Saturday, September 22, 2012

Not On Carbs Alone

Not On Carbs Alone / Fernando Damaso
Fernando Damaso, Translator: Unstated

Leafing through the pages of official Cuban publications in recent days,
I see articles on the economy in which there are references to plans for
the production of potatoes, malanga, yams, yucca, bananas, vegetables,
produce and condiments. This is all great news since these efforts will
help feed the population. There is very little or no discussion,
however, of meat, fish, shellfish or dairy. It seems these are much more
difficult to produce, or that their successful production is much less
palpable judging by their prolonged absences from store shelves and
their inflated prices, which make them unaffordable for most citizens.

Many are aware, at least theoretically, of the four basic food groups,
but for the average Cuban these have been historically reduced to two –
those that fill the stomach and those that nourish. Perhaps erroneously,
the first group includes all simple and complex carbohydrates such as
vegetables, grains, cereals and fruits. In the second group are all the
meats and the dairy products. In light of the current situation, many
would say, "Human beings cannot live on carbs alone." And they would be

Besides, these products are only appropriate for immediate domestic
consumption. There is not much of an international market for them since
most cannot be stored and are highly perishable. And with the possible
exception of the potato, no matter how many tons might be produced, they
would never be considered products suitable for export.

It would be interesting to know in detail what has happened to our
traditional exports such as sugar, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, shellfish and
fruit, some of which have disappeared entirely while supplies of others
have been so reduced that we almost no longer speak of them. The
collapse of the sugar industry is the most familiar blunder, but there
is now talk of something similar happening with nickel, of halting its
production and dismantling the old Nicaro Nickel Company because of the
mineral's low price on the world market and the prevalence of corruption
within the company. An editorial was published overseas in which the
writer noted that "Cuba is like a body that loses a limb every day
until, in the end, it is totally dismembered." This analogy is not far
removed from reality and it describes the situation accurately.

The proposed "guidelines," with all their identifying numbers, are
nothing more than that — guidelines. By themselves they will feed no
one, nor solve any problem, nor reinforce (much less create) the
foundations for a new economy. That is possible only with the
participation and efforts of all Cubans — state as well as private
enterprises — united to resolve our economic crisis. Clinging to a
single path, especially one that has been so clearly shown to be a
disaster and the principal cause of the current critical situation,
would be to repeat past mistakes. It would mean the irresponsible
sacrifice of millions of Cubans, forcing them to live in misery and
giving the youngest and most capable an incentive to emigrate. It is
never too late to reconsider, though with each passing day there is less
time to do so.

September 17 2012

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