09/24/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Open the Doors of the Cage and We Can Feed Ourselves

Speculation grows about the possible disappearance of the food rationing system in Cuba. Amid fear and hope, some assure us that by the beginning of 2010 the quota for salt and sugar will already be history and that the liberalization of these as well as other foods is upon us. Those who are frightened by this possibility can't imagine a life without the benefit from the State, without the crutch of subsidization. I myself was born into a situation in which every gram of what I had to put in my mouth was written into a ration book. Had I grown up with only what was regulated, I would have a body more rickety than I now exhibit. Fortunately, life has a greater number of options than the grids where, every month, the shopkeeper marks the minimal rations we get.

A simple calculation leads me to believe that if the 66 million pounds of rice they distribute every month, through the ration, were available to the free market, prices in the latter would go down. You could then decide if in place of the repetitive cereal you would buy potatoes or vegetables and no one would exclaim, "I will take everything they give me home, before I'd leave it in the shop." In addition, there wouldn't be the feeling that they are giving us something, and especially the sense of guilt that keeps us from protesting or criticizing those who guarantee these tiny portions. The ration market should remain for those who are suffer a physical or psychological impediment or who are unemployed. In short, it must go to those who need social security to survive.

Although the idea seems simple to say, the bottleneck of its implementation is that wages continue to be adjusted for the subsidized food from the "book" and don't relate to free prices. To say to a Cuban family that starting tomorrow they would not get the limited quantities and doubtful quality they receive from the ration store, would be to saw off the branch they're standing on. The birdseed, in addition to being restricted, is difficult to eliminate because you can only get rid of it once you open the doors of the cage. Thus, the news that we are actually waiting for is not the end of rationing, but rather the cessation of the economic handicap that obligates us to him, the expiration of a paternalistic relationship that keeps us like pigeons, dependent and... hungry.

Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.