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Cuba's 50th Anniversary Leaves Their Population In Poverty Without Political Freedom

Back in 1959, many believed that Fidel Castro and his revolutionary forces who challenged the government of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista were little more than some agrarian reformers who would bring some needed parity between the small upper class of Cuban society and the large mass of poor. However, as Cuban marked it's 50th anniversary on Thursday as a Communist state, most in Cuba are simply still left in poverty and without political freedom.

Under the current rule of Fidel Castro's brother, Raul Castro, Cubans still struggle to have enough to eat, where a government rationed food basket may guarantee that every Cuban family receives at least some essential foods, however it is not nearly enough to eat and families must struggle on meager incomes of sometimes as little as an average of 408 pesos a month, which is a little more than $125 U.S., to purchase more basic food goods and pay other living expenses. And because Cuban food production lags so far behind government goals, many families still struggle to afford more food products not provided by the small government rationed supplies. These short supplies of food are just one of many broken promises of this Communist state which has failed on so many levels.

Since the Communist system in Cuba can only regulate the price of goods produced within in Cuba, and so much needs to imported from abroad into Cuba, rapid inflation on many goods including food has left most Cubans in deep poverty. Unlike China or more pragmatic Communist regimes, Cuba's Communist government simply has not modernized or undergone some critical restructuring to become part of the world economy and community. Cuba may not be quite as isolationist as North Korea by any means. But the government of Cuba has certainly hindered the economy of Cuba.

Both China and Vietnam, may be Communist states, but both have welcomed massive foreign investment and trade, as well as fostered friendly relations with the United States. Cuba's main problem has always been that it fails to do what is required to have more constructive economic relations with the United States, and this has forced long range relationships with nations such as the old Soviet Union. When the old Soviet Union collapsed, so also did much of the financial support for struggling Cuba as well.

Cuba has experienced some recent new oil discoveries that China and other states are beginning to invest in because Cuba lacks the funds to develop these oil assets itself. But other than this one bright spot, there is little room for optimism that the Cuban economy will improve greatly for most citizens very soon. In fact, conditions continue to be so bleak, that many Cubans still continue to risk their lives on poorly made homemade rafts to set sail for Florida only 90 miles away. In fact, the per capita income in Cuba is well below most of Latin America as a whole, where only some bright spots such as a high literacy rate and an infant mortality rate that is lower than many other Latin states due to government run medical services. However this is surprising because how poorly equipped these medical services are. Often families of hospital patients will bring in supplies from home to supplement what the hospital lacks in basic goods needed for patient care.

And there are the constant images of prerevolution 1950's cars still operating in Cuba. This nation has been known to export some of these old Chevrolets and Packards for sale in order to buy goods. Many individuals who own such old cars, have been known to make their parts in order to keep them running because it is so difficult to purchase a new car in Cuba because of the poor economy. Car_in_Trinidad_Cuba.jpg

Cuba's leadership has left the Communist state in a condition only slightly better than North Korea in so many regards. Cuba could have a huge tourist industry if it would have better relations with the U.S. and open up foreign investment to build hotels and casinos. But instead the hardline Communist government often views such notions as "decadent capitalism", so this closed minded approach has on;y helped to keep Cuba in poverty.

The hardcore revolutionary thinking of the Communist leadership of Cuba has only resulted in economic isolation from the U.S., when it really needed to have good relations and have a pragmatic economic relationship with it's large neighbor.

But most surprisingly, since at least 1940, Cuba has been heavily involved with Communism. Dictator Batista actually brought in the support of many Communist controlled labor unions as well as Communist members into his government when he first ran for political office before eventually taking control of the nation by force. Batista did bring in some economic reforms to address poverty issues, but it was not nearly enough to satisfy Fidel Castro and the Communist forces he commanded.

After the successful 1959 revolution, Castro promised free elections within six months. This hasn't happened yet. And for a time, even the strong Catholic Church faced great sanctions by the atheist government, but these sanctions have eased somewhat over the years. However, Cubans still live in a poverty ridden society with little gains to show, and little freedoms.

Cuba needs to be pragmatic and replace both Castro brothers with a true reformer that will approach the Obama Administration and promise significant reforms and open this nation up to strong economic trade and tourism traffic with the U.S. But until this happens, this nation will be stuck in poverty where so many old 1950's automobiles on the streets of cities like Havana really tell the tale of how this nation has been stuck in time thanks to the failure of Communism.


