Cubans are finally free - to buy peas and potatoes

Breaking News

The staples were removed from a list of rationed foods that most Cubans depend on, permitting them to buy as much of the products as they want – at 20 times more than they used to.

The move comes amid efforts by Raul Castro's government to scale back Cuba's subsidy-rich, cash-poor economy. Lunches which cost so little they were almost free lunches were eliminated from some state-cafeterias in September. In October, the Communist Party's Granma newspaper published a full-page editorial saying the time had come to do away with the ration books altogether.

Authorities say their goal is to encourage more productivity and free the state from a crushing economic burden. Critics – including some on the streets of Havana – argue that the moves break with what had been a sacred covenant of the revolution Fidel Castro led in 1959: that socialism would not make people rich, but would provide all Cubans with at least the basics.

Even with the changes, the state pays for or heavily subsidises nearly everything, from education to health care, housing to transportation. But many Cubans see the ration book – or "libreta" in Spanish– as a flawed but fundamental right, and shoppers on Friday bristled at the new changes

"This is crazy. They should be adding products to the ration book, not taking away from it," said Roberto Rodriguez, a 55-year-old delivery man buying rice, sugar and coffee at an official store in Havana's Vedado neighborhood. "If they don't produce enough, people will start to hoard products and things will get even worse."

comments powered by Disqus