Where's the Beef in Cuba?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014
There's a long article in Vice about the Cuban people's "quixotic quest" for beef, which they refer to as "red gold".

Here's an excerpt:

[T]the anxiety I saw in his eyes that night, an anxiety that I saw reflected over and over as I reported this story, was a fragile reminder that Cuba remains a part of the world where you cannot speak openly about democracy or freedom. The revolutionaries and freedom fighters had ostensibly liberated their people from the shackles of oppression and imperial capital, yet here they were, 55 years later, an isolated island autocracy spending billions on food, much of it from its main enemy, with an impoverished populace—despite having access to free education and health care. Cubans are “liberated” to the extent that they are forbidden from traveling, nervous about speaking their minds for fear of government reprisal, and not just suffering from malnutrition but incapable of even procuring their beloved beef.

To them, moringa is nothing compared to bistec de palomilla. Cubans describe themselves as “carnivorous” people; they want beef more than any other food. But even sadder than the government’s attempts to replace steaks with fruit rinds and root vegetables is the fact that there’s no milk for children. This is what happens when all the cows belong to the government—and the state is an authoritarian regime whose guerrilla leaders ate all the cows and made their own laws.

“Life is meaningless without ideas,” Fidel once declared. “There is no greater joy than to struggle in their name.” It’s a glorious sentiment, yet Cubans today face an incessant parade of state-sanctioned tribulations—few of which seem all that meaningful. You can be killed for speaking out; no wonder you can go to jail for slaughtering a cow. Fifty-three hundred dissidents were arbitrarily detained in 2013 alone. Those who become too successful in the private sector can still find themselves being summoned to a meeting with government representatives. They are given two choices: hand over the business to the state or go to prison. That’s what la libertad means in this Kafkaesque never-never land, a place where people still risk their lives at sea trying to flee the ideas Fidel and Che fought for so valiantly.