What’s Good for the Liver is Bad for the Heart

Rosa Martinez

Being caught selling or purchasing beef in Cuba is a serious crime. Photo: Caridad

A few days ago a man with an intense stare and a heavy walk showed up on my doorstep.

“Do you want to buy meat?” he asked, looking around cautiously.

“Meat? What kind of meat?” I immediately asked.

“The good kind, girl.  What do you think,” he replied.

“Well if the ‘good kind’ is beef, then no, I don’t want to buy any,” I said.

“Then get lost,” he said with a crabby attitude, and he headed on tranquilly to approach my neighbors.

Some of them bought a few pounds, others didn’t have any money.  Like me, a small group of them preferred to forego the pleasure of his savory veal.

I don’t know what prevented those other residents from buying meat from him; but as for me, I didn’t like anything about the situation.  In the first place, the guy’s face rubbed me the wrong way. Secondly —though this it is only way to obtain that type of meat— to be accused of accepting it is something that’s not at all pleasant.

Anyone involved in receiving beef on the street can be implicated in a crime and fined up to 1,500 pesos (about $75 USD) or worse: you can go to jail for up to two years, which is much more serious.  Just thinking about is enough to turn me into a vegetarian.

Every day, Cubans are tempted to break the law given the many shortages and low wages that keep us from purchasing food and other basic products. To buy any food illicitly is to effectively approve of theft or, worse still, to turn a profit.

The Cuban government tries to minimize the social impact of the economic crisis that the country has experienced for too long a time and which has forced thousands of young people to emigrate to unimaginable places or to steal everything from a piece of paper to a sliver of meat in order to survive.

We citizens of this island have to scramble to feed ourselves, but we have to be careful with what we buy, to not err, because what’s good for the liver is bad for the heart.

5 thoughts on “What’s Good for the Liver is Bad for the Heart

  • Just as in the US when there was the prohibition against alcohol people did illegal things so are Cubans making also illegal things with so many food prohibitions for people who are practically starving
    Read this


    That is what you get when you prohibit what is normal.
    Black market. We all lose. Maybe if these prohibitions did not exist
    this food items will freely available and possibly reasonable price.
    Demand and Offer works the magic by itself.

  • Grady if they allow farmers to do that then they lose control
    this seems to be all about control.
    He who control the most basic needs for subsistence like food and medicine etc
    control the people.
    So people will have to do what is dictated to them
    back to Paternalism!

  • Having an authentically socialist system in Cuba, and allowing Cuban farmers and ranchers to produce plenty of food for domestic and foreign markets is simple. It’s so simple that it is maddening to see the miserable performance of state monopoly socialism with regard to agriculture.

    All the PCC has to do is to value and respect small, independent rural producers, give them minimal assistance, let them sell to a socialist-conditioned free market, and bring them into the overall socialist project.

    This however cannot be done as long as misunderstanding of and prejudice against private property and the market are in play. Private property is not and never was the problem. It is who owns the private property that matters. Let the rural producers own the land. Let the employees of industry and commerce own their enterprises as cooperative, Mondragon-style corporations. Let the socialist government own only part of industry and commerce to avoid a tax-based revenue system.

    This would be natural, workable socialism. This would make Cuba the world’s first socialist Cooperative Republic. This would provide plenty of meat and other produce for the people.

  • Grok The history of why this is so had a lot to do with the crazy early years of the revolution Cuba used to export meat and then the “magic” and craziness and mismanagement with the revolution ended that.

    See here on the University of Texas Fidel Castro’s speech repository
    This is from 1959


    if you follow this other link


    “We have 6 million head of cattle. You know that some years ago we
    (?introduced) a policy of not slaughtering (?cattle). Why? Because we
    wanted to increase our cattle herds. With a 10-year program, we hope to
    increase the country’s herds to 8 million cows–cows, (?without counting)
    the other cattle. If we do the same calculation in the case of beans as for
    cane, we realize that you have to plant beans every year, plough the ground
    every year; if there is too much rain, the beans suffer; if it does not
    rain, the beans suffer. When you plant a caballeria to pasture, well cared
    for, and fatten 100 head of cattle, or 50, you have the pasture, you have
    no troubles; it is a sure crop. Meat is produced, and it is one of the
    items most in demand throughout the world. And it is an item that is paid
    for in (?free) foreign currency, the type of money we have the greatest
    difficulty in finding because of the U.S. blockade.”

    I believe at that time Cuba was about 5 million in population so there was more cows than people in Cuba.
    Now the reverse is true.
    Incidentally if someone kills a cow in Cuba he goes to prison and the sentence is higher than for killing a human being!
    Still many people risk it in order to eat beef!!

    Notice also this fragment

    “When I say “export meat,” it does
    not mean depriving ourselves of meat. We are going to be producing more and
    more meat. The quota has been raised already in different provinces–if
    almost all.”

    For example lobster is produced by Cuba and Cubans do not get to see any of it legally.
    Any Cuban caught selling it could potentially go to prison too!

    The Cuban state adjudicates itself rights that it denies Cubans. This early speeches are very illuminating about why the current situation exist specially for some of us that where not even born or to young to understand!

  • Scarcity in class society breeds corruption, black markets and smuggling, like shit breeds flies. Which is why all class societies de facto require “armed bodies of men”: in order to protect privileged access to these scarce resources… Which is why black market activity like this is exactly analogous to phenomena such as queue-jumping, etc., only worse — in that these scarce resources are being squandered by the looters for their own, usually selfish interests.

    But this all begs the question in this specific case: how can such a cattle-raising-friendly island like Cuba have such an apparently large and chronic deficit of beef cattle, after all these years? Even after having undergone the “Special Period”? IMO, the only rational way forward from the present situation is the intelligent pooling of agricultural resources together with the other ALBA countries: if this organization is ever to make any logical economic sense in a future of intense and brutal economic struggle with World imperialism. Today Venezuela may not be self-sufficient in beef and dairy cattle: but AFAIC it already *would* have been, if the problem of pro-capitalist corruption within the ranks of the “bolivarian” supposed-socialists was not rampant — and apparently getting worse by the day. And the main issue here for cuban socialists being: is a decisive faction of the cuban bureaucracy and hierarchy now planning to imminently JOIN the “boliburguesia” in the plundering their respective “Revoluciones”, under the fraudulent and criminal guise of actually ‘advancing’ said revolutions..?

    AFAIC *every* cuban has the *right* to a good ol’ BBQ each & every dry season weekend, & a hamburger any damned time they wish! Vegetarianism, AFAIC, remains an issue for future socialist & communist society — where the rights of other species will become more & more pressing & real, objective, concrete political issues, under a growing umbrella of human stewardship over the Planet & the natural World.

Comments are closed.