By FRANK DAVIES
Herald Staff Writer
WASHINGTON -- The woeful state of agriculture in Cuba, and the inability
the island nation to feed its people, was documented Tuesday by a new report that
had few surprises except its source -- two economists still in Cuba.
Using statistics from the Cuban government, the economists show the decline
production and the failure of the state-managed economy, especially since the end
of Soviet subsidies in 1989. The Cuban government blames those problems on the
U.S. embargo; the economists cite inefficiency as ``the endemic malaise of the
The report, sent out of Cuba earlier this year, was written by hand --
with tables and charts -- by Manuel Sanchez Herrero and Arnaldo Ramos
Lauzurique. The former agriculture economists are now ``self-employed'' and
working with a group of dissidents.
``They prepared and sent this analysis at great personal risk,'' said Ernesto
Betancourt, the former director of Radio Marti who reviewed the report for the
Center for a Free Cuba.
Along with Betancourt, two economists -- Edgardo Favaro, who works on
Caribbean development for the World Bank, and former U.S. AID official
Antonio Gayoso -- analyzed the report at a meeting Tuesday sponsored by the
center on Capitol Hill.
``This is a bleak picture of Cuban agriculture, which is not surprising,''
who agreed that farm production on the island lags behind that of Haiti and other
countries in the region.
``This collapse of the system should lead to some changes,'' Favaro said.
report shows the power of ideas -- bad ideas.''
Favaro and Gayoso said the report highlights the destructive results of
of policy -- putting most resources into sugar, then reversing course by
diversifying, then experimenting with a very limited free market that has not
The Cuban economists' report shows that agricultural production grew a
percent during the 1980s, then declined by at least 20 percent from 1990 to 1995.
Cuba is ``incapable of generating the level of food production required for meeting
the nutritional needs of the population,'' they found.
Gayoso said the island would face famine except that some farmers are finding
ways to sell some of their produce, once they meet state quotas, ``on the fence'' --
to their neighbors. But limited free-market efforts have not provided enough
incentive to boost production, he said.
``The half-hearted [economic] reforms haven't made much difference,'' agreed
Betancourt. ``What you have is some nonprofit capitalism -- and that doesn't
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald