Sanctions Lead to Creative Condoms for a Communist Cuba

Condoms have become a multi-purpose tool in a country that does not have much access to resources.



In a communist country like Cuba, you have to be innovative to make up for the absence of goods more widely available in open markets.

According to a Reuters report, latex condoms are one such vector for problem solving. Cubans have found uses for them that include fishing, fermenting wine, and tying up hair.

Last year, the Associated Press interviewed Orestes Estevez, a Cuban winemaker who used condoms to ferment his fruit wines. "Putting a condom on a bottle is just like with a man," he told AP. "It stands up, the wine is ready, and then the process is completed."

Reuters goes on to explain that a box of three latex condoms are as cheap as one Cuban peso, the equivalent to four cents. This is especially significant when considering that the average state wage on the island is $30 a month. The product is cheap because of a mix of government subsidies and a heightened focus on sexual health. As for how condoms became an acceptable replacement for products such as hair ties, Cuban consumers can look to a centralized economy and foreign economic interventions such as U.S. sanctions and embargoes, all of which have led to desolate markets and expensive imports.

A number of American politicians have spoken out against the American government's role in this. Before Sen. Jeff Flake (R–Ariz.) accompanied former President Barack Obama on a historical trip to the island in 2016, Flake told Reason that "It always bothered me that as a Republican we preach the gospel of contact and commerce and trade and travel, yet with Cuba we turn around and say, 'No, it's not going to work there.'" Flake also observed that economic interventions have affected American citizens by limiting their freedom to travel to the island. In 2017, Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) argued in Reason that the embargo placed on Cuba over half a century ago has done "absolutely nothing" to remove figures like the now-deceased Fidel Castro from power. In fact, Paul said the embargoes may have indirectly kept him in power longer.

Bonus link: John Stossel encourages President Trump to embrace free trade with Cuba.

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  1. No. Sanctions don’t cause this. Communism causes this. Cuba is free to trade with nearly the entire world outside of the US. The place is poor and falling apart for one reason; it is run by communists. Reason is just appalling to claim otherwise.

    1. How long do you think before we get an article blaming Trump for steel prices in Cuba?

    2. Right-wing cranks applaud stale American thinking and policy with respect to Cuba.

      Libertarians, moderates, liberals, and some sensible Republicans recognize the authoritarian foolishness.

      1. The embargo is stupid and needs to be ended, but John’s right. It’s not the reason Cuba’s a shithole.

      2. The embargo goes all the way back to Eisenhower. Lots of Democratic Presidents and Congresses have had the opportunity to end it and haven’t done it.

  2. I’ve never understood why it was ok to do business with commie places like China and Vietnam, but not with Cuba.

    1. Cynical, counterproductive right-wing politics tied to coddled-snowflake Cuban refugees in Florida, mostly.

    2. Possibly because Castro stole a lot of American owned stuff.
      Name of claimant / Amount of loss certified ($)
      Cuban Electric Company* : 267,568,414
      North American Sugar Industries, Inc. : 97,373,415
      MOA Bay Mining Company: 88,349,000
      United Fruit Sugar Company : 85,100,147
      West Indies Sugar Corp. : 84,880,958
      American Sugar Company : 81,011,240
      ITT as Trustee : 80,002,794
      Exxon Corporation : 71,611,003
      The Francisco Sugar Company: 52,643,438
      Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, : 51,128,927
      International Telephone and Telegraph .: 50,676,964
      Texaco, Inc. : 50,081,110
      Manati Sugar Company: 48,587,848
      Bangor Punta Corporation: 39,078,905
      Nicaro Nickel Company: 33,014,083
      The Coca-Cola Company: 27,526,239
      Lone Star Cement Company : 24,881,287
      The New Tuinucu Sugar Company : 23,336,080
      Colgate-Palmolive: 14,507,935
      Braga Brothers, Inc.: 12,612,873

      1. Castro wasn’t looking for trade he was looking for subsidies. What did he have to trade? Sugar? Not with the US sugar lobby.
        Moldy cigars and Desoto and Packard parts?

        Castro was lucky to find dolts to subsidize him, Khruschev, Chavez and almost Obama.

        1. Venezuela is still sending oil to Cuba at discounted rates. Venezuela sends oil to Cuba, Cuba sends muscle to Venezuela.

  3. Lech Walesa famously expressed incredulity that the US embargoed Cuba. “You have such a perfect example of the flaws of socialism and you help them hide it?” (Obviously, paraphrased)

  4. …a heightened focus on sexual health.

    i.e. preventing extra little burdens on the state.

  5. “Putting a condom on a bottle is just like with a man,” he told AP. “It stands up, the wine is ready, and then the process is completed.”

    Hmm. Mine tends to stop standing up when the process has completed.

  6. I read somewhere that soldiers have often used them to cover their rifle barrels to keep out muck and sand. Clever and you don’t need to remove it if you need to fire.

    Recently the nice people of Hamas have found a more sinister use in their incendiary balloon bombs.

    In any case I am all for ending the embargo on Cuba.

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