Cuban envoy confirms food shortage

Thursday, May 16, 2019

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CUBAN Ambassador to Jamaica Inés Fors Fernández has confirmed reports in international media of a recent decline in food supply in the long-embattled Caribbean country, noting that current events involving some of its long-time allies are among the contributing factors.

Fors Fernández was speaking at Tuesday's Rotary Club of St Andrew luncheon at Hotel Four Seasons in St Andrew, where she revealed that the recent tightening of the trade embargo levelled against Cuba by the United States has worsened the country's economic situation.

“Some people call it embargo; we say it is a blockade, for almost 60 years. I'm talking about [a big] — some people consider it the most important and powerful — country against a small, small country. I could say that it's not fair, but it's true,” she said.

Cuba and the US restored diplomatic relations in July 2015 under former President Barack Obama, ending a 54-year stretch of hostility between the nations, stemming from the end of the Cold War. In March 2016, Obama became the first US president to visit the island nation since 1928.

But the Trump Administration last month reversed any progress the renewed relationship had produced, declaring severe new sanctions against the country. The Administration announced the end of nearly all non-family travel to Cuba and placed new limits on the money Cuban-Americans can send to family on the island.

The Administration is also expected to implement a 23-year-old law aimed at blocking US and foreign investment in Cuba, first passed by Congress in 1996 as part of a broader sanctions package but put on hold because it triggered intense opposition among US allies.

“What we are facing now is a direct consequence of these economic, commercial and financial blockades against my country. Of course, there are other factors that we have to take into account. There are some financial constraints, because I could say that the trade between the two countries is under certain parameters. For example, if I want to buy something through China, China can give me something like credit, but now most countries [are] asking Cuba to pay in advance,” the ambassador said.

Fors Fernández added that the island has been hit by several hurricanes in the last few years, which have negatively impacted the economy.

On Friday, the Associated Press reported that the Cuban Government announced 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 US 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 subsidised fuel that Cuba used for power and to earn hard currency on the open market.

— Additional reporting by AP

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