Cuba: Caught Between The Castros And Capitalism
Barack Obama is catching a nation on the cusp of change, suspended
between the Fidel era and its post-communist future.
Monday 21 March 2016
By Cordelia Lynch, US Correspondent
I visited Cuba four years ago as a tourist, keen to see one of the last
bastions of communism before it was eclipsed by change.
There are a lot of familiar attractions on offer – the cigars, the rum,
But Havana, a city that looks more like a museum, feels very different.
On the surface it’s stuck in a time warp, but there are busloads of new
arrivals everywhere you turn.
US airlines are planning a regularly-scheduled service to Cuba later
The island that has been kicking up sand in the face of a superpower for
decades is no longer off limits for American tourists.
Alongside the iconic Malecon coastline, there are a flurry of
international travellers enjoying a nostalgic cruise through a country
on the cusp of change.
The former foes have rekindled their diplomatic relationship and there
is hope economic links will follow.
Washington has released stiff currency restrictions and Cuba committed
to lifting a 10% tax on dollars.
Private enterprise is no longer a dirty word – there’s a new band of
Wi-Fi hotspots have emerged in the busy squares and Airbnb has announced
it will open up its listings in the country to all visitors starting on
But progress is painfully slow.
This is a society locked in history, a country pockmarked by poverty,
constrained by a post-communist style economic model.
The Cuban government is still setting wages, and they’re desperately low.
The average is just $25 a month, around £17.
The generation who led the revolution are still in power, but in the
young people, there is hope and aspiration.
At a concert for young hip hop artists, you hear and see America’s
influence, but they’ve long developed their own sound.
I meet Narkin. He tells me: “I’m proud to be Cuban. I don’t want to
leave. I want to be Cuba’s best rapper.”
But across town, we meet a generation of mothers whose young sons are
They tell me arrests are on the rise.
They’re part of the Ladies in White group, who were themselves arrested
as they protested outside a church ahead of Barack Obama’s landmark trip.
I ask Laura Maria Labrada Pollan, whose mother started the movement, if
Mr Obama’s visit will make a difference.
She tells me: “I don’t think so. There won’t be any change at all about
human rights because in Cuba, the Castro brothers still have all the power.”
It’s a sobering thought for a new generation desperately hoping for change.
Source: Cuba: Caught Between The Castros And Capitalism –