The Sacred Way

Reina Street in Central Havana. (14ymedio)

Reina Street in Central Havana. (14ymedio)

Yoani Sanchez, 8 September 2015 — The paint drips into the cracks and holes and over the rusted metal poking through the columns and the ceilings. A colorful layer that covers over cobwebs, cracks and dirt, like make-up masks scars and wrinkles. Havana preens for the arrival of Pope Francis. The facades along the streets are touched up where the Bishop of Rome will pass by and popular humor has derisively re-baptized the path “The Sacred Way.” It is an ephemeral blush, rushed, one that the rain and the months will wash away.

They have not been able to camouflage the people, however, with optimism. The strokes of the painters, rushing to meet their schedule, don’t cover the skin or the worries. From early in the morning, Habaneros go out with their bags hanging from their shoulders looking for food. “Not even the pope coming has put something in the shops,” complains a woman on the corner of Manrique and Salud, while a friend directs her to Galiano Avenue where, she assures her, “they have good hot dogs for sale.”

Bergoglio isn’t going to pass by the empty refrigerators in the stores, so the touch up doesn’t include pretending that there is food, or disguising the shortages. Thus we are saved from the cartons of chicken thighs and the powdered milk extended with sand! There are no cosmetics to cover up the economic downtown we are experiencing. The market stands and shelves remain indoors, far from all the pomp of the papal entourage.

Our Sacred Way is hollow, purely a stage set, with the crudest props, the least believable.

31 thoughts on “The Sacred Way

  1. Can you belive it? Just recently sec. Kerry talked to Cubans(!) about maintaining “stability” in Vzla, and in a CNN interview with deposed Guatemalan Pres. O. Perez Molina he said that VP Biden told him what to do.
    So it’s business as usual, the great power bullying and making sure that the small ones stay confused and weak…


    BBC NEWS: Profile: Hugo Chavez

    In February 1992, Mr Chavez led a doomed attempt to overthrow the government of President Carlos Andres Perez amid growing anger at economic austerity measures.

    The foundations for that failed coup had been laid a decade earlier, when Mr Chavez and a group of fellow military officers founded a secret movement named after the South American independence leader Simon Bolivar.

    The 1992 revolt by members of the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement claimed 18 lives and left 60 injured before Mr Chavez gave himself up.

    He was languishing in a military jail when his associates tried again to seize power nine months later.

    That second coup attempt, in November 1992, was crushed as well.

    Mr Chavez spent two years in prison before being granted a pardon. He then relaunched his party as the Movement of the Fifth Republic and made the transition from soldier to politician.

  3. ABC NEWS: President Obama Reauthorizes Cuba Listing On ‘Trading With the Enemy Act’ – By Serena Marshall

    President Obama has reauthorized Cuba’s listing on the Trading with the Enemy Act, a move that allows him to continue to use executive authority to improve ties with the Communist country. Obama’s action follows a unilateral decision last December to re-establish diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, paving the way to embassies being opened in both countries. The act, which must be reauthorized every year, gives the president the power to make changes to U.S. relations with listed countries, in this case that is Cuba.

    Officials say that in order to do regulatory changes, like those taken by the administration in January to allow expanded travel under 12-specific licenses, the president needs the authority embedded in the Trading with the Enemy Act.

    Without the act, the standing U.S. law with respect to Cuba is the Helms-Burton act, or the embargo, which limits nearly all transactions, travel and business with the island nation.

    Congress has made no effort to change the embargo, although legislation was introduced to committee earlier this year that would allow for all travel restrictions to be lifted.


  4. This may have been the stupidest thing the Chavista crime gang ever did, to sentence Leopoldo Lopez to almost 14 years in jail. This should get the opposition to unite and fight their common enemy.
    Another imprtant opposition leader, Corina Machado, said immediately after the sentencing with force and conviction that Leopoldo will be liberated very soon, long before the 14 years are gone, and that there will be a total change and an end to the rule of the Chavista crime gang…

  5. WASHINGTON POST: Cuba pardons more than 3,500 prisoners ahead of Pope Francis visit – By Nick Miroff

    HAVANA — The Cuban government said it plans to pardon 3,522 prisoners over the next 72 hours as a “humanitarian” gesture ahead of Pope Francis’s visit to the island beginning next week.