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Comments (9)

Allen:

Paul, in many ways you are correct, and in a few wrong. Other countries have not sanctioned Cuba like the US has. Why is the US doing this? Both the GOP and the Demo's want the Cuban vote in Flordia.

Lift the restrictions our country has placed on Cuba, allow fair trade, allow people to visit Cuba, and sooner, rather than later, Castro will be out of office.

When Castro took over Cuba, a lot of American companies, and the mob, lost a hell of a pile of money. So there fore they still hold a grudge. It's time our country re-exams our foreign policy. It might do wonders for a whole bunch of people.

Hello Allen. Actually the Communists were heavily involved in the Cuban government since 1940, but acted in a pragmatic way keeping hotels, resorts and casinos open. It was only after the more radical revolutionary Castro shot his way into power that so much of this economy was shut down and then Cuba suffered 50 years of economic slowdown as a result.

The Communists had some power since 1940. They should have been satisfied with that. But they simply wanted too much power, and didn't have any clue how to effectively rule the nation. The U.S. embargo was a direct result of the sheer radicalism of Castro and his followers. Many nations such as Italy and France had some Communists in their governments for many years, but they didn't cross the line that Cuba did with it's revolutionary Marxism. Castro should have stuck with baseball I think.

Allen:

Paul, the fact remains that our elected (and non elected, behind the scene) gov't of ours will continue to cut off their nose to spit their face.

Right now the whole world has changed, except for the power people in DC. It's that simple, and until that changes, we will be screwed with more wars, less jobs, etc.

lola:

Paul, your story contains a very biased, partially uninformed commentary and a few errors.

The average monthly salary in Cuba, be it for a doctor, teacher, or hotel worker is equivalent to about $10-$15 USD. The tourist industry is booming, primarily due to Canadian tourists, but in my many trips there, I have met many South Americans and Europeans as well. Your HiltonHonours or SPG cards may not be useful in Cuba, however, you can stay at a Melia or a Sandals resort in Varadero. You may also choose one of the Canadian hotels in Cayo Coco.

Cuba has innumerable lacks, be it in materials or political freedoms, but to compare it to North Korea is ridiculous. People certainly are not starving, although they do not eat meat everyday. They also have one of the best medical systems in all of Central and South America and one of the highest litteracy rates in the world.

A new revolution is required in Cuba because Communism is only successful in theory alone and it is obvious that the status quo has failed in many ways. But your statement of Cuban acquiescence to American requirements for trade is quite arrogant. The Cuban people may not have many things, but one thing they do have is their pride and a zest for life. Does Cuba really have to sell its soul to have a mutually beneficial trade relationship with the US?

While the world has opened its doors to Cuba, it is the US that stands alone in its embargo. In one way, the embargo has allowed Cuba to maintain its own identity, its own charm without being swallowed up like Puerto Rico was. Your article reminds me of one word that I kept seeing in my many trips to Cuba, Imperialista!

Doubting Thomas:

So - let's see if I get this straight.

There's only one country with a real embargo of Cuba - and that's the US. Other countries have no problems with shoving dinero into the tourist traps, yet the country IS poverty-stricken, the infrastructure is crumbling, and as for the 'charm' - it's often remarkable how people on the outside view the government-forced inability of people on the inside to actually tap into the modern world as somehow quaint and charming and a good thing.

You're looking at slavery to the Communist Party, Lola, and calling it a fine idea. The people have no freedom - they can't leave the country, they can't own computers or cameras (much less printers, typewriters, or printing presses) without specific approval from the government - and you see life there as near idyllic.

I agree with Paul - time for the Communist experiment to end. It hasn't worked anywhere in the world. In Cuba it's devolved into simple medieval serfdom or slavery updated with a shiny gloss, supported by people who believe the promises, and aren't concerned about the results that never appear - because THEY aren't subject to it.

Lola goes there and plays - and then goes home.

The people of Cuba are stuck there.

lola:

Doubting Thomas - I think you should reread what I wrote. Perhaps a second read will get you to see sentences as "A new revolution is required in Cuba because Communism is only successful in theory alone and it is obvious that the status quo has failed in many ways."

It is the uninformed arrogance of the article that I object to. And the demand that a sovereign country must completely bend to demands of another in order in order to have fair trade. Trading one master for another, perhaps?

