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The Other Face of Hunger in Cuba

'Hunger has two faces, but it shows one and hides the other. Cubans today are racked by both at the same time, subjugated by a government that deliberately starves its own people.'

Cubans waiting.
Cubans waiting. AP

'Hunger has two faces, but it shows one and hides the other. Cubans today are racked by both at the same time, subjugated by a government that deliberately starves its own people.

Yes, Castroism causes hunger with premeditation and perfidy, because this scourge is not due to a war, or a natural catastrophe, but rather to fact that a well-fed Raúl Castro and his rotund accomplices refuse to liberate agriculture and restore the elemental freedoms to which all the peoples of the world are entitled, for fear of losing the power and dolce vita that they and their families enjoy.

Today I will address not the visible face of hunger in Cuba, the conventional one; that is, only being able to eat a single and very paltry meal a day, or none on some, skipping breakfast, etc.

Rather, we will examine the effects that are not noticeable to the naked eye, consequences of the people's inability to consume the necessary foods daily with a minimum balance of vitamins, proteins, minerals, amino acids, calories and essential fats.

Experts call this hidden hunger, because its effects are internal, and, generally, the victim is not aware of them. I am talking about malnutrition, the hidden side of prolonged exposure to a deficient diet.

The face of conventional hunger is evident at first glance. I remember that at the beginning of the 90s in Havana I met friends who I hardly recognized because of how much weight they had lost, and they hardly recognized me either. 

Depression, anxiety, mental retardation and disorders, suicides

When suffering from malnutrition a person may not lose much body weight, and rarely realizes that their health is being damaged.

The first in-depth studies of "hidden hunger" were carried out after World War II, when the dire consequences of the malnutrition suffered by those who survived concentration camps, and in the cities besieged by the Nazi hordes, were revealed in detail.

Today we know that eating food of low nutritional value for prolonged periods can cause psychiatric disorders, dementia, mental retardation in children, depression, anxiety, deterioration of the immune system, heart problems, brain disorders, an inclination to suicide, anemia, diabetes, lost muscle mass, rickets, obesity, dry skin, and brittle hair and nails.

For example, Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children globally, and also of night blindness in pregnant women. Diarrhea is deadly for children suffering from poor nutrition.

Oh, and a little-known detail: malnutrition can result from food deficiencies as well as excess calories and carbohydrates without sufficient protein, vitamins, fiber, minerals, amino acids, fats, and other basic nutrients.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in the world "there are 450 million people suffering from malnutrition who have mental health disorders that seriously and painfully hinder their lives."

If millions of Cubans are not included on that WHO list, it is for political reasons, as most of the officials of that UN institution are admirers of the "Cuban Revolution."

In Cuba, the daily psychological grind of scrapping just to get something to eat is draining; it causes mental illness, metabolic disorders, depression and vulnerable immune systems. Racked by malnutrition and psychological destabilization, many Cubans' "nerves are shot," as they say on the island.

Cubans do not eat even one fourth of the protein they should, as experts say that a sedentary adult should eat 0.8 grams per kilogram (body weight) daily. That is, those who weigh 75 kilograms (165 pounds) should consume about 60 grams of protein daily. But the foods richest in protein are those of animal origin, scarce and expensive in Cuba. On the island a pound of pork today costs at least 800-900 pesos, one quarter of a minimum wage. A carton of 30 eggs can cost up to 2,700 pesos, much more than a monthly minimum wage (2,100 pesos).

Therefore, in April 2023, despite the fact that most of its officials are "friends of Cuba," the World Food Program (WFP) reported that "Cubans ages 14 to 60 on the island are only getting 24% of the proteins, 36% of the energy, and 18% of the fats that they need daily." It pointed out that they eat only between 20 and 34 grams of protein per day, four times less than necessary!  14 months have passed, and now everything is worse, but the WFP has said nothing else.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), leaning more to port (left) than the WFP, admits that Cuba is one of the countries with the most suicides in the Americas. Indeed, the independent press constantly reports on tragic cases of suicide, and taking one's own life is now one of the ten leading causes of death in Cuba, according to the MINSAP itself.

Another point to keep in mind is that malnutrition can also begin in the womb. Children who are born malnourished will tend to be shorter, thinner and sicklier due to their weak immune systems, and suffer learning and brain development problems.

Bearing this out, studies by Cuban doctors have revealed that Cuban children are now shorter and thinner than decades ago, due to their mothers' malnutrition, and then their own.

Even UNICEF, which has tended to praise Castroism, revealed a few days ago in its global report on "serious child poverty" that 9% of Cuba's child population "suffers from serious poverty," as, of the eight foods considered necessary for a healthy life, children on the island receive only two, at most.

It stressed that 33% of Cuban children under the age of five only receive three or four of these essential foods, and that this deficiency can do "very serious damage to children's survival, physical growth, and cognitive development."

And, if UNICEF says that the percentage of malnourished Cuban children is 42% in total, the figure is surely higher, since the group only accepts the whitewashed figures issued by Havana. Thus, based on an understanding of this dynamic, I would dare to say that the real percentages do not fall below 19% and 43%, respectively. That is, at least 62% of Cuban children under the age of five are undernourished.

Will the leaders pay for making the people suffer so?

The most vivid illustration of the magnitude of the food crisis is that the dictatorship has swallowed its pride and is now asking the UN for powdered milk, sending ministers around the world to ask also for rice, flour, and other foods. The country no longer produces eggs, so Colombia's populist Gustavo Petro is sending 40 million eggs to Cuba this year.

China and Vietnam are giving away rice, while Russia is sending flour and other foods. In February, a ship arrived at Mariel from Brazil with powdered milk, rice, corn and soy flour paid for by the United Arab Emirates. Even a country as small and poor as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines recently donated 235 tons of flour to Cuba.

In short, possibly more than 80%, and perhaps up to 90%, of Cubans are victims of hidden hunger, to a greater or lesser degree. In other words, it is an undernourished people.

But, just as it was not until after the Nazi genocide in Europe that the first in-depth studies were conducted on the consequences of hunger, in Cuba only in the wake of Castroism will the effects of hunger, visible or hidden, be truly known, the crime against humanity personally committed by Raúl "The Cruel" and his henchmen.

Will the top leaders of the "Cuban Revolution" pay for all the pain, death, hunger, abuse and suffering they have inflicted on the Cuban people? Will there be justice after Castroism?

These are the two good questions that Cubans are asking ourselves today.

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