    But the announcement appeared to rule out pardons for at least some of the dozens of inmates that rights groups consider political prisoners. Convicts serving time for crimes against “national security” would not be eligible for release, said the statement in the Communist Party newspaper Granma.

    Those receiving pardons will include inmates over age 60 or under 20 with no prior convictions and prisoners whose terms are nearing an end, as well as women, the infirm and foreigners whose countries will accept their repatriation.

    Amanda Duran, a member of the island’s illegal-but-tolerated Cuban Commission for Human Rights and Conciliation, said the group was trying to determine whether any of the 71 inmates on its list of political prisoners would be eligible for the amnesty.

    The timing of the Cuban government announcement is notable, as U.S. and Cuban diplomats commence bilateral talks Friday in Havana that mark their first formal meetings since the two nations reopened embassies.

    A statement issued by the State Department said U.S. negotiators would meet with Cuban officials “to discuss next steps in the normalization process and schedule dates for future discussions on shared priorities.” The statement said the U.S. delegation did not plan to enter into “extensive discussions” in Friday’s talks.

  6. MIAMI HERALD: Lawmakers urge additional Venezuela sanctions after harsh verdict – BY JIM WYSS
    BOGOTA, COLOMBIA : Florida lawmakers are calling for a fresh round of sanctions against Venezuela, after opposition leader Leopoldo López was sentenced to 13 years, nine months and 12 days in prison for his role in last year’s national protests.
    Civil rights groups and legal experts said the case was marred by irregularities.
    On Friday, Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican presidential hopeful, called on the Obama administration to fully implement the “Venezuela defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014,” which denies visas and freezes assets of human rights violators.
    “Leopoldo López’s arrest, incarceration, show trial and prison sentence have all been a sham,” Rubio said in a statement. “The Venezuelan regime is robbing Leopoldo of his freedom, his wife of a husband, his kids of a father and the Venezuelan people of a leader committed to their democratic aspirations.”
    Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, also Florida Republican, called on the administration to slap sanctions on the judges, prosecutors and prison officials “involved in this politically motivated sentencing.”
    “The malicious use of the judicial system as an instrument to punish and persecute dissent is only part of the problem with [President Nicolás] Maduro’s brutal regime that persists on ruling Venezuela with an iron fist,” she said. “I call on all responsible nations to condemn this miscarriage of justice and call for Leopoldo’s immediate, unconditional release.”

  7. It’s going to be extremely interesting then, to see what happens with the Cuban economy when the two Castro broz are gone, knowing how disastrous FC has been and that RC isn’t changing it very much…

  8. MIAMI HERALD: U.S. and Cuban delegations to meet in Havana – By Mimi Whitefield

    The commission’s inaugural meeting will focus on setting priorities for the next steps in the normalization process and scheduling dates for further negotiations on topics such as migration, telecommunications and the Internet, direct mail service, human rights, environmental protection and fisheries, human trafficking, cooperation on law enforcement and counter-narcotics and civil aviation.

    The State Department said Thursday that it doesn’t expect any extensive discussion of such topics during the Friday meeting.

    The easier issues the commission will tackle include maritime security, climate change and environmental cooperation and Kerry has said he expects substantial progress can be made on them fairly quickly. Among the topics that Kerry called “toughies” are human trafficking, human rights, claims by U.S. companies and individuals for property taken in the early years of the Cuban Revolution, and the return of U.S. fugitives who have fled to Cuba.

    Havana also has said it wants to talk about the return of the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay but the United States has said it isn’t currently up for discussion.

