In Cuba, socialism's sugar-daddy shortage brings on heavy rationing

Looks as if socialist Cuba is in for another of what its communist officials will euphemistically call "a special period."

Here's the Associated Press report:

The Cuban government announced Friday that it is launching widespread rationing of chicken, eggs, rice, beans, soap and other basic products in the face of a grave economic crisis.

Commerce Minister Betsy Díaz Velázquez told the state-run Cuban News Agency that various forms of rationing would be employed in order to deal with shortages of staple foods. She blamed the hardening of the U.S. trade embargo by the Trump administration. Economists give equal or greater blame to a plunge in aid from Venezuela, where the collapse of the state-run oil company has led to a nearly two-thirds cut in shipments of subsidized fuel that Cuba used for power and to earn hard currency on the open market.

The Cuban regime is yelling again about a U.S. 'embargo,' which is complete nonsense, given that not only is there no embargo, but even when there was one, it excluded food and medicine.  A few communist officials engaged in acts such as dissident torture have earned themselves some U.S. sanctions of late.  But that's hardly an embargo.

In reality, the problem is money.  The Cuban socialist regime imports nearly all its sustenance, which takes money — $2 billion, according to the AP report.  The communists in charge make all decisions about what is to be bought and brought into the country, and somehow they can't buy anything now.  That's a function of the fact that the regime used to get a lot of money from the international sugar-daddy nations it needed to prop itself up, such as Russia at one time, and then Venezuela, whose oil earnings up until recently did the job.

Not only has Cuba lost Russia as a big sponsor (there is reason to think Russia still helps a little), but it's lost Venezuela, which used to ship 100,000 barrels of oil daily to the communist regime, something the Castro dictatorship would then sell at full price on international markets.  You didn't think the regime would use that oil to supply Cubans, did you?

The Cubans have also lost Algeria, as I noted here.  And they've lost once-socialist Brazil, noted there, too.  While Russia and Venezuela get all the press, plenty of other players have been on hand to help keep the regime afloat and Uncle Sam tweaked.  They're gone now.  They've crashed out on their own, seen their dictatorships thrown out, or decided they don't want to annoy President Trump anymore.

Which is a big problem for the ruling Castro family dictatorship.  With no sugar daddies, they are sunk.  And it's obvious they know this, given their assurances to the press that it won't be all that bad.  And one can hope Cubans take inspiration from places such as Algeria and rise up to get rid of this failure.

After all, why should any country need sugar daddies at all?  Normal countries don't, and pre-communism Cuba didn't, but these guys do.  It points to an even more fundamental problem: sustainability.  The fact is that under communism, Cuba produces virtually nothing of value itself.  The AP piece has some excellent quotes from ordinary Cubans showing that they do know what's really wrong:

Manuel Ordoñez, 43, who identified himself as a small business owner, said the new measures would do nothing to resolve Cuban's fundamental problems.

"What the country needs to do is produce. Sufficient merchandise is what will lead to shorter lines," he said.

What did Cuba do to its small business–owners once the Obama administration left power and there was no need to put on a Potemkin show of Havana Spring?

Trashed them, of course, with taxes, driving them out of business, blaming them as hoarders and wreckers, jailing a few, confiscating the earnings of others, shaking still others down.  It's been a hard, nasty, little reported slog for these tiny businesses, even as Cuba took great press for permitting them just a few years ago.

The Cuban quoted was trying to tell the AP that Castro's on-again, off-again permit of free enterprise, even in tiny amounts, is what might make Cuba a normal country, and we all know that Cuba largely shut that down.  Socialism wins, of course, but the people can't eat.

Don't expect anyone in the Bernie Sanders orbit to think that one through.  But it's obvious to the rest of us that sugar-daddy-free socialism cannot provide anything like a standard of living for people on its own merits, and now Cuba is going to get it.  One can only hope this leads to an Algeria-intensity revolt on an utterly failed regime and an utterly failed economic model as the well deserved result.

Image credit: Jorge Royan via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 3.0.