Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Land Belongs To The State … But The Work Does Not

The Land Belongs To The State … But The Work Does Not / 14ymedio,
Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on January 26, 2016

Mr. Jose Ramon Machado Ventura met with a group of farmers leasing land
under the concept of usufruct in the province of Artemisa, showing first
his political skills, and, seeing that his exhortations and appeals were
insufficient, moving straight to threats. "The land belongs to the
state," he said, referring to those who do not satisfy the inflexible
demands: "We can take it back without much discussion."

Under decrees issues in 2009 and 2012, the country has 279,021 lessees
who occupy just under 3.5 million acres, or 22% of the agricultural land
in the country, according to official data that calculates the total to
be about 15.4 million acres.

Much of this land that is leased to "natural persons," was idle, and in
the words of many, dead. Marabou and other weeds had taken it over,
because the all-powerful state had not been able to make it produce.

Now, in the midst of a real price war, Communist Party leaders are
trying to "incorporate into daily practice strict control over the use
and possession of the land leased out under usufruct." Machado Ventura
repeats like a mantra that the solution to the problem of food shortages
and high prices is in producing more, but he minimizes or understates
the shortage of inputs required to achieve this production.

"They place demands on us as if we had everything we need: irrigation,
fertilizer, pesticides and don't even talk to me about machetes or the
files to sharpen them," said Agustin Lopez who only planted yucca and
sweet potatoes because they are less demanding. And, he concludes, "We
aren't magicians, just peasants."

When the controversial topic of prices arose at the Artemisa meeting,
the second secretary of the Cuban Communist Party said that he would
evaluate the alternative of fixing a maximum limit, that is, "setting an
'up to'." The obsession with identifying private traders as unscrupulous
intermediaries is leading to the temptation to resuscitate Acopio, that
ineffective state entity that only wants to buy from the farmer what it
is sure it has the ability to sell, and that on numerous occasions has
been responsible for losing tons of food through problems with transport
or because of the inefficiencies of central planning and distribution.

Meanwhile, in the capital, the roaming cart vendors who operate under
the rules of supply and demand have disappeared, and 66 State
Agricultural Markets have been set up where there is a list of 37
products, not always available, with fixed prices. The intention is to
cover the city's 195 "people's councils." An official note announcing
this measure describes it as "the recovery of the status" of these
places that had come to be managed outside state control.

Source: The Land Belongs To The State … But The Work Does Not /
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar | Translating Cuba -

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