Cuba Continues to Change, But It Is Not Yet Enough

Rosa Martinez

Manicure. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Anyone who says Cuba today is no different from what it was 10 or 15 years ago are deceiving themselves. Though some changes are barely perceptible for the average citizen, the truth is that the country has gradually changed, at the pace its leaders have seen fit.

Many things have transpired on the island over the past decade, including the legalization of home and automobile sales (something people had demanded for very long) and permission to stay at hard-currency hotels (to which only foreigners and vanguard workers had access before).

The new Foreign Investment Law also came into the scene. As its name indicates, it allows citizens from other countries (and only them) to invest here and to hire nationals, who can benefit to a certain extent with better salaries and working conditions.

Following the nationwide labor restructuring process (which amounted to laying off as many as a million workers), no alternative was left but to authorize new forms of employment, small businesses operated by self-employed persons which had in fact always existed illegally in the country, to a greater or lesser extent and to the government’s discontent. Now, in addition to private transportation, food vendors and people who rent out rooms (the most successful out there), we are also seeing jobs as strange as “palm-tree pruner,” seamstress and “CD copier-seller.”

Another recent development was the opening of Internet access points in all of the country’s provinces and, more recently, the offer of paid Wi-Fi services in all parks of provincial capitals and several municipalities.

Generally speaking, people have welcomed the opportunity to become informed through the web, access social networks and get in touch with relatives abroad, all the while complaining that the price of the service continues to be too high and that it would be more convenient to be able to connect from home.

Among recent developments, the most important for the Cuban population on the island and abroad in all respects is the re-establishment of relations with the country’s more than 50-year-old rival, US imperialism.

The people of Cuba and the United States had to wait long before their presidents officially announced what they had always felt deep down: that we were never enemies to begin with. That was quite simply impossible, first of all because the largest Cuban population living outside the island resides precisely in that nation and, secondly, many were the shows of support and solidarity by Pastors for Peace and other NGOs in the United States.

Lastly, Barack Obama and Raul Castro held a phone conversation, as they did previously, on December 16, 2014. They also shook hands at the Summit of the Americas held in April, before the eyes of the world.

As though that weren’t enough, for the third time, a Pope visits the island (only two other countries have had such fortune). The face of this, the first Latin American Pope in the history of the Catholic Church, was seen in a huge banner at Revolution Square, where only the images of revolutionary personalities have traditionally been permitted (though, for many, His Holiness is precisely that, a revolutionary of these times).

In short, my beloved island continues to adjust to the modern world and we continue to be surprised by developments we could not even have imaged 20 years ago. Cubans like me, those at the bottom, continue to ask ourselves when these transformations will have a positive impact on our lives.

The many of us who do not have relatives living in the United States, who do not have the possibility of finding employment with a foreign firm (the majority) and work for State or privately-run companies that offer low wages would like to know when we can expect to see financial improvement, the most longed-for and awaited change.

Rosa Martínez

Rosa Martinez: I am another Havana Times contributing writer, university professor and mother of two beautiful and spoiled girls, who are my greatest joy. My favorite passions are reading and to write and thanks to HT I’ve been able to satisfy the second. I hope my posts contribute towards a more inclusive and more just Cuba. I hope that someday I can show my face along with each of my posts, without the fear that they will call me a traitor, because I’m not one.

34 thoughts on “Cuba Continues to Change, But It Is Not Yet Enough

  • The smart Companies are coming to Cuba, first to do business with the other foreign companies wishing to do business in Cuba and then with tourist and then later directly with the Cuban people and will charge these other foreign companies prices that are equal to what they might expect to pay for similar services in their home countries and the salaries to the Cuban’s working should always meet or exceed the US Federal minimum wage requirement…something that you cannot demand but should expect of American companies doing business in Cuba, especially if they have other foreign businesses operating in Cuba as their customers. This will help the infusion of new money spread more evenly across the Cuban economy, so that things and people come up more or less together. My advice is to embrace companies that care about Cuba, not just about making money and in the long-run that will pay a much higher return and you will see things improve a lot faster.

