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Cubans sceptical of new president's promises

 
 
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2018 02:33 pm
The new president of this country, Miguel Diaz-Canel, is promising to defend the socialist revolution while also modernising the economy.

However, Cubans are sceptical about seeing many improvements even though Diaz-Canel is the Caribbean country's first leader - after more than half a century - who is not from the Castro family.

For them, just to get their daily bread means having to stand in queues with their ration cards in hand.

What they receive at the end of the wait is one roll of bread a person each day at the state-subsidised price, a system that dates back to the Soviet Union.

In recent years, the government has been forced to cut back on ration-card items such as rice, beans, sugar, salt and occasionally meat, paid with Cuba's national currency - the peso, also known as the "national peso".

"If we didn't have this option, those on a worker's wage could not afford to buy almost anything," says Miladis, a Havana resident.

One can also use national pesos to buy fruits and vegetables. But for almost everything else - from shampoo to shoes - citizens need "convertible pesos" (CUC), the Cuban government's replacement for the US dollar, which had been temporarily accepted as legal tender following the loss of value in the national peso in 1993. The CUC is pegged at 1:1 with the US dollar and is worth about 24 national pesos.

Dual-currency system
On an average monthly wage, paid in national pesos, a Cuban can buy 30 CUC, which is not enough to fill a car with petrol.

Cuba's dual-currency system is a monetary abnormality that is stunting economic growth and scaring off investment.

And, like the ration card, doing away with it is a must if Diaz-Canel is going to make good on his promise to update Cuban communism.


WATCH: Miguel Diaz-Canel sworn in as Cuba's president (2:03)
The government has not done it already because merging the two currencies into one is much more complex than it sounds.

In a country where the state is supposed to always provide, such a merger is going to make life much more difficult for Cubans who are already struggling.

Eliminating the dual-currency system will devalue the national peso, but it is a necessary change, concedes Miriam Leiva, a dissident who was once a staunch supporter of the 1959 Cuban revolution led by the late Fidel Castro and his brother Raul.

After watching Thursday's presidential handover of power from Raul Castro to Diaz-Canel, the only changes she expects are on the economic front.

"On an emotional level, I don't feel any change. I hope I'll feel it someday, when our society really opens up and I have the right to participate no matter my opinions."

The transition to a post-Castro era does not signify political change. Nevertheless, reforming the state-run economy to make it more rational and effective could be almost a revolutionary change.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/04/cubans-sceptical-presidents-promises-180421113929799.html
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2018 03:02 pm
The endurance of the Cuban people to now over 50 years of Soviet-style authoritarianism, tyranny and economic incompetence, is, itself quite amazing.

One cost has been the emigration, legal or otherwise, of many of its best and most ambitious people -- in addition to the poverty and loss of freedom endured by those who remain.

Recently the now (apparently) departed Castro government had been cracking down on the small elements of private economic activity it previously allowed. The new regime has not yet shown its hand, but it is hard to imagine that they will reverse course.

For the leaders of this and other, like stagnant, repressive systems find themselves riding a tiger - they cant let go or get off without great danger to themselves.


0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2018 03:27 pm
The courses Castro could follow were limited. The US wanted to resume business as usual, at first, and make him a new Batista. He knew if he resisted he would be overthrown by the US eventually. So he became a communist and instituted a repressive system that kept the people as poorly off as under the previous government. It's always the way. Each nation is Animal Farm in most respects.
georgeob1
 
  2  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2018 03:46 pm
@edgarblythe,
edgarblythe wrote:

The courses Castro could follow were limited. The US wanted to resume business as usual, at first, and make him a new Batista. He knew if he resisted he would be overthrown by the US eventually. So he became a communist and instituted a repressive system that kept the people as poorly off as under the previous government. It's always the way. Each nation is Animal Farm in most respects.


I think most of the evidence indicates Castro wanted an authoritarian Socialist revolution from the start. He may well have harbored the illusion that it might have been a welcome liberation for the Cuban people. However he very quickly learned to deal harshly with anyone who disagreed and liquidate any who opposed his authority. The rest is merely the same spectacle as the Soviets produced.

