The Cuban government approves plan to remove beggars from the streets.

Cuba's economic and social reality points to an increase in vulnerable people, and expectations of improvement fade even though the regime indicates otherwise.

Mendigo en Cuba © CiberCuba
Beggar in CubaPhoto © CiberCuba

Inflation and scarcity of basic products are essential ingredients in the increase of begging in Cuba, a fact that the regime plans to reverse with its (umpteenth) plan to assist "wandering individuals."

In streets where mentally ill people, elderly individuals, persons with disabilities, and alcoholics abound, the phenomenon is a reality that Miguel Díaz-Canel's government cannot hide, and therefore, the Council of Ministers approved the update of the policy for their care last May, after 10 years of being established.

The renewed regulation reaffirms the "responsibility of the Municipal Administration Councils in the prevention, care, control, monitoring, and decision-making" regarding individuals exhibiting "wandering behavior," explained the Minister of Labor and Social Security, Marta Elena Feitó Cabrera.

Among the planned actions, the creation of a Social Protection Center in Las Tunas is highlighted this year, which will join those already established in Pinar del Río, La Habana, Matanzas, Villa Clara, Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey, Holguín, Granma, and Santiago de Cuba.

According to Feitó, in this type of institution, individuals with a "wandering behavior" are clinically evaluated and assisted by multidisciplinary teams, trained to treat what he referred to as a "multicausal human behavior disorder, characterized by instability and insecurity in their place of residence, lack of self-care and economic autonomy, as well as a lack of a positive life plan", and in which "there is usually evidence of non-compliance with social norms and discipline".

The government official revealed that in the aforementioned social protection centers, more than 3,700 people are served. Of these, "87% are men; 50% are between 41 and 59 years old; 30% have disabilities; 24% have some psychiatric disorder; 30% have high alcohol consumption patterns; and 38% are under 60 years old and have no home to return to," according to the data cited by the minister.

Previously, figures from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security published by the weekly magazine Trabajadores indicated that between 2014 and 2023, 3,690 individuals were registered under these conditions; however, the economic and social reality of the island points to an increase beyond the official statistics, as it does not include those who, for different reasons, resorted to begging in churches, in front of tourists, or searching for their sustenance in garbage.

With the updated policy, it is proposed to design the protocol of action for the detection, information, and transfer of "wandering" people, as well as the evaluation of territories where there are no centers for their care, in order to expand the network.

Likewise, the regulations provide for referring underage individuals who are found wandering to the nearest educational or healthcare center to certify their health status, provide the required services, and inform the authorities. Provincial governments must facilitate access to rehabilitation, job opportunities, training courses, subsidies, housing, and temporary facilities for those under 60 years old without a permanent address.

Vice Prime Minister Jorge Luis Perdomo Di Lella said that the process of collecting people with these behaviors should be carried out with "comprehensiveness," as social protection centers are meant to assist them, not to have them in provisional prison regimes.

The main objective is to reintegrate them with their families, "demanding the family responsibility that is often lost," although he acknowledged that "there are people who are alone and are the responsibility of the State, that's what the established institutions are for."

Perhaps, this update of a policy that has been in place for a decade without encouraging results, may blur the current panorama that Cuba presents, located in the international ranking as the poorest country in Latin America, according to the DatoWorld observatory.

And expectations of improvement fade when taking into account low purchasing power, emigration, aging, food and medicine shortages, as well as measures implemented by the central government that undermine the well-being of its population.

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