Cuba may cut social welfare benefits

Alfredo Jam, head of macro-economic analysis in the economy ministry, told the Financial Times that Cubans had been “overprotected” by a system that subsidised food costs and limited the amount people could earn, prompting labour shortages in important industries.

“We can’t give people so much security with their income that it affects their willingness to work,” Mr Jam said. “We can have equality in access to education and health but not in equality of income.”

The article goes on to say that Cubans enjoy free health care and education, extremely cheap rent, plus subsidized basic foods and that any tinkering with the system would meet heavy resistance from within the ruling Communist party. Yet a deliberate story like this, an interview with the Financial Times, must have been ok’ed from on high in Cuba, probably by Raul Castro himself, and clearly seems to be sending a message.

  • You don’t say what the message is of this article. Raul has made it clear in his few speeches that the Cuban revolution will continue, but that equality of opportunity is no guarantee of equality of incomes. There’s an interesting NPR report today about some of the reforms going on in Cuban agriculture now.

    My father and his parents lived in Cuba from 1939 to 1942. They were German Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, and not political left-wingers. That family history is where my own interest in Cuba comes from.

    Cuban society today represents an effort to build an alternative to the way life was under the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, who ran Cuba before Fidel Castro led a revolution there. No one complained about a lack of human rights and democracy in those days, but U.S. businesses were protected.

    Some things work, some don’t. Like any society, Cuba its flaws and contradictions, as well as having solid achievements. No society is perfect. But we can certainly learn a few things from Cuba’s experience. I think we can learn more than a few. If we want to bring freedom to Cuba, the best thing we can do is practice what we preach.

    We should all be free to visit Cuba. We can visit China and Vietnam, even North Korea, Syria and Iran, why can’t we visit Cuba and see it for ourselves? Cuba is our neighbor and we should simply normalized relations with the island.

    Since August 2000, the CubaNews list, a free Yahoo news group has compiled a wide range of materials, pro and con, about Cuba, its people, politics and culture, and life within the island and affecting it in the Cuban diaspora abroad.

    Check it out. Thanks.

    Walter Lippmann
    Los Angeles, California

  • I’ve seen your posts on MarxMail, but didn’t know your background, thanks for the information. (For those interested, LBO-Talk is another excellent Left listserv.)

    I guess my message is, if any, that with Fidel in retirement, things are changing in Cuba. Raul seems unquestionably more moderate and pragmatic.

    Yes, absolutely, end the embargo, let people, goods, and money flow freely to and from Cuba.

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