The first few years after the Soviet Union collapsed had a severe impact on Cuba. Almost overnight, Cuba lost '5 percent of its trade. Fertilizer, pesticide, and animal feed imports were reduced by '0 percent. 13 Imports of fertilizer dropped from 1.3 million tons per year to 160,000 tons in 2001. Herbicide and pesticide imports dropped from a combined 27,000 tons to 1,900 tons in 2001.14 And petroleum supplies for agriculture were halved.15

Food imports, which had accounted for 60 percent of Cuba's food, were also halved.16 And by 1994, agricultural production had dropped to 55 percent of the 1990 level.17 Per capita daily caloric intake dropped from 2,90' calories in 19'9 to 1,'63 calories in 1995, a decrease of 36 percent. Protein intake decreased by 40 per cent," and dietary fats dropped 65 percent." There are estimates that from the collapse of the Soviet Empire to 1994 the average Cuban lost 20 pounds.'1 Undernourishment jumped from less than 5 percent to over 20 percent, the largest increase in all of Latin America during the 1990s.21

The crisis was compounded by the US, which tightened its already stringent economic blockade. Throughout the worst years of the crisis, 7,500 excess deaths per year can be directly attributed to the US sanctions.22

Two government policies are credited with preventing the crisis from becoming catastrophic: food programs targeting particularly vulnerable populations (the elderly, children, and pregnant and lactating mothers), and the food distribution ration card which guaranteed a minimum food provision for every citizen (albeit greatly reduced from former levels). This government-maintained safety net kept the crisis from reaching depths comparable to North Korea, while giving the country breathing space to redesign its agricultural sector to meet the challenge.

The agrarian reforms of the mid-1990s were the key to recovering from the food crisis, but they could not have worked without the earlier agrarian reforms and without an educated and modernized peasantry unique in Latin America. The Cuban miracle is the product of a people with vision and solidarity.

0 0

Post a comment