  9. Book by UF Emeritus Professor documents Fidel Castro’s responsibility for Cuba’s economic disaster
    Using the agricultural sector as the analytical framework, the book «Fidel Castro’s agricultural follies: absurdity, waste and parasitism» by José Álvarez evaluates Castro’s absolute power in decision-making.
    PRLog – Oct. 1, 2014 – WELLINGTON, Fla. — Contrary to what the title implies, this book is not about agriculture; rather, the author uses examples from agriculture to make the point that Fidel Castro is a delusional fool, a modern Don Quixote, who has “sunk Cuba into a sea” of misery and despair.
    Agriculture in this book is loosely defined. Can one say that building a room where only the heads of cows are exposed to air conditioning so as to increase their milk production is an agricultural activity? Can one claim that a single cow can provide milk for thousands of people? In fact, one must forgive the reader who concludes that the follies described in this book are the fictional musings of the author. They are not; these follies actually took place and they are very well documented.
    It has been said that the problem with a socialist economy is that the leaders eventually run out of other people’s money. However, time and again, as shown in the book, the Castro brothers have managed to find the money to subsidize Fidel’s follies. By theft, charity and defaulted debt, they have kept their failing socialist experiment afloat for over fifty years.
    The time has come to evaluate Castro’s performance in the economic field. On July 31, 2006 Vice-President Raúl Castro assumed the duties of President of Cuba’s Council of State in a temporary transfer of power due to Fidel Castro’s illness. On February 24, 2008 the National Assembly of People’s Power unanimously chose General Raúl Castro as his brother’s permanent successor. Although Fidel Castro has partially recovered, he will not resume his former duties. His complete control over the economy in general, and the agricultural sector in particular, during nearly fifty years ended with his illness.
    The book contains 12 chapters (under three parts: absurdity, waste and parasitism), an appendix and an afterword. Additional materials have been placed on a website devoted exclusively to the book

  10. Bergoglio will not fill refrigerators in the stores! I personally guarantee this.

    Don’t know what to do? Need advice?

    Sell your iPhone, Yoani, and buy 500 chicken. Swap your apartment in Havana for a farm in Granma (easy thing to do). For the money you spend on internet every month buy corn to feed the animals.

    YOU, yes you, and not Bergoglio and not Raul could fill the stores with food. Just talk less and (do you hate this word?) work more.

  11. Both Capitalism and Socialism have the same problem: The winner takes all, or almost all. A free market is needed for a thriving middle class to exist. Even in the richest and mightiest – and Capitalist – nation ever, the USA, the middle class has declined in the last decades…

  12. Is it possible that the Pope is totally ignorant about what Cuba really is? No, because he helped the Cuba-US opening up. Will he go there only to “encourage” the people, or to see how the process he helped initiate is going and possibly influence it somehow? In Bolivia HH Francis seemed to take sides regarding the question of Bolivian access to the sea. Is he simply, given his anti-Capitalism rhetoric, siding with the leftist-populist govts of Latin America?
    It’s been predicted that this Pope may be the last one if the catholic church doesn’t start to change. It doesn’t look like that is happening…


  14. Sandokan,

    Thanks for posting the truth again. I have seen thousands of buildings like the one in the picture housing hundreds of thousands of Cubans. So crowded they have to sleep on their roofs.

    No luxuries like running water for these Cubans, although the billionaire Castro brothers have dozens of luxury homes with private swimming pools and retreat to their yachts and private islands on the weekends and summer holidays.

    No armchair socialist has ever lived like an average Cuban and none ever will. Socialists love their money and freedom too much. They want to live like the Castros, not their serfs.

    Socialism is just a fancy word for slavery. Capitalism is just another word for freedom.

    Socialists love socialism for their slaves and capitalism for themselves.

  15. Photos of the day: Havana, labyrinth of ruins

    By Carlos Eire, on November 18, 2014
    From Martha Beatriz Roque: images of Hell on earth.

    This building in Havana, one block from the seaside boulevard known as El Malecón, is home for several families.

    The total number of people crammed into this building is 36, ranging in age from elders in their 70’s and 80’s to children as young as 3. One young woman is pregnant and expecting to give birth within the next few weeks.

    Some of the residents live on the roof, in hand-made wooden shacks.
    No maintenance or repairs have taken place in over forty years, despite constant complaints from those who live there.

    Of course, the residents themselves have no means of repairing anything. Worse than that, they are not allowed to engage in such activities. The building belongs to “the people” (the state) and only a government agency can take care of maintenance and repairs.