No nation is perfect or entirely free of injustice of poverty. However some do a great deal better than others in these areas. Individual freedom and free economic activity are the common elements among the best of them.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  4  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2018 11:53 pm
The journalist from Mexico, Fbaezer (sp?) jumped all over me for this once, but Castro's revolution ended almost constant strife in that country. From 1898 to 1959, there were constant rebellions, coups d'état, systematic exploitation of labor and suppression of dissent and political opposition. To refer to those same things in terms of suppression of dissent and political opposition is to ignore the extent to which that had been the rule for so, so long. Under Castro, people were educated and provided health care. To carp about the quality of either is to ignore that some, any education and health care was better than what the working people had had, which was none of either. Fbaezer referred to the military adventurism in Angola. How did that make Cuba any different from so many nations in the world, and the United States prominently? Castro sent Cuban troops to third world hot spots from 1965 onward--that certainly cannot be denied. Once again, how did that make Cuba different from western nations who supported the United States in Vietnam, or who acted as proxies for American cold war foreign policy? Was Castro's intervention in the third world more morally reprehensible than the murder of Allende in 1973? Were Castr0's military adventures more morally reprehensible than the CIA covert operation which succeeded in overthrowing the government of Gough Whitlam in Australia in 1975? (For Dog's sake, Australia is one of our allies! You can read about the overthrow of Whitlam's democratically elected government by clicking here.) Was Castro's support for or attempts to install leftist dictators more morally reprehensible than American support for Marcos, or Pinochet?

Certainly no one in the west (other than lunatics from the fringe of left or right) wants to see the suppression of free speech and democratic institutions. What is the purpose, however, of voter suppression (such as Katherine Harris' efforts in Florida in 2000, or Diebold CEO Walden "Wally" O'Dell sending out a memo to executive staff of that the voting machine company that they would deliver Ohio for Bush in 2004)? What is the purpose of President Plump's assault on news media and his endless "fake new" mantra? Why have so many lawsuits been filed in states over gerrymandering? (See this WaPo article on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court redrawing the electoral districts after accusations of gerrymandering.)

There was much about Castro's regime which was deplorable. There is much of American covert operations and overt militarism and support for tin-pot dictators in the same period which were deplorable.

People who live in glass houses, you know . . .
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2018 05:35 am
@Setanta,
I couldn't agree more.
0 Replies
 
hightor
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2018 05:56 am
@edgarblythe,
Education, medical care, and a concrete floor for every home — compare the life of poor Cubans with the lives of impoverished people elsewhere in Latin America and you'll see who's better off. Last year's hurricanes devastated Puerto Rico, which is still recovering. In Cuba, government-mobilized civilian evacuations save lives.
Quote:
Cuba's evacuations differ greatly from those in the United States, where people rush to airports for overbooked flights or pile into cars that clog highways. In Cuba, people are already prepared, part of a sophisticated system overseen by the president and the armed forces.

Standing evacuation plans are distributed to each household long ahead of time, and evacuation drills are held regularly. When a hurricane is approaching, state news media issue early warnings and civil-defense officials activate local response networks, organized down to each block of each town.

Schools and other government buildings are quickly turned into shelters, and each is assigned a doctor and sometimes a nurse. Volunteers check stocks of blankets, water and food. Forty-eight hours before an expected hit, residents are told to prepare to evacuate.

When the storm is a day away, volunteer civil-defense workers go door-to-door to ensure everyone gets out of harm's way. Government buses, cars and trucks transport evacuees to higher ground. Government shelters take in anyone who can't find a place to stay.

Of course, this is easier done in Cuba than in the United States because the communist government owns and controls most of the nation's resources. Unlike the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, it doesn't have to buy supplies or contract services from private companies, or pay overtime.

Most Cubans work for the government and don't have to worry about losing wages if they take off from work. And because police keep a close eye on evacuated areas — and because most Cubans have few possessions of value anyway — looting isn't a major concern.

Cubans are taught from an early age to move quickly in the event of a natural disaster and to follow authorities' instructions. So the government rarely has to force people to leave.

The only people for whom evacuations are mandatory are pregnant women and mothers with young children, who can be fined if they don't comply.

When Ike approached, Anay Estrada was reluctant to leave the single room she shares with six others. But as she is seven months pregnant, two police officers showed up at her door.

"I didn't want to leave my mother," Estrada said from a shelter at a maternity hospital, where she waited out the storm with her 7-year-old daughter, Melani. "But they came in a patrol car so I had to go."