Cuba poses no threat and yet the embargo remains. The embargo has obviously failed since Castro and his regime are still there after 50 years. The only thing it has accomplished is to directly hurt the Cuban people.

There is a happy (or unhappy) medium that all parties can reach, especially in these times, and yet for some reason fair compromise is out of reach. But maybe the US strategy is just to outlive the aging and ailing guard, knowing that there is no one left in the island who believes in the status quo enough to take over.

And next time my friend Tamara from Havana comes up here to visit for the 2 months in the summer that she is off from her job as an English and French teacher, I will remind her she is not allowed to travel. But it may be some time before I see her again. She will spend next summer in Paris. After spending 15 summers here, she decided she wanted to visit France. You are only partly right though, people cannot travel freely, but they can travel.

And one other thing, you have no idea why I visit Cuba, be it for play, family, or charity/missions, so I would suggest you not make any personal blind statements about people you do not know.

Doubting Thomas:

"Your HiltonHonours or SPG cards may not be useful in Cuba, however, you can stay at a Melia or a Sandals resort in Varadero. You may also choose one of the Canadian hotels in Cayo Coco."

You know, I keep hearing just how good things are in Cuba. But it's all... hearsay. Oh, things are GOOD in the tourist areas, there's no denying that. But elsewhere?

I see blogs like babalublog.com, and therealcuba.com. It makes me wonder if what the tourists see is a Potemkin village arrangement. You don't hear about people emigrating to Cuba often, and if things were so good you'd think there'd be easy answers on how to emigrate there.

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080518102622AAU7WzO

And it's also odd how you refer to your teacher friend travelling like she does - and planning on going to France. Seems to me like that'd be kind of difficult on the pay scale you describe. $10-15 a month? That's a rather meager income to finance a globetrotter...

One last bit and I'm done...

http://www.city-data.com/forum/world/505932-immigrate-cuba.html

Hi. Well, I'm not American and I can tell you it's not just American propaganda. I don't know if you'ever been ther but I was fortunate enough to travel across the island and the people are wonderful and terribly generous, and they love the country, but life there is really tough. You really get "third world guilt" seeing how these wonderful, able people struggle just to get by. You wouldn't imagine the things people have to come up with in order to survive. On top of thet don't forget the country lives under a totalitarian regime, and that's no joke. Even the smallest hamlets have their Communist Party man who sees everything and hears everything. You can see the people look behind their shoulders before they open their mouth. We're talking about a country where the jails are full of journalisas and writers who had the nerve to criticise the government, where people are not allowed to leave the country at will, where you can go to jail for being gay, where religion was illegal until a few years ago, where public school teachers shave been known to facilitate the sexual explotation of their own students by tourists, where you can't turn a corner without seeing humongous portraats of the leaders.

Basically, there are two kinds of countries: those people risk their lives to get into and those people risk their lives tgo get out of. Cuba falls into the second category. Every time a Cuban sports team competes abroad, half the team deflects. You never hear of anyonen deflecting into Cuba, first because no one in their right mind would move there and second becaus ethe very concept of deflection doesn't exist in free countries, only in totalitarian dictatorships like Cuba.

I would really think twice. Great people but total doldrums and vile regime. Imagine a big Gary, Indiana ruled by an evil dictator and you'll get the image.

I realy hope Cuba can turn things around in the future.Well, he spelled 'defection' incorrectly, but the point is that Cuba keeps getting painted as a paradise of sorts - and it likely is... if you're a tourist with plenty of money.

And I do hope they can turn it around. The people are great by all accounts I've found - but it wouldn't seem like they'd want to continue in their slavery to the Party.

Doubting Thomas:

Dang! Got the blockquotes blown again. This is the last of the excerpt.

"Basically, there are two kinds of countries: those people risk their lives to get into and those people risk their lives tgo get out of. Cuba falls into the second category. Every time a Cuban sports team competes abroad, half the team deflects. You never hear of anyonen deflecting into Cuba, first because no one in their right mind would move there and second becaus ethe very concept of deflection doesn't exist in free countries, only in totalitarian dictatorships like Cuba.

I would really think twice. Great people but total doldrums and vile regime. Imagine a big Gary, Indiana ruled by an evil dictator and you'll get the image.

I realy hope Cuba can turn things around in the future."

Man, that's aggravating...

I am unable to understand this post. But well some points are useful for me.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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