Isbel Diaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES – Those of us who follow the Cuban press closely often complain about the scant variety of news that characterizes it. A more incisive look at this press, however, reveals a number of unintentional contrasts.
Let us focus on two different dates. The first is December 25, 2014. At the time, a new Italian resort club with the name of Eden Village was being opened at the Gran Caribe Club Cayo Guillermo hotel, in the province of Ciego de Avila, a project co-financed by the tour operator Eden Viaggi.
The complex is made up of 44 wooden, two-story cabins which are to receive Italian families (who benefit from direct flights from Milan to Cayo Coco) on a weekly basis.
That same exact day, Granma was announcing cuts to subsidies aimed at the care of the elderly on the island. As of that day, the elderly would have to pay for their care at homes, at 180 and 400 pesos (9 to 20 US dollars), respectively.
The unpopular measure also included suspending tobacco and cigarette rations also given to the elderly at care homes, products which these residents commonly re-sold to be able to get by. The cutback was justified on the basis of the “health complications they produce” and, most importantly, because of the “high costs for the State budget.”
Social Services would begin paying the elderly without income living in care homes a total of 60 pesos (3 USD) a month.
Quite the contrast, right?
In recent months, Cuba has decided to re-establish or strengthen relations with capitalist powers (and some other countries that aren’t exactly “powerful”).
In November, Vice-President Diaz-Canel received Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, and, on December 17, the diplomatic and economic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States was made public.
On February 10, South Korea publicly declared its willingness to improve bilateral relations with Cuba through its Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.
South Korea’s State trade insurer K-sure announced it would provide Cuba’s Central and Foreign Banks with a 60-million-euro credit line and would establish a second agreement for payment insurance.
Right around that time, we learned that pharmacies in Pinar del Rio had gone weeks without condoms. According to several managers interviewed, the last delivery of the prophylactic was made in December of last year and stocks ran out that same month.
By mid-2014, the Cuban press had underscored a similar crisis affecting stocks at pharmacies (all of them State-run) across the country and at other sale points.
What does this mean, exactly? Couldn’t a part of the 60 million euros offered by South Korea be used to buy condoms? An overview of what the press reports should lead us to that conclusion.
The saddest thing of all is that, as any anti-capitalists know, these alliances between governments (which are at root economic powers) rarely produce benefits for common folk and often afford privileges to the powerful elites.