Castro uses pressure cooker economics
Published March 13, 2005
HAVANA - Pressure cookers and rice steamers, essential tools of the Cuban kitchen, are the new weapons in Fidel Castro's latest battle to reassert control over the nation's economy.
During a 51/2-hour speech broadcast on state TV, Castro said 100,000 pressure cookers would be made available each month - an announcement that underscored the communist country's continued retreat toward greater political and economic centralism.
The move "will do away with the rustic kitchen," Castro told the Federation of Cuban Women on Tuesday night, saying the new cookers would use half the energy of the homemade ones they will replace.
The program could wipe out what has become a popular, and in most cases legal, private business that uses molds to make pressure cookers from cheap aluminum. Although imported cookers are sold in stores for about $25 - more than the average Cuban earns in a month - homemade ones cost about $5.50.
At subsidized prices, the government-distributed cookers will cost about the same as the homemade ones. And the government's cookers can be paid for in monthly installments.
The government began moving last year to trim the already small number of people legally allowed to work for themselves.
Cuba was forced to allow some private business beginning in the mid 1990s amid an economic crisis in the years after the withdrawal of Soviet aid and trade.
But after a slow recovery, recent discoveries of oil deposits off Cuba's coast and economic alliances with Venezuela and China, Castro clearly believes the island is strong enough to return to a more centralized economy.
[Last modified March 11, 2005, 18:16:02]
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