagerly embraced for obvious reasons, the Soviet Union prompted the redefinition of socialism to mean state capitalism.”
    End quote.
    Some people are never able to admit this fact. …for obvious reasons.
    Capitalism whether laissez-faire or state directed is totalitarian .
    Calling Cuba or the old Soviets socialist is quite convenient but clearly has an ulterior motivation for doing so:.
    Defense of the totalitarianism that is capitalism

    Again ..I will not respond to replies on this.

  • This is what the rationing booklet used to “guarantee” to
    each Cuban monthly:

    -Chicken 1/2 pound.

    -Fish 283,8 grams.

    -Soja paste: 1/2 pound

    -10 eggs

    -Rice 5 pounds

    -Beans 567,6 grams

    -Oil (hydrogenated and multi saturated) 1/2 pound

    -White sugar 3 pound Brown 2 pound

    -Potatoes 2 pounds

    -Pasta 1/2 pound

    -Crackers 1/2 pound

    -Soap 2

    -Teeth cream 1 tube for families up to 5 persons, 2 for families between 5 and
    9 persons, 3 for families of more of 9 persons.

    -Coffee 113,52 grams

    -Chocolate 100 grams

    -Yogurt only for children between 7 and 13 years old 1 liter/month

    -Milk, children under 7 and older over 65 gets 1 liter skim milk daily

    -One 80 grams bread made of pulverized
    sweet potato daily

    This was “enough” for 4 days…. the other 26 days of the month Cubans
    depends of stealing, relatives abroad, charity or simply to starve…. and that
    was before 2012, today this rationing booklet “guarantee” food only for 2 days
    the month………..that’s the reason Cubans escape the castrofascist paradise to
    Honduras, Mexico or Guatemala by thousands.

  • What is it about socialists that encourages them to resist the truth. Elio would have us believe that the Castro ‘libreta’ is not a ration book. Not just an ill-intentioned press but even Cubans call it a ration book. And so what if it is? The Castros call their reforms “updating the socialist model” as opposed to what it really is….privatization. The Castros call people released from their State jobs “available workforce”. They are UNEMPLOYED for chrissakes! If the Castros can’t tell themselves the truth, why should we expect them to tell us anything different.

  • It is precisely the Cuban economic system, including the ration book, (let’s be honest and all it by it’s real name), that produces chronic shortages which are then exploited by borders and speculators, the corrupt low & high officials who control the system.

    Venezuela offers an extreme case in point through the program of subsidized gasoline prices. By selling fuel in Venezuela far below the world price, the government has established a large and profitable business for smugglers. The same economic incentives apply to all the other basic commodities in short supply in Venezuela. Corrupt officials, army officers and well-connected businessmen control the smuggling, hoarding & speculation. They have profited mightily from the so-called “socialist” policies established by Chavez and extended by Maduro & his Cuban handlers.

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