Cuba’s Legislature Criticizes Agriculture Policy Failures

Harvesting in the Cuban countryside. Photo: Bohemia

By Elías Amor Bravo (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – In these dog days of August, when the communist press typically goes into overdrive to burnish the image of Fidel Castro, one piece of news passed almost unnoticed. Its headline read, “Cuban Parliament demands systemic change to strengthen food production.” Yes, you read that right. This blog is not one that often reports fake news. In the midst of all the coverage of Fidel Castro, the National Assembly is asking that something be done about the food situation in Cuba, an indication of the seriousness of the problem and about which the legislative branch does not want to remain silent.

It seems it all started with an audit by the National Assembly of the Ministry of Agriculture, over which the legislative body has ultimate authority. Normally such exercises in accountability go unnoticed. No one can remember anything like this ever happening before. But things are different in 2023 and apparently everyone is taking a stand so that no one’s position appears fuzzy when the final photograph is developed.

Speaking for National Assembly members, Esteban Lazo said in writing that it will no longer remain silent or stay on the sidelines in light of what is happening, noting that this statement is being issued “on behalf of the people by the supreme body of state power.” So the Assembly’s representatives have told the Ministry of Agriculture to “get your act together” and to, once and for all, “contribute to the transformation and strengthening of agricultural production in the country through a political and participatory movement to unleash a productive revolution in this sector.” They really could have left off that last part, which is the same as saying nothing.

Cubans are fed up with all the political posturing and want solutions, which can only come by transforming agricultural production. And Lazo, who was alive in 1959 and can remember what a wealthy, export-driven Cuba was like, knows what he is talking about.

The National Assembly has told the minister of agriculture, Ydael Perez, to stop fooling around and do something productive and effective, like dealing with the sixty-three agricultural measures that have proved useless. Acting in unison, the legislators have exercised their oversight powers. Their action goes only halfway, however, because at no point do they call for accountability. Nevertheless, they have opened a pathway that the country’s senior leaders, Miguel Díaz Canel and Manuel Marrero, could not have have liked.

There are those who might think the delegates would not taken this action without first getting the go-ahead from the top. Anything is possible. The fact is, however, that the legislators have made their position known and have put the country’s most pressing problem, food security, squarely on the table. This is something that will continue to be a major issue during current parliamentary sessions, which run until December 2023.

The statement emphasizes the urgent need to increase food production to satisfy the needs of the population and to spur economic development by relying on the experience of seasoned professionals, good practices, science and innovation, farm worker recruitment and training, consultation with producers, and effective land use management.

Unfortunately, there is no mention of reform, the most important being the crafting of a legal framework to codify property rights. What is clear, however, is that ideology still carries more weight than effective economic decision making in the Cuban economy. The evidence for this lies one of the proposals mentioned in the text, which calls for doing the exact opposite — “strengthening planning and contracting processes” — of what needs to be done.  It is difficult for them to accept the fact that basing the nation’s economy on a model that no longer exists anywhere else in the world is a serious mistake. Even worse is their defense of “Fidel’s ideas on Cuban agriculture,” a ridiculous agglomeration of experiences that is responsible for the current mayhem. On this, the statement by the representatives is not correct.

Perhaps a conclusion like this could also lead one to question the usefulness of this type of parliamentary effort. Don’t believe it. It is good that this body, which has always been known for its silence, is now critically discussing the things that affect people lives. Though their statement ends by couching everything in communist messaging, the parliamentarians are there to conduct an audit and exercise control over executive-branch activity, and the Castro legacy has left much to be desired.

The door is only now opening and anything that comes out of it will have to be approved, but this is a welcome step to the extent that, by conveying the public’s concerns to the nation’s top leadership, those in charge may not feel quite so safe and secure about doing and undoing whatever they want.  We will see if this work by the Agriculture and Food Commission will serve as an example for the members of other commissions such as Economic Affairs; Industry, Construction and Energy; and Education, Culture, Science, Technology and the Environment, which have yet to begin to work. We will be closely monitoring their results.

The regime has never missed an opportunity to monitor the work of these commissions which, in any event, will have to be implemented in line with the Socio-Economic Strategy; the general directives for the prevention and mitigation of illegalities, crime, corruption and social unrest; science and innovation as it relates to organizational development; and input offered to representatives from voters involved in that sector. Whether such a brave and well-aimed critique can escape bureaucratic and partisan scrutiny is anyone’s guess.

After being rebuked for his management failures, Ydael Perez simply thanked the legislators and said his ministry views their exercise as “a valuable opportunity to identify potentialities as well challenges to the projections outlined in the provisions of the Food Sovereignty and Food and Nutrition Security Law.”

The lack of any concrete commitment puts him in a very bad light because, given the way the Assembly’s delegates have painted the picture, one would have expected something more. But as is widely known, taking responsibility is not something Cuba’s communist hierarchy knows anything about.

There was one consolation, though. The report did not mention the embargo or blockade as the cause for the food shortage. We are making progress.

