The Cuban Armed Forces, which control the tourism industry, are now offering a $1,000 dinner party soiree, while ordinary Cubans cue up for hours for the most meager food items.
Cuba’s Communist elite has long profited from the tourism industry, while ordinary Cubans live a life of hunger and want (White Dinner).
In Cuba there is a serious food shortage; so much so that the regime has forbidden officials from talking about it in order to avoid internal rancor. The regime, of course, sanctions those who have more than their regulatory rations. In stark contrast, for the first time, Havana joined the list of cities celebrating the elite White Dinner that costs a mere USD $1,000 per guest.
Le Dîner en Blanc is an international event that started in Paris, as its French name suggests. Founder François Pasquier developed the concept as a “secret” picnic.
The event has three rules: only guests can attend, the concept is that everyone brings their own food, and all must go dressed in white. That and guests must bring USD $1,000 a piece.
“It is an event destined to gather friends, it does not have any specific message,” said Pasquier of the party, according to Martí Noticias de Miami. “The guests come to bring their own message and share a moment of friendship,” he added.
It was not an isolated event, but had the endorsement of the very creator. His son, Aymeric Pasquier, attended the party in Havana.
The event has taken place in more than 80 cities around the world, but in Cuba it has been different. Considering that there is no food in the streets, part of the guided tour of the island includes getting food for the guests and transporting them to the hotel
Nothing that happens in Cuba happens without the endorsement of the regime, in particular in the tourism industry that is managed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces.
So while a Cuban is sanctioned with a fine exceeding two average salaries for having more eggs than those listed in his ration book, the same regime provides exorbitant amounts for tourists who spend more than one night in Cuba a year.
Faced with this, the Communist regime faces growing accusations of courting foreign tourists to enrich its elite at the expense of the impoverished majority.
“The dinner featured extravagant costumes, masks, and hats with feathers, animated by an orchestra and more than 500 revelers, 80 percent of them Americans, the rest from other countries and a few Cubans,” reports Agence France-Presse (AFP) which deemed the celebration in Havana “ostentatious.”
AFP communicated with the event planners, and one of them from the United States, called the event a demonstration of “unity…It’s beautiful, it’s a sea of colors, a sea of nationalities, and it’s here in Cuba,” said Kay Barnes, a native of the nearby state of Florida.
“What a wonderful symbol of unity…Dressing in white, the atmosphere, the champagne, the sparkles, I love it,” she said.
Given that for decades there has been tension between the governments of both countries, it was not until the Obama administration reached an agreement with the Castro regime that American tourists began to arrive.
But tourists are seriously shielded from the Cuban reality, because no Cuban who is not linked to the regime could dream of that level of culinary abundance. However, according to the creator of the event, the white color of the party is a symbol of equality.
In Cuba, what prevails is the red color of the Communist Party that demands a planned economy, where the regime restricts the access of citizens while providing tourists with luxuries that the Cuban people could not even dream of. Therefore, in contrast, those who lead the non-violent resistance in Cuba also raise the white color.
The most representative are the Ladies in White, a group formed by wives, mothers, daughters and other relatives of political prisoners who wear white and attend Catholic Mass on Sundays to advocate for human rights and the release of political prisoners.
However, they would not be allowed, or financially able, to attend events such as the Dîner en Blanc.
In fact, a worker from the Provincial Food Industry Company in Pinar del Rio, told 14ymedio that, “They gathered the administrative staff to tell us that very difficult times are coming. It was a meeting with directors of the Minal who came from Havana in which they pointed out that we could not use the phrase ‘special period’ in communications with the population.”
That is to say that the shortage of food is such that we must control what is said and how it is said to avoid panic in the streets, while in the same island there was sufficient food for lavish dinner parties.
And the fact is that the crisis in Venezuela, which for years has supplied Cuba with free or heavily subsidized oil, is equivalent to the fall of the USSR, which until its implosion had supplied Cuba.
Now there are hour long waits to access basic items such as eggs and bread, while the tourism industry, run by the Revolutionary Armed Forces, offers USD $1,000 dinner soirees and transport to foreign visitors.
“I’m never the first. By then, there are usually five or six people before me. I also take the opportunity to get a place in the bakery line, since the soft bread that my grandchildren is sold at 5:30am,” explained a man to Diario Las Américas. “Sometimes we stand in line for no reason, because nothing comes in,” he lamented.
He also explained that he has eaten a “classic Cuban staple” for a long time: coffee mixed with low-cost ground peas.
Finally, Cubanet reports that there are already restaurants that have closed due to lack of food.
In other words, this discussion of “unity” really amounts to income for the regime -through tourism-, from which Cubans do not benefit.