HAVANA TIMES — Something has happened without a big hoo-ha, even for the attentive but limited independent press. It may be because of my naivety, but I find it very serious and very symptomatic… I’m referring to the price cuts made in Cuba for some cigarette packs.
I remember that in my childhood, when we lived without the Weekly Package of audiovisuals, when people still watched Cuban TV, there would constantly be movies about a humanist lawyer and Davidic anti-capitalist who would fight against a multinational tobacco Goliath.
Even though the main subject of the film was I think consumer’s individual responsibly vs. magnates’ corporate responsibility, mediated by an intermediary legislative body which balances and rightly informs both parties of the risks, they were invariably represented as the capitalist system’s evils.
How has this idea been reconciled now, when ever since the ‘90s, capitalism resolved and struck a balance between tobacco companies and the public, via aggressive information policies, limiting spaces and heavy taxes?
Meanwhile, Castro “communism” and the national tobacco monopoly lower prices of packs of cigarettes, they make packets colorful so they are more attractive, they come in smaller and therefore more affordable packets, filters with youthful flavors are added and they brag about how well business is doing in the national press.
Today, the Cuban government does everything that Phillip Morris would like to have done and, to make matters even worse, they aren’t a company whose natural ethics are to reap profits within a given framework, but a government whose raison d’etre should be public service.
But we aren’t sheep to be overexploited, we are an amorphous thing in their hands that they govern behind our backs and at our expense, and this tobacco policy proves this to all of us.
None of the abovementioned is original or new, although it’s always worth emphasizing the nonsense and even the insincerity that our government shows in its global policies, if we understand that both the economy and the health sector are almost exclusive in their competition on this island of experiments.
The perspective I will use to analyze what the recent price cuts in cigarettes reveals is different, I mean I want to deal with the current administrators of Finca Cuba’s short-term calculations and the reason why they have these.
It has been widely proved that the financial benefits for a government that controls everything creates a greater demand for cigarettes when public health expenditure in the medium-term gives a negative financial result. This means to say that beneficiaries at the Brascuba tobacco company don’t foot the bill of the expenses created by smoking-related diseases.
So, why have our owners adopted this short-term management plan? They are neither stupid nor ignorant and they know about these studies full well. I don’t believe that the immediate financial gain justifies this, knowing what they know and seeing the health statistics and what they have to spend on smoking-related disease. They know that this is financially unsustainable in the long run, even when capital from Tabacuba and Brascuba resolve their everyday problems, the government’s problems and its pressing need for capital I mean.
My hypothesis, or my hunch, or my hope is that they are acting like this because they don’t care about the long-term, maybe that’s because of the natural eventuality of an aging leadership or because of a calculation that generations from “good families” will begin to move behind the scenes. They know that the fence on their father’s ranch is falling to pieces and they are trying to accumulate, quickly, all the fortune they can so that when the inevitable end comes, they will be well-stocked and still able to rent out luxury yachts in the Mediterranean.
Concluding this idea, it’s an implicit recognition of the fact that they know that the “Revolution” is taking its final steps.
It’s hard to think like and understand them, people who have lived on Mount Olympus for far too long, but what I can deduce is that they don’t give a damn about our health, they don’t give a damn about their own ideology, they don’t give a damn about the wellbeing of their subjects and they especially don’t give two or three damns about the future of this country. However, I don’t think I’ve discovered anything new with this conclusion.
Have I gone too far with my reasons for the miserly cut in the price of cigarettes? Or have I not gone far enough?
I think the latter, as I haven’t even gone into talking about how immoral it is to cut the price of cigarettes in a country where chicken, milk, sausages, oil and any other necessary items for a Cuban to get by another day cost as if you were buying it at a fancy department store like El Corte Inglés instead of a filthy kiosk with poor service in any old neighborhood.
*I’ve used a pseudonym because I’m afraid that my humble internet account might be taken away from me or that I might be harassed financially. This might be a fear without grounds, but I don’t know for certain and as I’m not brave, I avoid the risk because what I most fear is losing the mask that I put on in front of my beloved and “revolutionary” grandfather.