A few days ago I turned on the TV so that I could keep up with the national happenings featured on the eight o’clock news. I’ve had this habit for quite some time thanks to my parents and especially my paternal grandmother, who never missed a broadcast.
Since those times it’s become almost a routine practice, at least when the bus and work allow me to get home in time.
Yet that day I was shocked by one bit of information that they announced in the day’s headlines. When hearing it, the first thing that came to mind was that it didn’t fit in with the times we’re experiencing, especially since government officials have been calling for the elimination of all free goods and services.
Notwithstanding, the news featured a story about how employees at the Juan Marinello Printing Company in eastern Cuba were working three shifts a day in an extraordinary effort to print 169,000 copies of the book The Bolivian Diary of Ernesto Che Guevara. The objective was to make the work available — for free — to students at different grade levels who would soon be graduating.
Questions immediately came to my mind.
I thought about all the resources invested by the Cuban government to make possible the presentation of this free item. What also came to mind were the opening and closing speeches by President Raul Castro before the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party. In his remarks we were constantly being urged to use of resources rationally and with planning, especially in areas marked by constant price increases in the international market. He also related this to the international financial crisis, one that Cuba, of course, has been unable to escape.
Nevertheless, I continued thinking about the irrationality of this effort. I figured that with these 169,000 copies, 169 different and important books could be printed in editions of 1,000 copies each, which could then be sold to the public – not given away for free.
Other people like me listened to that news report and, with every right and reason in the world, they must have wondered how it could be possible that in our country — given the bleak current economic situation — we could afford the luxury of carrying out this exhausting effort completely beyond the parameters of demand and reason.
Why do they talk about saving in all spheres and yet these publishing campaigns are flaunted about as positive achievements? Should I think that they’re telling us what can’t be done while the reality is that it can? Or is it that some people can expend resources on certain things but other folks can’t? That would mean that it’s ordinary people who can’t spend so that those people on top can spend resources at their whim?
Are these part of the improper handouts that became public last week when reported on Cuban television? And how many more inappropriate giveaways are there that we’re unaware of or will never find out about?
This is only one example of what is still occurring today and that is so vastly different from what they tell us when they speak of updating Cuba’s economic and social model and discuss the famous “Concept of Revolution.”