Cuba - home of the living icon Fidél. The revolution ended 50 years ago, but in many places of the archipelago, time seems to have stood still since then. The people rave about Ché and there are signs of the Commandante everywhere.
Cubans are driving American relics from the pre-Castro period and Havana is full of treasure buildings from the 16th century. But hot clothes and the cool cash from abroad bring you back to reality. The country wants to maintain its communist ideologies but at the same time attempting to edge into the capitalist world market.
Cuba has the 2-currency system; the Pesos for the locals and the Cuban Convertible Pesos, CUC, for the tourists and visitors. This system is helping to create two societies in Cuba: one with CUC and the other without.
This system was introduced to keep the resistance against the Americans so that the Dollar would not control the economy. But hundreds of millions of Dollars are pouring into the country by Cuban expatriates. This and the flourishing tourism are brightening the Cubans’ life.
Generally the people depend on the government run rationed-food stores where they can buy food for a cheap price. But the choices are limited and very often the stores run out of stock. For the average Cubans who do not have hard currency to buy the extra groceries at the well-stocked CUC-only stores, the rationing is the worst thing these days.
Low income of an average of $20 a month is forcing people to try to earn some extra money in different ways. Even high-educated people like doctors and engineers are having extra jobs like taxi drivers or door men, to survive. High unemployment rate made the young people hanging around in the streets and prostitution is widespread, as a means of lucrative income, all over the country. Farmers in the countryside are usually a bit better off than the city dwellers. But they also face the problem of the government controlled market. Often farmers are standing beside the roads and try to sell some excess crops for a little extra.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union Cuba is facing its most difficult times ever. As Cuban farms languish, food import of 60% is required. While export is declining, this trade deficit made food prices jump sky high. Even for the people who vigorously support the Communist system, putting food on the table is a constant challenge.
But it has to be said that the government’s focus on free education and health care makes it one of the best in the world which can be termed as an achievement for the multi rational sate of Cuba.