ALTO SONGO, Santiago de Cuba December, 2003 - The president of the
National Alliance of Independent Cuban Farmers, Antonio Alonso, wrote this letter to U. S. farmers, explaining the situation faced by Cuban
farmers, whom the government prevents from freely planting and selling their produce.
Jutinic˙, December 10, 2003
To American Farmers:
Lately we have seen that many of you have an interest in selling your
produce in the Cuban market, and to that end you and your representatives have lobbied the U. S. government to remove the restrictions to commerce with Cuba.
In furtherance of the same goal, the Cuban government decries what it
calls the U. S. government’s violation of the rights of its citizens to sell their products wherever they see fit, including Cuba.
In fact, we of the National Alliance of Independent Farmers uphold the
right of all farmers to sell our produce to whomever we see fit; the
problem we have is that the same Cuban government that defends the rights of foreign producers to sell openly, denies that right to Cuban
For example, Cuban coffee planters are visited regulary by government
officials who determine what the volume of the crop will be and set the
amounts of coffee to be delivered to the government. Any shortages
incur fines of up to ten times the value of the undelivered crop.
After the harvest, police and government officials visit producers
again and confiscate any part of the crop the farmer may have retained,
alleging that it is destined for the black market.
Similarly, sugar cane producers are not allowed to switch to another
crop, and seldom have sugar for their own consumption in their homes.
Farmers raising a few head of cattle may not butcher an animal, or sell
it, without previous government authorization. If they should be so
unlucky as to suffer the theft of a steer, government officials may levy a
steep fine of even force them to sell their herd, if they determine the
theft occurred because the farmer did not exercise due care.
Many of these ranchers have seen fit to live in facilities that allow
them to sleep among at least some of their animals. This state of
affairs makes raising cattle unattractive and explains how the Cuban herd has
diminished to less than half what it was in 1959.
It seems hard to understand how, with fertile soil, a climate that
allows in most cases two crops per year, and plenty of qualified technical
workers, we have lost the capacity to produce enough to feed ourselves.
In 1997, when a group of us petitioned the government for freedom to
plant what we wished and to sell it as we wished, we were arrested,
prosecuted, and treated as common criminals.
We would not hesitate to support your right to sell your produce in
Cuba, but we would ask that you support our right to likewise plant and
sell our produce in whatever way we choose.
We ask that, in your rightful pursuit of economic advantage, you not
ignore the repeated violations of our human rights and of our rights to
economic development inflicted by the Cuban government.
I hereby invite you visit us whenever you come to Cuba, so that you may
gain an appreciation of our situation and so that we can explore
commercial opportunities among ourselves, without interference by any
Pedro Antonio Alonso, President
National Alliance of Independent Cuban Farmers