    These 36 Cubans (soon to be 37) are being evicted because a government inspector has finally tagged their building as dangerous and irreparable. They have all been ordered to move to an equally delapidated building without electricity or running water in another neighborhood, Guanabacoa.

    The only difference between their present residence and the one offered to them by the state is this: their crumbling present residence has been deemed “irreparable” while the other one has not. Both are equally delapidated and unsafe. But whatever the government says cannot be challenged or defied, no matter how wrong it is.
    Ironically, the condemned building is on the corner of San Lazaro (patron saint of the downtrodden) and Perserverancia (perseverence).

    God help them. God help us all. This was once a prosperous country, with statistics that rivaled those of many European countries. And this total disaster is praised by many around the world as a successful experiment in social engineering. On top of that, it draws three million tourists per year. Even worse, this could be our future here in the United States.

    Viva la Revolucion. Vamos bien. Requetebien.

    Programs/Subprograms of Urban Agriculture in Cuba

    The urban agriculture has 26 subprograms developed through the whole country to deal with specific topics such as, the production of vegetables, medicinal plants, condiments, grains, fruits and the animal breeding (hens, rabbits, lambs, goats, pigs and bees).

    Soil control and conservation.
    Organic matter.
    Water and drainage.
    Vegetables and fresh condiments.
    Medicinal plants and dry condiments.
    Ornamental plants and flowers.
    Protected cultivations.
    Popular rice.
    Forest, coffee and cocoa.
    Popular banana.
    Roots and tropical tubers.
    Food for animals.
    Rabbit breeding.
    Lambs and goats.
    Pig Farming.
    Small agroindustry.
    Science, technology, qualification and environment.

    Vegetables and fresh condiments

    This was the first activity carried out by the urban agriculture; therefore, the most developed one. Among its main tasks are the production of more than 1,380,000 ton of fresh vegetables with superior yields to 20 kg/m2/year in organopónicos, 10 kg/m2/year in intensive orchards and 10 kg/m2/year in landplots and yards. Based on the foreseen yields this subprogram will give a substantial contribution to the national horticultural production providing more than 300g of vegetables per capita every day. Nowadays important levels of production are found in Cienfuegos, Ciego of Ávila, Sancti Spíritus and Havana.

    This subprogram has been the lab where the principles, objectives and perspectives of the urban agriculture development in Cuba have been experienced, proven and consolidated.

    Medicinal plants and dry condiments

    The main part of the medicinal plants productions is commercialize with dependences of the Public Health Ministry (MINSAP for their initials in Spanish), to be processed as green medicine, and expended it to the population through the pharmacies network. The rest is sold green or dry off for the domestic consumption.

    Dry condiments are commonly used in the Cuban cuisine, drying and prosecution of some species has been required due its overproduction level. The condiments consumption in Cuba has been reached 120g year per capita.


    Despite of being recently included as an urban agriculture subprogram, the fruit tree’s sown with different purposes has been traditional in urban areas. The practice has demonstrated the high productive potential that characterizes this program today, mainly concern to mango, avocado pear and citric. The current development foresees a wide program of vivarium and implants to accelerate the production of these and other fruits.


    This is the more developed animal production program, essentially in the breeding of chickens and ducks.

    The breeding of chickens is develop by a plan that assign to the producer 10 females and 1 male of the called semi-rustic hens, which are obtained by the cross of Creole birds with races of higher productive potential as the Rhode Island Red, from this crossing the obtained hens are characterized by their resistance to the environment setbacks, wildness and a higher yields of bird meat and eggs. In mature stage this race of hen with improved feeding conditions (109 g/bird/day) stays putting eggs the whole year, reaching a an averages of 200 eggs per year.

    The ducks are the domestic bird of quicker growth in just 7-8 weeks of age it can reach among 2.8 and 3.2 kg of weight, with a near conversion to 3kg of weight for 1kg animal food. This bird has low demanding feeding conditions and is more resistant to some common bird’s infectious illnesses.

    Besides the mentioned species, breeding goose, turkeys and Guineans take place at small scale.

    Pig Farming

    The development of this program has its own special singularities, having in mind the sanitary measures that require the pig’s breeding in urban areas and the services as vaccination and measured prophylaxes guided by veterinary specialist. For such reasons this program is mostly executed in suburban areas.

    The producer can establish an advantageous agreement with the Group of Pig Farming Production and the Territorial Pig Farming Technical Service; through this the producer acquires animals of 12-20 kg of weight to moderate price and part of the food necessary to feed the animals. After 4-5 months, when the pig acquires 90 kg or more, the State buys it to the producer at the official price and the extra to a higher price.

  17. The Agriculture in Cuba

    Agriculture in Cuba has, like so many other aspects of Cuban society and the island’s economy, had a complex history of difficulties and extremes. When the current government came to power 75% of Cuba’s agricultural land was owned by foreign companies and individuals. The main crop was sugar, which was sold to the United States and Great Britain. A large quota was given to Cuba by North America which paid above world prices in order to support US industry.

    After the Revolution, Che Guevara negotiated with the Soviet Union for the export of Cuban sugar and the new Cuban government adopted a series of land reforms which finally resulted in the confiscation of almost all private property in favour of the establishment of large Soviet-style State farms whose creation arose from the notion that the State was the central force and that heavy mechanisation would improve the dignity of human labour. However the end result was both lost production and ‘lost’ workers, for the relegation of peasant farms to nonpreferred status meant their production failed to develop and disaffected agricultural producers and labourers migrated en masse from rural to urban areas. The situation was exacerbated by the availability in large cities of educational and employment opportunities that had up until then been beyond the reach of children of small farmers. This lured the next generation out of the agricultural sector and of rural areas entirely and resulted in a vicious circle of increasing necessity, independent of the ideological preference for, the mechanisation of agricultural production.

    After the collapse of COMECON (the economic organisation of Communist States) Cuba’s agricultural system teetered on the verge of collapse. Imports vanished; there were no fertilizers, animal feed, tools, seed, wire, animal vaccines, fuel for farm machinery or irrigation systems, tyres, batteries, spare parts and the few agricultural necessities that were produced on the island dried up due to lack of raw materials, electricity to run factories, vehicles for distribution or petrol with which to operate them.

    It has always been difficult to discern which of Cuba’s economic difficulties are results of the United States’ embargo and which are the results of poor economic planning. What is undeniable is that the US embargo has made it far more expensive, sometimes prohibitively so, for Cuba to achieve high production in food and agricultural exports and the American Association for World Health’s study entitled Denial of Food and Medicine: The impact of the U.S. embargo on health and nutrition in Cuba found that the US embargo ‘has dramatically harmed the health and nutrition of large numbers of ordinary Cuban citizens.’ Furthermore, a British study found the U.S. embargo guilty of 7,500 excess deaths per year during the hardest years of the ‘Special Period’ which followed the collapse of the Soviet Bloc.

    Then the situation couldn’t have looked gloomier, but in one of the extraordinary bursts of energy with which time and again Fidel Castro’s government has avoided economic and political meltdown, a rapid and innovative espousal of biodiversification saved the day. The technique of Participatory Plant Breeding (PPB), in which researchers work directly with farmers, has steered Cuban national agricultural practice away from high dependency upon unsustainable elements such as expensive technology and imported chemicals to develop a pioneering model of agricultural policy which is likely to play an important part in the success of other developing countries.

    Biodiversity is important. If agricultural production rests on too narrow a base – the high-yielding crop varieties upon which much of the world has come to rely – and those varieties are threatened, crisis occurs. In the past, farmers have automatically maintained crop diversity, but the homogeneity of modern agriculture threatens genetic diversity, and thus local and global food supplies. The high-yielding varieties developed by scientists also require considerable maintenance and expensive chemicals and many small farmers can afford neither these nor the expensively-developed seed necessary for their cultivation.

    The aim of the Cuban project has been to strengthen the base of agricultural biodiversity by making a greater range of varieties of seed available to farmers, using the latter’s knowledge in a virtuous circle of research and response. This became an urgent priority after the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, for food production in Cuba had to be doubled whilst input was halved, and food exports had also to be kept up in order to earn vital foreign exchange.

