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.


Elio Delgado Legon

Elio Delgado-Legon: I am a Cuban who has lived for 80 years, therefore I know full well how life was before the revolution, having experienced it directly and indirectly. As a result, it hurts me to read so many aspersions cast upon a government that fights tooth and nail to provide us a better life. If it hasn’t fully been able to do so, this is because of the many obstacles that have been put in its way.

23 thoughts on “Cuba Has No Ration System

  • 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.

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