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.
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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