Translated by Translating Cuba

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times

7 thoughts on “Cuba’s Legislature Criticizes Agriculture Policy Failures

  • The abandonment of food production by the Cuban government, the unfazed importation of food from the US and the creation of the MLC store, to which most Cubans have no access, constitute nothing short of a crime! The Diaz-Canel puppet Gallego-supremacist government put in place by Raul Castro has proved totally incompetent, corrupt and given socialism a bad name. No Cuban believes what is being practiced is socialism and even worse nobody believes in socialism anymore! The useless, token black, Lazo Hernández, has seen the writing on the wall and is speaking hoping to avoid a second Cuban revolution which could be very violent. The present regime has betrayed the revolution with its hotel construction mania in the midst of a literally-collapsing Havana, importation of basic food (US chicken, Italian and Spanish tomato products and what have you) – which it then sells in foreign currency to use to import again in that crazed, vicious cycle! Only Heaven knows what kickbacks they are getting for not supporting Cuban farmers to produce poultry but rather wasting money on US imports. The scam Pedro Alvarez created is surely being practiced! When the Cuban people riot for access to food, the get phoney LGBT legislation pushed down their throats like nutrition by the Crown Princess Mariela playing to Western sensibilities, not Cuban suffering. No one can accuse Fidel of having mismanaged the Special Period, as difficult as it was. This Canel-Marrero cabal has completely and willfully mismanaged the effects of the intensified blockade and Covid and created more problems with its neglect of needed services and unfettered promotion of its pie-in-the sky hotel-construction project. But that’s what happens when a group from one race believes it has all wisdom and knowledge and keeps all power to just only its racial group in a multiracial society like Cuba!

  • Three cheers for the National Assembly taking action. This is a good start. Cuba has some rich farm land and has plenty of people to work the land. Now to just put the two together. I hope the person who wrote the above article is working to produce at least some of the food he or she consumes and isn’t just a complainer.

  • A little followup to my earlier comment on this article, regarding the transfer of the Russian state’s assets, after the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union.

    In actual fact, what happened in Russia, was that during the Yeltsin years after the collapse, when Putin was his chief advisor, shares in all their state companies were put up for sale at very cheap prices, and guess who bought them? Why, the Russians who had the money to be able to take advantage of a fire sale like that, of course. Now I wonder who might have bags of money on hand in Cuba to be able to do that sort of thing there? Certainly not the people standing in bank lines trying to withdraw 5000 pesos.

  • Hunger makes people desperate, and desperate people are dangerous.

  • In short, and as everybody – especially the increasingly hungry people of Cuba realize, the agricultural policies of the Castro regime have been and remain a disaster. Incompetence reigns supreme and nothing effective will be done. In Cuba, nothing changes!

  • “…spur economic development by relying on the experience of seasoned professionals, good practices, science and innovation, farm worker recruitment and training, consultation with producers, and effective land use management.”

    How about paying the few current productive farmers and future potential farmers the value of their hard work. What potential farmer is going to go out and first invest in a farm operation and then toil the farm efficiently and then at the end of the day the farmer loses financially because of the inept, corrupt, communist bureaucracy.

    None. So, no potential Cuban farmer will take that risk consequently leaving Cuban farming to the present “cooperative “ communist method – a persistent failure.

    In the present communist method all the means of production in a farming operation are owned by the state and the so-called farmer is simply a cooperative cog in the communist collective. As the article rightly points out this style of antiquated farming has been ploughed into the history books decades and decades ago. It just does not work.

    The current totalitarian regime has no stomach to move its potentially lucrative farming wealth into the 21st century. Continuous food shortages will persist indefinitely until those communist diehards capitulate in their understanding of how market economic forces dictate farming productivity success.

    There is so much farming potential in Cuba it is simply a crime Cubans need to go hungry because of a lack of affordable food which can be grown in abundance with the right financial market incentives.

    The whole Cuban economy needs a major facelift from its abysmal banking system to its astounding agricultural malaise.

    As long as the current Cuban agricultural decision makers have as their guiding mantra: “Fidel’s ideas on Cuban agriculture,” there is little hope for Cuban agriculture to properly feed its citizens. Sad, very, very sad.

  • Ah, yes, of course. “Systematic change” within the communist system. That’s precisely what Gorbachev tried to do in Russia, and what he called “perestroika.”
    Well, the Cuban government knows very well what that led to: the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of Russian communism. That’s why the Cuban government cannot reform itself, or permit any “systematic” change. They have learned that Russian history lesson very well. So, maybe this is just a parliamentary warning shot across the bow of the ship, before the current agricultural captain gets thrown into the sea, as the government’s latest scapegoat for its chronic ideological failure to provide for the basic needs of its own people.
    On the other hand, maybe not. What happened next in Russia?
    Well, all the assets of the state were handed over to those at the top of the Russian food chain, and their security service cronies, who became the new super wealthy “capitalist” elite; and the state was then transformed into the organized kleptocracy that is modern Russia. Next, along came Putin, the KGB trained top dog, who crushed all opposition, and made any possible political alternative to the new “capitalist” ruling class an impossibility. Now that all worked out pretty well for them, didn’t it? The old crowd at the top of the communist party pyramid remained at the top of a new one party “capitalist” pyramid, and got even richer in the bargain.
    Perhaps that Russian scenario is precisely what those at the top of the Cuban food chain have in mind now.
    If so, it would sure help, if they had all the cash in their hands, and restricted bank withdrawals as much as possible. That would also explain why so many Russian economic advisers and “investors” have been visiting Cuba recently. Is there some devious plan in the works, to preserve the privilege, wealth, and power of those at the top, before they lose everything, in an inevitable tsunami of pent-up popular rage that engulfs them in some sudden catastrophic change?

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