Cuba is a miserable third-world dump. Gracias, Fidel.

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A picture by noted British photographer Jo Kearney won a prize in this year’s Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year awards, in the category of Alimentary Politics. It shows a largely empty, woeful food establishment in what could be Haiti or Africa, except for the propaganda sign proclaiming Cuba’s “solidarity with the world” and photos of Fidel Castro and his heir as dictator. This was not a typical scene in pre-Castro Cuba, not even in small rural towns.

Kearney has been to Cuba before and is aware of the country’s terrible economic situation. She won a prize last year for a photo showing the domestic living conditions of ordinary Cubans in crumbling Havana. Alas, to most of the outside world, such images are more or less picturesque and “normal” for such a country, as if Cuba had always been that way and there was nothing surprising or remarkable about its poverty and generalized decay.

In terms of food, the once self-sufficient and fertile island is now unproductive and dependent on imports, as even the government admits, and since what money there is primarily goes to the tourist sector and maintaining the regime in power, ordinary Cubans live in a daily struggle to procure food, often of poor quality and limited quantity–especially if they get no financial help from relatives abroad. Again, this was never an issue before the “glorious” revolution.

So, crude as it may sound, though through no fault of Ms. Kearney, the photo gives the impression that everything has been smeared with feces. Unfortunately, that applies to practically all of Cuba, at least the real Cuba, metaphorically speaking. This situation was not inevitable, let alone necessary, but it certainly reflects a flagrantly failed system whose promises were false and which was never about “the people,” but about eternal power for the ruling class.

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