In addition, special attention is paid to the elderly and handicapped — people who critics say U.S. authorities abandoned when Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans three years ago. Several hundred elderly and handicapped people and their companions waited out Ike in an Old Havana convent, a white, bouganvilla-covered structure with an imposing bell tower.

NBC
edgarblythe
 
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Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2018 06:12 am
@hightor,
When people complain about Cuba, the words "Puerto Rico" ought to be brought into the conversation. I have always admired the Cuban people. I've waited a long time to see how a post Castro scenario plays out. I think Trump did us all a disservice when he walked back some of Obama's Cuban policy.
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  2  
Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2018 11:42 am
I amazed by some of the puerile bullshit I've read on this page. The fact that different people and countries indulge in some similar behaviors doesn't establish their overall merit or equivalence.

Castro used his military (and his medical doctors) as a source of income for the state economic apparatus in a form of indentured servitude not very different from slavery or the contemporary behavior of North Korea. Cuba did indeed have a fairly turbulent history from the time of their revolution against Spain in 1900 until his revolution. However the revolution induced the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of Cubans and involved the summary execution of many thousands more. Even today those who are able endure great risks to escape Castro's island paradise, and very few seek to emigrate to it. What does that tell you? Beyond that the economic output and prosperity of the country has lagged far behind those of its neighbors. More important is the price Cubans have paid in terms of the loss of their individual freedom. The fact that their responses to impending Hurricanes is more orderly than that of Puerto Rico is hardly a justification of that.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  -1  
Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2018 12:13 pm
Hightor and EB, in the Spanish war, Puerto Rico had rounded up the Spaniards on their island and declared their independence. The United States came along and occupied them militarily. Are we to assume they were therefore better off? Republican William McKinley showed his character as well as how well informed he was one day when talking to reporters in 1898. He said that the United States would bring christianity to the Philippines. One reporter told the President that they were Catholics. To that, McKinley replied: "Exactly."

For the right-wing, capitalist party line, see georgeob's latest post.
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2018 02:08 pm
@Setanta,
You have a pretty good handle on Cuba, but the "funny" thing about Cuba is that people there seems happy. My travel buddy and I have traveled there several times, and even made some friends there. Hiroshi Robaina owns one of the largest tobacco farms in Cuba, and his father, Carlos, runs a restaurant in Havana (we have eaten there several times). The columns in the restaurant are designed like cigars. There are two currencies in Cuba; one for the locals, and the other (CUC's) for tourists. One CUC = $1 US, but when you exchange US dollars for CUC's, they discount it by 10%, so it's a good idea to exchange your US dollar for Canadian dollars. They get a better exchange rate. The average income for most Cubans is around $20 per month. At least that was the information we got a couple of years ago on our last visit. People interested in going to Cuba should not wait. The atmosphere and ambiance will change with more western tourists visiting the island. I highly recommend spending enough time in Cuba to travel the whole country. Some parts are really beautiful. Havana has much to offer, and you should not miss visiting the Partagas cigar factory where you can watch hand made cigars. Some cigars are pretty pricey; my favorite is the Partagas D4's that costs around $18. My buddy and I have indulged in $50 cigars, but those are really special. When you go, visit the Nacional Hotel; visit the second floor where many VIP's have stayed, and spend a leisurely afternoon in the back patio to have a cigar and rum drink, and enjoy the view of the sea. It's a good place to meet people from around the world. Many also take a trip to Ernest Hemingway's home which is now a museum. When you hire a taxi, negotiate the price first. Many taxi drivers overcharge American and western tourists. Also, there's a free shuttle from the Nacional Hotel to downtown Old Havana.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Apr, 2018 09:01 pm
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Puerto Rico's Senate has ordered government agencies to explain why tens of thousands of people in rural areas remain without power or appropriate shelter as anger grows about the lack of basic services more than seven months after hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Apr, 2018 04:45 pm
@edgarblythe,
I have a close mainland friend who live down there for 6 months of the year and tell me ifctragic circumstance particularly to lower income ( but not exclusively) residents.
0 Replies
 
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Apr, 2018 05:01 pm
@edgarblythe,
I have a close mainland friend who lives down on eastern coast of PR island for 6 months of the year and tells me of tragic circumstance particularly to lower income (but not exclusively) to many residents.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Apr, 2018 07:31 pm
@Ragman,
If they had given Puerto Rico the same consideration they give the rest of the people - Trump was the brake on that.
0 Replies
 
 

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