  18. Food Shortages in Cuba are academic: Food imports cut by 1/3. Low supply of fertilizers and pesticide control products. Add crime plus inefficiencies equals food shortages. Who is to blame:

    1. the government
    2. small private farms
    3. the embargo ( this is a contributor to food shortages because Cubans rely too much on imports)

    In other words THE CUBANS…LOOK IN THE MIRROR PEOPLE….who is the government?…CUBANS. Who are the small private farmers?….CUBANS plus the historical dependence on imports. Cubans need to learn to live with less imports. This is the Achilles heel to Cuba.

    HAVANA – State-run food markets in the Cuban capital received only 60 percent of expected deliveries in January and just 64 percent in February, Communist Party daily Granma said Wednesday, adding that the agricultural reforms implemented by President Raul Castro have not yet yielded results.

    Granma reported that a scarcity of pesticides and fuel resulted in “costly damages” and pointed to supply and marketing problems, but also noted that the small-scale producers at the center of a plan to boost farm output say the changes in the sector “are not yet as beneficial as they had hoped.”

    “At times, excessive obstacles and prohibitions are breeding grounds for crime and bribery,” according to the newspaper, which cited excessive bureaucracy, lack of coordination and rigidity in food production and distribution.

    “Almost all the producers are making the same proposal: that they be able to access Havana markets without going through any intermediate steps.”

    Granma went on to say that supply shortages are “difficult to understand” given the strategic measures adopted by the government of Gen. Castro, who since formally succeeding ailing older brother Fidel two years ago said food production is a matter of “national security.”

    “Many … were hoping for a different scenario in January and February since the higher prices help producers, along with other factors such as the exploitation of idle land that had been given in usufruct, the creation of a large number of farms and the more rational and disciplined use of technical forces and means,” the newspaper said.

    Among the causes of the food shortages, Granma mentioned that the smallholders and cooperatives that produce 70 percent of the food sold to state-run markets “did not receive fertilizers and chemical products to protect their crops in the final quarter of 2009.

    Cuba’s current crisis, the biggest since the collapse of the Soviet Union and a resulting loss of subsidies from Moscow, has forced the government to reduce imports by a third, especially food imports, which made up 80 percent of what reached the dinner tables of Cuba’s 11 million people.

    Authorities blame the 48-year-old U.S. economic embargo, hurricanes that battered the island two years ago and the global financial crisis, among other factors, while opponents of the communist government say the problem is chronic inefficiency.

  20. Pingback: Potemkiadă la Havana în aşteptarea vizitei Papei Francisc în Cuba | Gogea's Blog

  21. YOUTUBE: CHRISTIAN SOLIDARITY WORLDWIDE CUBA-Footage and testimony of destruction of church in Santiago de Cuba

  22. YOUTUBE: CUBA: Caridad Diego on Government Persecution of Apostolic Movement
    For years, churches affiliated with the Apostlic Movement, a charismatic, evangelical network of churches in Cuba have complained of persecution and have given evidence of repeated violations of their religious liberty. The churches and the network have been denied the right to register and receive official recognition. One of the main leaders, Pastor Omar Gude Perez is serving a 6 1/2 year prison sentence on trumped up charges. Authorities have repeatedly threatened to confiscate the family’s home and goods. Other leaders have reported cases of harassment, arbitrary detention, confiscation of their homes and personal or church property. Churches have been completely demolished without warning while others have been forcibly shut down.The Cuban government has not responded to requests for an explanation and continues to maintain that there is religious freedom in Cuba. However, in early 2010, Caridad Diego, the long-time head of the Office of Religous Affairs for the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party addressed a group of leaders from the Cuban Council of Churches and openly admitted to the government’s targeted persecution of churches affiliated with the Apostolic Movement. Some of those in attendance were so shocked by her admission that they clandestinely filmed her speech. The video was smuggled out of the country and leaders of the Apostolic Movement asked Christian Solidarity Worldwide to make it public

