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The ration card's days are numbered in Cuba

The aim is to 'subsidize people and not products,' says Manuel Marrero when announcing the measure included in the economic package

La Habana
Ration book.
Ration book. Diario de Cuba

In addition to increases in the price of fuel, electricity, water and other services, the end of the universal subsidy for food and other products included in the ration card is also slated in the economic shock plan for 2024 announced by the Cuban Government on past Wednesday.   

Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero shared some details of this package when he spoke on the first day of the second ordinary session of the National Assembly of Popular Power, during the debate on the difficult economic situation.

With regards to the regulated provision for groceries, Marrero said that the objective is to "subsidize people and not products" to achieve "a fairer and more efficient system," according to the Cubadebate portal. In this way the prime minister implicitly recognized the worsening of social and economic inequalities on the island.

"It's not fair that those who have a lot receive the same as those who have very little. Today elderly retirees on pensions receive the same subsidy as the owners of large private businesses, people who have a lot of money," he explained.

He announced that the Ministry of Labor and Social Security must classify people according to their degrees of "vulnerability" so as to "not leave anyone by the wayside" and enable them to continue acquiring highly subsidized basic products with the ration book.

Marrero stressed that this classification will be carried out in "the coming weeks and months", without offering more details.

On September 27, Minister of the Economy and Planning Alejandro Gil said that the Government did not have the funds to import the increasingly paltry quantity of products that Cubans acquire at subsidized prices through the ration card. Five days after those statements on the Mesa Redonda TV program, a report by the state-run Canal Caribe described the task of distributing the country's regulated groceries subsidy as "titanic" due to the rains, especially in the eastern part of the country.

Minister Gil's remarks, the Canal Caribe report and Marrero Cruz's recent words are portents of news that is terrible for Cubans, though not surprising: the ration card's days are numbered.

The products purchased through the ration book are not even enough to eat, while scrimping, for 15 days, but Cubans without relatives abroad to help them depend on it to keep from going hungry.

The Cuban ration card was instituted on July 12, 1963, with the euphemistic name of Libreta de Abastecimiento (Supply Book). The objective was to ration and control Cubans' consumption while creating the illusion that socialism would protect the population and guarantee everything necessary for them.

Cubans received beef, chicken, oil, butter, condensed milk, toilet paper, coffee, rice, grains and other staples. They even managed to get candy, cookies, chocolate, cigarettes, soft drinks and cases of beer through the ration card back when the former Soviet Union and the socialist bloc subsidized the Cuban regime.

Over the decades, however, the card has waned. Getting rid of it is a long-standing desire of the Cuban regime, but they still want to exploit it for propaganda purposes. After the 11-J protests, in an attempt to quell unrest the Government distributed "exceptional ration cards" to more than 60,000 families who lacked them.

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