2024April 2024International News

Cuba Facing Cash and Food Shortages

Cuba Facing Cash and Food Shortages

Madeline Kruszczynski

Digital Editor

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When Americans talk about Cuba, a complex and perhaps dated narrative unfolds. People may think of communism, echoes of the Cold War, and the enduring impacts of widespread embargoes, which are all representative of the geopolitical and ideological differences between Cuba and the United States in the 1950s. However, since the thawing of the Cold War in the late eighties, Cuba has undergone a path marked by development juxtaposed by persistent stalls in progress in various spheres.

In 1933, Fulgencio Batista assumed the presidency of Cuba and won over the people through his humble origins, charisma, and promise to redistribute wealth. Batista enacted a popular stimulus package and the development of agriculture and industry, as recalled in a study by the University of Miami. After his first term concluded, Batista traveled to Florida, where he would stay until 1952, when he resumed his leadership in Cuba. Batista reemerged with a more authoritarian demeanor, exerting control over various facets of Cuban life, from the press and education to the legislative body, as documented by Britannica. As frustration grew within the population, the stage was set for the emergence of the youthful Fidel Castro, poised to lead a successful revolution in 1959.

Fidel Castro gained support through the broad promise of restoring rights for the people, but once he successfully became the leader of Cuba, his initiatives and focus shifted. Castro developed strong relations with Russia’s leader at the time, Nikita Khrushchev, as reported by the Wilson Center. This led to the rise of communism in Cuba, which disrupted the economic system entirely.  Under this system, the government assumed the collectivization of industries and agriculture, welfare programs, and fixed prices for goods. It is vital to consider these policies when analyzing the current situation in Cuba, where its effects are felt throughout the population. 

For years, Cuba has struggled with persistent food shortages, which catalyzed the recent exodus from the island. According to The Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas, an estimated 425,000 Cuban migrants sought refuge in the United States between 2022 and 2023. The root causes of these shortages are multifaceted, with standout issues being a lack of government support for production, COVID-19-induced disruptions, US sanctions, and a lack of hard currency, as highlighted by The Associated Press. Moreover, Cuba has faced severe economic challenges, including an average annual inflation rate of nearly 50 percent over the past three years and a 2 percent contraction in Gross Domestic Product (GPD). These economic difficulties are further complicated by low salaries, which makes it increasingly challenging for families to afford necessities due to soaring inflation and intensified competition.

Cubans who are unable to leave the island have begun to organize protests across Cuba. In addition to inflation and the struggle for affordable food, widespread power outages have sent the nation into darkness. “The mosquitoes, the relentless heat, the scarcity of water—people are reaching a breaking point. This desperation breeds further issues, including outbreaks of violence,” shared a participant in the Cuban protests according to Reuters. While these demonstrations are reportedly peaceful, they underscore a dire need for assistance in Cuba. The conditions have led to the beginning of a humanitarian crisis, with Cuban children falling ill due to the sweltering heat and malnutrition. As heat is only to rise in Cuba within the next weeks, all eyes are on the Cuban government to assist its people. 

Image courtesy of Getty Images

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