Pig in a "Box"

tablilla_preciosThe market is almost empty. It’s still very early and someone is writing the new prices for a pound of pork on a blackboard. It seems a simple gesture, that of the hand that has changed only one digit in the price of the ribs, the legs, or the processed fat. But in reality, what is expressed on that slate — with its numbers traced in chalk — is a real market cataclysm. The internal Cuban economy suffers from a weakness such that the slightest price increase for a pound of steak or butter is enough to disrupt our fragile commercial framework. A few centavos added to the price of a food sends the thermometer of daily anxiety upward, raises the barometer of concern.

Indeed, a certain state of alarm is running through the country lately. Pork is scarce because of the dearth of feed; its import has declined and local production barely gets off the ground. The self-employment sector suffers from a scarcity of the product which forms the basis for the so-called “little boxes,” which almost always include rice, some kind of starch, and a little meat. This lunch “in hand” is the mainstay of many Cubans who work far from home, and also constitutes the basic unit for the private businesses selling ready-made meals. When the price of this lunchbox rises it pulls everything with it. The shoe salesman adds a bit to his merchandise to recoup his loss on the midday snack; the shopkeeper who paid more for her sandals tries to make up the difference from unsuspecting customers who don’t count their change; and the retired housewife writes to her son in Frankfurt or Miami asking for a bump in her remittance, because life is very expensive. And this whole sequence of problems and angst begins in a pigsty, the place where feed and care should be converted into pounds of meat, but are not.


107 thoughts on “Pig in a "Box"


  2. Thanks to Humberto and Griffin for posting interesting articles.

    I love this Cuban official line, a classic:

    “There is flour, the problem is that people are eating more bread than usual.”

    Right up there with:
    “if we let Cubans travel there’ll be too many planes in the sky”

    and the perennial favorite:
    “Cubans don’t have water because we’re suffering a drought” (as torrential rain pours in through leaky roof)

  3. COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE HOLDS FORTY-EIGHTH SESSION IN GENEVA FROM 7 MAY TO 1 JUNE 2012 : Experts to Consider Reports of Albania, Armenia, Canada, Cuba, Czech Republic, Greece and Rwanda, and a Special Report by Syria – May 3, 2012 – The Committee against Torture will meet at the Palais Wilson in Geneva from 7 May to 1 June to examine measures adopted by Albania, Armenia, Canada, Cuba, Czech Republic, Greece, Rwanda and Syria to prevent and punish acts of torture. Representatives of the eight countries are expected to come before the Committee to discuss national efforts to implement the rights enshrined in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

    Tuesday, 22 May
    Morning- Consideration of Cuba
    Afternoon – Replies of Canada

    Thursday, 24 May
    Morning – Replies of Cuba
    Afternoon – Follow-up to articles 19 and 22


  4. “The flour for our daily bread”…looks or sound religious too and the wine should be given for free not rum which is garbage.Flour does flatten the brain which develop to fast with meat and fruits which should be expensive so the computer cheap in the brain of the slaves is not changed,progressed,developed…

    There are flour for bread,pasta and pizza…and rice and beans used mostly in the world.At least 80% of the humanity eat just one of these unhealthy products.Why?It is done for control also and of course the world elite must be blame for this holocaust.
    The lazy elite dont want the world slaves to leave the box…and not be smarter eaten fresh fruits as God ordered in the Garden to eat.Even potato was not a “fruit” in the garden


    PROJECT SYNDICATE: Tweeting to Havana – Esther Dyson

    In fact, the two passive dissidents had said little. What did they want? Well, more freedom; the ability to be published and heard in Cuba. Orlando Luis Pardo (@OLPL), a blogger, had published four books, but now no publisher in Cuba will talk to him

    In theory, Pardo and his friend Antonio Rodiles want lots of things, such as regime change, a free economy, and other things too disruptive to mention. But they are careful not to do anything that smacks of protest or action. That discretion keeps them safe, more or less.

    As in most countries classified as “unfree” by human-rights organizations, enforcement of the law can be arbitrary. The authorities know who the dissidents are and “remind” them of that from time to time. For example, in a widely noted – and disputed – incident, Pardo was grabbed by police on the street, along with Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, and roughed up.

    I thought hard – and checked with Pardo and Rodiles – before publishing this column. Pardo wrote back: “I am not an undercover actor at all. Transparency is my best protection under totalitarianism. I do not need any kind of secret software to blog, or rules to talk safely from a Cuban mobile phone, etc. In fact, I prefer the political police (State Security) to be aware of all of my writings. They are my privileged readers. I talk freely almost as a provocative performance. I hope that the result is contagious for the rest of our somehow zombie citizens.”

    Rodiles added, “We are always breaking the ‘law,’ because, according to the present constitution, nothing can be attempted against the development of socialism. However, we keep moving with our project, and I have been straight with the secret police: if they want to stop me, they need to arrest me.”

    Pardo and Rodiles are probably better known outside Cuba than they are at home, thanks to the Internet, which allows them to publish worldwide, but which is barely available in Cuba. (I met them via Twitter, by posting a request to meet some “entrepreneurs” in Havana.)

    Indeed, I have not seen such a lack of connectivity since I first went to Russia 23 years ago. Local phone calls – let alone international ones – frequently fail to connect. The Internet is accessible in hotels (limited bandwidth for $8 an hour) and some government offices, but not to regular people. Those who want to use it rely on foreign embassies, government friends with access, and people like me, who can purchase Internet cards in their hotels. (I observed the rules: the only thing I gave to Pardo and Rodiles was my partly used WiFi card.)



    Esther Dyson is one of the world’s leading entrepreneurs focusing on emerging digital technologies. As Chairwoman of EDventure Holdings, she has been at the forefront of analysis of these technologies’ impact on business, privacy, security, creativity, and politics. She has served as a board member or early investor in numerous startups, including Cygnus Solutions, Flickr, del.icio.us, ZEDO, Medstory, and Medspace, and currently focuses on startups related to medical technology, aviation, and space travel.

  6. There Is Neither Flour Nor Shame

    What can you expect from a government that can’t even guarantee the flour for our daily bread? The lines at Cuban bakeries resemble images from the Second World War. And with complete lack of respect, a government official says, right on television, “There is flour, the problem is that people are eating more bread than usual.” What one can infer, continuing the official’s mockery, is that the cold wave gave Cubans a voracious appetite for the loaf. Something to suggest the scientists might add to their next tropical investigations.


  7. Cuba: The times are changing

    An honest & balanced report on the recent economic reforms and the challenges facing the new self-employed Cubans.

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