  23. CHRISTIANITY TODAY: Religious freedom worsening in Cuba: ‘There is a crackdown happening’ – by Lucinda Borkett-Jones – January 26, 2015
    Violations of religious freedom are increasing in Cuba, according to a new report released by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) today.
    The number of recorded violations has risen year on year. There were 220 recorded incidences in 2014, up from 180 the previous year, 120 in 2012, and 40 in 2011.
    The incidences have also become more violent, with cases of Protestant pastors being arbitrarily detained or beaten and churches being demolished.
    But the increase in the figures is partly owed to more information being reported, despite government restrictions on information.
    “There is a crackdown happening… but that’s come simultaneously with more people speaking out and being ready to put their work and their situation on the line to make sure information gets out,” CSW’s Cuba advocate told Christian Today. “I think that then provokes a more intense crackdown, so it’s a circular cycle.
    “Everything’s monitored, so the Cuban government has complete control over telephone lines and internet connection. Any pastor or church official who tries to send information out is doing that knowing that what they are doing, the government’s going to know about and that comes with repercussions.”
    Those who have reported violations have been harassed and some have been threatened with arrest.

  24. Cuba’s hunger is driven by Global Warming and the U.S. embargo as it impacts the ability of Cuba to obtain loans. But, everybody likes to blame the Revolutionary government for everything. People here think that surrendering to U.S. hegemony will somehow change the outcome of the food shortages….I don’t think so….if it does it will come at a high price in sovereignty and independence…

  25. What Cuba Can Teach Us About Food and Climate Change
    After the Cold War, Cuba faced many of the agricultural challenges that the rest of the world is now anticipating.

    On Thursday, April 12, Future Tense, a partnership of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State, will host a live event in Washington, D.C. on the future of food. “Feeding the World While the Earth Cooks” will examine post-climate-change agriculture, the rising demand for meat, and more. Click here for a full agenda and to RSVP.

    The Studebakers plying up and down Havana’s boardwalk aren’t the best advertisement for dynamism and innovation. But if you want to see what tomorrow’s fossil-fuel-free, climate-change-resilient, high-tech farming looks like, there are few places on earth like the Republic of Cuba.

    Under the Warsaw Pact, Cuba sent rum and sugar to the red side of the Iron Curtain. In exchange, it received food, oil, machinery, and as many petrochemicals as it could shake a stick at. From the Missile Crisis to the twilight of the Soviet Union, Cuba was one of the largest importers of agricultural chemicals in Latin America. But when the Iron Curtain fell, the supply lines were cut, and tractors rusted in the fields.

    Unable to afford the fertilizers and pesticides that 20th-century agriculture had taken for granted, the country faced extreme weather events and a limit to the land and water it could use to grow food. The rest of the world will soon face many of the same problems: In the coming decade, according to the OECD, we’ll see higher fuel and fertilizer costs, more variable climate patterns, and limits to arable land that will drive cereal prices 20 percent higher and hike meat prices by 30 percent—and that’s just the beginning. Policymakers can find inspirational and salutary ideas about how to confront this crisis in Cuba, the reluctant laboratory for 21st-century agriculture.

    Cuban officials faced the crisis clumsily. They didn’t know how to transform an economy geared toward sweetening Eastern Europe into one that could feed folk at home. Agronomists had been schooled in the virtues of large-scale industrial collective agriculture. When the “industrial” part became impossible, they insisted on yet more collectivization. The dramatic decline in crop production between 1990 and 1994, during which the average Cuban lost 20 pounds, was known as “the Special Period.” Cubans have a line in comedy as dark as their rum.

    Cuban peasants proved more enterprising than the government and demanded change. First, they wanted control over land. The state had owned 79 percent of arable land, and most was run in state cooperatives. Initially the government refused to listen, but the depth of the crisis and the demands of organized farmers created some space for change. Through reform, the government decentralized farm management. The land remains in government hands, but now it is also available with “usufruct” rights to tenants, who can invest in the soil and pass the land onto their children.

    But that took the farmers only so far. So some of the country’s agronomists, plant breeders, soil scientists, and hydrologists (Cuba has 2 percent of Latin America’s population but 11 percent of its scientists) found themselves being put to use by Cuban peasants in the fields. Their task: figure out how to farm without the fossil-fuel products upon which the country’s agricultural systems had become dependent.

