How many Cubans would die who could have been saved? How many would see their chronic diseases and conditions worsen? How many would suffer if it were not for the private vendors who supply them with medications?
Covert private vendors, aka "resellers" and "hoarders" of medicines are being incarcerated. They are harassed and vilified even though they are responsible for providing a private pharmaceutical network that fills the gap generated by Communist statism.
Were there "hoarders" and "resellers" of medicines in Cuba before 1959? Do they exist today in Chile, Costa Rica, Japan, France, Nigeria, Morocco or Australia?
Is the State of any normal country the owner of all its pharmacies, clinics and hospitals, while lacking the money to produce or import medicines?
These questions must be answered by the regime's leaders and official press, who blame resellers for the shortage of drugs in the country, exacerbated by the already devastating spread of Covid-19.
A few days ago in Cienfuegos the official newspaper 5 de Septiembre criticized the 31 "hoarders" and "resellers" sentenced to prison by the courts, accused of "illicit economic activity" and "the possession of drugs" (medicines). They were caught with 20 strips of Azithromycin capsules and 29 bulbs of Rocephin (antibacterial antibiotics) and another 45 medications and supplies.
Leaders and their families: medicines and exclusive hospitals
The article explained that most of the medicines seized had, in fact, been legally imported, free of Customs duties, by Cubans returning from abroad, though they were accused of "ambition and opportunism." The rest, said the article, came from hospitals due to "cracks in our health institutions, which allow medications to slip through."
Translated from "Castroist" language, two things can be gathered from this: 1) most of the medicines now on the black market and that people, fortunately, can acquire are those brought by Cubans returning from abroad; and 2) the rest are those stolen by workers in the Public Health system.
The former group, travelers, after meeting their relatives' needs for medicine, sell the rest clandestinely at the determined by the law of supply and demand, since this is how trade has functioned in the world for thousands of years, since Babylonian times.
Meanwhile, those who steal them from pharmacies and hospitals do so without any remorse. They see how political leaders and their families steal before they do, which is why they lack for no medicines, no matter how expensive it may be. They see how these oligarchs, relatives and cronies receive excellent medical treatment at exclusive hospitals, such as the CIMEQ in Havana, equipped with everything and teeming with military security, a facility from which the press is barred. All paid for with funds stolen from the people.
State-perpetrated theft is indispensable in a Communist regime
To put it bluntly, stealing from a Communist state is not a crime, but rather a maneuver essential to avoid hunger and disease. "Hoarders," "resellers," "line holders" and all those making up massive underground markets are legitimate offspring of every Marxist-Leninist tyranny. They are the effect, not the cause of the shortages.
It should be pointed out that those who trained the Cubans in clandestine commercial "hustling" were the Soviet advisors who lived on the island, as they knew all about it from life back in the USSR. Cubans, enduring much great scarcity, need a black market to feed them, dress them, transport them and supply them with medicines.
It is like a physical law. Trying to run an economy without private property is like trying to hold water in your hands by putting your palms together. The statist model does not work, "not even for us," as Fidel Castro confessed to a US journalist in 2010.
2,360 years before, Aristotle told a deluded Plato the same thing. Private property - the disciple told his teacher - is superior because "human diversity is more productive", and because "goods, when they are held in common, receive less care than when they belong to someone in particular."
Or, to cite an old English saying: "It is the master's eye that makes the mill go." The economic/social cataclysm suffered in Cuba is due to the regime's suppression of "the master's eye;" that is, private property.
The dictatorship wants to put an end to the private sale of medications
The last straw is that, with the scourge of the Chinese virus affecting the island, the dictatorship has not only not made an exception and allowed the private sale of medications, but it has also decided to wipe it out by resorting to new chat hacking technologies and illegal and shameless snooping in WhatsApp and Telegram groups through which the population obtains medications from networks organized by Cubans in the US and Spain, which group them together and send them via individuals to Cuba.
Castroist TV news recently showed several private chats and audio messages evidently illegally "hacked" by the MININT. Astonished viewers heard sick people and their relatives asking for antibiotics like Rocephin, Azithromycin, Amoxicillin, Ciprofloxacin, Cephalexin, and pain relievers and fever reducers, like Dipyrone and Paracetamol. These medications are not available at pharmacies, or, when they do arrive, there are so few of them that they soon run out. Hospitals do not have them either.
An official at the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) stated on the newscast that drug resellers "hide their phone numbers and give false names so that the origins of the medication cannot be traced."
The prices of these medicines are determined by the law of supply and demand and are, obviously, high. How could these prices be lowered? By increasing the supply; that is, with private pharmacies stocked with all kinds of medicines.
Would there be more medicines if the MININT did away with their private sale?
The key question here is: if the regime succeeded in quashing the private sale of medicines, would there be more at pharmacies and hospitals? Of course not.
A few days ago the president of the state monopoly BioCubaFarma, Tania Urquiza, stated: "in 2021 we have been running out of supplies and raw materials, and the average monthly shortfall has been 120 medicines." If Urquiza admitted that 120 are lacking, the real figure must be double or triple that. Meanwhile, Rita García, a bureaucrat with that monopoly, offhandedly conceded that, with regards to Azithromycin, an antibiotic fundamental to the treatment of Covid-19: "what is currently being produced is not enough to supply the pharmacy network."
In short, there is practically nothing at Cuban pharmacies. Those who suffer hypertension, have heart conditions, and diabetics go months without their medicines. There are also no psychotropic drugs in a country where depression and stress rates are alarming, and 85% of medicines have to be imported.
As most of those infected with the Chinese virus are remaining at home, or being sent to dreadful isolation centers, many more Cubans would die of Covid-19 without the essential medicines that they are currently acquiring on the black market.
Reducing the private sale of medications will result in more deaths
Now, while it is true that by hacking the chats of drug suppliers the dictatorship will never be able to completely stamp out sui generis private micropharmacies, it may put a dent in them.
And this damage will constitute yet another crime against humanity to add to the files of Raúl Castro and his confederate Miguel Díaz-Canel, as it will lead to more deaths, pain and suffering for the Cuban people.
What these two misanthropic opportunists have to do is restore private property, now. If pharmacies in Cuba were not state-owned, and there were laboratories and private plants for the production of oxygen tanks, supplies and medical equipment, there would be no shortage of medicines, or Cubans suffocated to death by Covid-19, as is, tragically, happening today all across the country.