CUBA: Santa & Guano

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Much can be said of Fidel Castro's wild schemes, but no one can accuse him of lacking imagination. In the high name of the revolution last week Castro nationalized 1) Cuba's bat guano caves, 2) every chicken egg in Havana province and 3) Santa Claus, who has gradually become the symbol of Christmas through much of Latin America.

Santa, ruled Castro's director of culture, Vicentina Antuña, is out because he is "a recent importation [from the U.S.] and foreign to our culture." From now on Cuban children will expect presents from the Three Wise Men on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany. No cardboard Santas or reindeer will be permitted. "Decorations must be made of Cuban materials, with traditional Cuban scenes," ruled Senora Antuña, "and Cuban Christmas cards must be used instead of imported ones." Yankee Christmas trees are out; everyone will use the good Cuban palm.

Havana's egg business became exclusive property of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA) because Castro is upset about overproduction and a drastic drop in prices. Farmers must sell their eggs at dictated prices to INRA, which will hold back part of the crop from market. Bat guano is an even more ambitious INRA undertaking, first sparked by Entrepreneur Bud Arvey (son of Chicago Democratic Bigwig Jake Arvey), who hit Cuba last spring with a plan to join the Castro government in a $500,000 partnership to scrape the guano deposits from caves in Pinar del Rio and Matanzas and ship it abroad as fertilizer. Castro decided that the commodity was much too valuable to share. In turning over exclusive control of bat guano to sprawling INRA, Castro noted that INRA Director Captain Antonio Núñez Jiménez is an expert spelunker, just the man to get in there and get the merchandise moving.