    With no fertilizer, pesticide, or herbicide, and no means to import substitute chemicals, many in the scientific community landed on “agro-ecology.” To understand what agro-ecology is, it helps first to understand why today’s agriculture is called “industrial.” Modern farming turns fields into factories. Inorganic fertilizer adds nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous to the soil; pesticides kill anything that crawls; herbicides nuke anything green and unwanted—all to create an assembly line that spits out a single crop. This is modern monoculture.

    Agro-ecology uses nature’s far more complex systems to do the same thing more efficiently and without the chemistry set. Nitrogen-fixing beans are grown instead of inorganic fertilizer; flowers are used to attract beneficial insects to manage pests; weeds are crowded out with more intensive planting. The result is a sophisticated polyculture—that is, it produces many crops simultaneously, instead of just one.

    In Cuba, peasants encouraged scientists to adopt this approach. One of their most important ideas, borrowed from elsewhere in Central America, was a model of knowledge diffusion called “Campesino a Campesino”—peasant to peasant. Farmers share their results and ideas with one another and with scientists, which has helped agro-ecological systems spread.

    So has it worked? That’s up for debate. The Cuban vice minister of the economy and planning ministry reportedly said in February 2007 that 84 percent of the country’s food was imported—not terribly encouraging, if we are looking at Cuba to foretell our agricultural future. But a recent paper by UC-Berkeley’s Miguel A. Altieri and the University of Matanzas’ Fernando R. Funes-Monzote suggests that while the country still imports almost all its wheat (a crop that doesn’t do well in the Caribbean), it now produces the majority of its fresh fruit and vegetables—even much of its meat. In 2007, Cubans produced more food while using one-quarter of the chemicals as they did in 1988.

    Agro-ecology is particularly valuable in years when disaster strikes the island. After Hurricane Ike flattened Cuba in 2008, a research team found that both traditional plantain monocultures and agro-ecological farms were devastated. But there were striking differences: Monocultures lost about 75 percent of tree cover, where agro-ecological farms lost 60 percent. On agro-ecological farms, tall plantains—a staple of the Caribbean diet—were often righted by the families working the land. By contrast, on conventional farms, the seasonal labor force arrived on the scene too late to save the plants. When trees were beyond salvage in the polyculture farms, crops lower down in the canopy thrived. By contrast, in the monoculture, the only things that flourished in the gaps between trees were weeds.

    About four months after the storm, strongly integrated agro-ecological farms were nearly back to full production. It took conventional farms an additional two months to spring back.Yet all is not well in the Cuban food system.

    For many, especially government officials, choosing agro-ecology wasn’t a red-blooded Communist decision. It was a practical one. They are quite ready for an industrial-agricultural relapse if the occasion arises. Recently, they have had an unlikely enabler: Hugo Chávez. In exchange for the 31,000 Cuban doctors who are treating Venezuelans, Cuba receives 100,000 barrels of oil a day, plus a great deal of chemical fertilizer. As a result, the parts of the country untouched by agro-ecology are starting to spray and sow like it’s the 1980s again.

    At odds aren’t just two different farming systems, but two different social approaches. On one hand, in Cuba and around the world, is industrial agriculture. In this top-down, command-and-control model, knowledge, fertilizers, seed, and land are all fed into the black box that is the farm. Wait long enough, and food comes out the other end.

    On the other hand, there’s agro-ecology, in which farmers are innovators and educators, soil can be built over generations, and the natural environment can be bent with, rather than broken.

    Climate change has already reduced global wheat harvests by 5 percent, and food prices are predicted to double by 2030. Cuba’s example is both instructive and frustrating. Technical innovations in Cuban agriculture point to the kinds of thinking needed to address the future: moving away from monoculture and understanding the value of complex, integrated systems. The trouble is that this also means a change in the mindset of governments and scientists schooled in last century’s agriculture. If that’s a lesson the rest of the world is ready for, Cuban peasant organizing could well light the way to the future, even if their automobiles are stuck in the past.

    Raj Patel is a fellow at the Institute for Food and Development Policy and author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System.

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