Conor Moore and Kaysea Suzana | Staff Writers
Cuba is on track to becoming one of the world’s oldest countries.
On Sept. 7, Cuban expert and researcher Sergio Díaz-Briquets and Visiting Scholar Elaine Acosta González discussed a potential crisis scenario in the coming decades if Cuba continues business as usual.
In a slideshow of graphs and statistics, the panel, hosted in Spanish, remarked on the inadequate levels of care that the elderly are given in Cuba, as well as the country’s rapidly declining fertility.
“Since 1960, we’ve been trying to map out the locations of places that offer social and welfare initiatives as well as programs”, said Gonzalez.
There is a significant gap in data accessible to the wider world regarding Cuban poverty, particularly in regards to the elderly.
The elderly in Cuba have been a target of the government’s shortening capacity to provide: the feeding program’s coverage and quality has fallen off, and there are no reductions in cost for medications or services to those over 65.
“Since 2017, the government hasn’t conducted any research into acquiring data on the wellbeing of the elderly,” Gonzalez explained.
In addition, a severe deficit of healthcare and medical supplies has been hurting the island nation’s health for years.
The number of subsidized food items offered through Cuba’s rationing system has diminished significantly in wake of a declining economy.
“Among these financial difficulties, there have been changes in the dynamic between demographic groups, yet the government institutions have not changed,” Gonzalez said.
Both Gonzalez and Diaz-Briquets agree that the inclusion of a silver economy,, an industry-based system focused on fulfilling the needs of a society, might be the solution for this crisis.
“Those who flee Cuba tend to go [to Miami]. If they cannot, they go to Panama or Costa Rica, places with a silver economy. The major issue is that these places are not equipped to handle the mass numbers of immigrants,” said Diaz-Briquets.
“The government does not think economically, they think in matters of control. It’s a hole that keeps digging deeper.”
After the main lecture concluded, attendees were prompted to ask questions pertaining to the validity of the statistics of the financial problems in Cuba.
Alumna Eloisa Echazabal inquired with a worried face, “One of the things that wounds me the most is that those who need [the] elderly care, are those that don’t have family in their vicinity,” Echzabal said.
Not only are the elderly more likely to be left by themselves, but as Gonzalez mentioned, they are more susceptible to be taken advantage of by what family they do have.
“We know that from data we have, the targeted group of financial abuse are the elderly. A majority of [the elderly] don’t have financial support from their own families,” Gonzalez explains.
Junior Diego Perez, majoring in Psychology, asked about a previous comment Gonzalez had made regarding the industrial capacity for medical equipment delegated for elderly care, such as walking canes, prosthetics, wheelchairs, and adjustable beds.
“The Cuban government itself has acknowledged that they themselves do not have the industries for producing enough of these products. Oftentimes, they have to be imported or funded by religious, non-profit groups. Regardless, these are insufficient supplies,” Gonzalez said.
According to the presentation, a full-scale privatization program would play a part in providing the infrastructure necessary for medicational production, but given their commitment to communism despite major economic and social woes, it appears unlikely to happen in the immediate future.
“There is knowledge on what needs to be done, but there are no efforts to do so,” Diaz-Briqueta concluded.