  • If I am pretending to be Black, I should learn how to pretend to be rich because I have the Black thing down. My efforts in the “struggle” to help my people are chronicled in this blog. As long as the Castros are in charge in Cuba and socialism prevails, Black Cubans will suffer the most. I do not agree with you that Cuba has the richest history of struggle and patriotism in this hemisphere. Here in the US alone, the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s stands as the gold standard example of an oppressed people’s non-violent resistance against the most powerful government in history. There are probably 34 other countries in this hemisphere that would disagree with you as well. I will gladly put my shoulder to the wheel to help rebuild Cuba right beside you. But first the Castros gotta’ go. Otherwise, we are wasting our time.

  • 90 visits to research the Cuban economy? I could have saved you 89 trips. It sucks.

  • Being the largest marina in the Caribbean means what? Was there a contest to have the biggest marina? Unless those 1200 boat slips will be filled by yachts owned by rich Cubans who earned their wealth in Cuba and pay taxes to the Cuban government, so what? Economics is obviously not your best subject, so what are you researching in Cuba that requires 90 visits? Is someone buying your “research” or is this just what you tell people to sound smart?

  • Thanks Chuck, easy to pontificate living in the States and being white, and yes that’s
    a sad fact, and cast stones at those who stayed in Cuba. I get much info on the Havana Times site, some I agree with and other times do not, but it opens my eyes and your post is one of them. Gracias!

  • China is sitting on a lot of US paper debt. They will be the major investor in the new Cuban economy. The new Melia Marina Varadero has 1200 high end boat slips – resort – apartments – condos – commercial center . It is the largest marina in the Caribbean and the cost is now over $ 700 million. I will be in that area shortly for my 90 th research visit to Cuba.

  • The new economy of Cuba

  • Hunkered down!

  • Very emotional Chuck1938 and obviously heart felt.
    Just one observation. You say that Guantanamo is “the most neglected area of the country”. That is a comment reflecting some innocence as much of Cuba is in a similar condition. The exceptions are where money donated by the capitalist world has been used for UNESCO programs.
    The intended barb at Moses Patterson who “pretends to be black”, demonstrates just how racist “white” Cubans remain.

  • Quote Gordon Robinson!
    “Cuba will shortly have the best expanding economy in the world”
    So, having been in an increasing decline, with annual reductions in production of everything from sugar, to coffee, to toilet paper, to beer, suddenly the process in Cuba will reverse?
    If you actually believe what you wrote, you either are more indoctrinated with socialist propaganda from the regime than I originally thought Gordon, or you are hoping the Machado Ventura will read your writings and approve the words of his disciple.
    As for you providing your e-mail address, I for one, would not dream of contacting you by e-mail, realising that by so doing you could report my address to the regime you so admire! I am fully aware of the methods of the CDR, MININT and the lackeys who serve Alejandro Castro ESPIN.
    How does it go? “Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly”.

  • As a son of Guantanamo, who has shared the suffering of my people during its most challenging times in its entire history, I am relieved to see, that the future for which so many struggled and died is around the corner.
    While the Moses of this world enjoy pointing fingers, searching for faults, blaming the government for everything, instilling hopelessness in our people, only a citizenry with the moral convictions, courage, historical background and a government who thought its people that surrender was not an option, enabled millions in Cuba to save their country from the brutal 50 year onslaught imposed against its people.
    Fortunately, Cuba has the richest history of struggle and patriotism in this hemisphere, which prepared it to resist and conquer Valeriano Weyler in 1896, Antonio Machado in 1933, Batista’s henchmen in 1958 and 10 US Presidents.
    With the limited changes the Cuban government has introduced so far and the fact that Guantanamo, thanks to the dangers posed by GITMO, has remained the most neglected area of the country and the bunker mentality in most of the local government, its sons and daughters need to be bold, creative and advance even faster than Havana in self employment and other sources of employment.
    Personally, I never gave up on Guantanamo and my people. I sought every possible avenue to extend a lifeline to my people. Be it with medicine, medical supplies, physically challenged equipment, eldercare, schools, supporting environmental projects or helping in the publishing of 8 books on different aspects of life in Baracoa.
    Once again I call upon Moses, who pretends to be Black and have families coming out of that region, to forget about the government and his negativity, by joining forces with everyone who cares about the people of our region who looks so much like Ferguson, Baltimore or Miami Gardens except that they are not shot and killed by a vicious police, and let’s begin building that dream world you talk about for years, but has done nothing to bring it to fruition.

  • Gordon, hahaha, that’s nuts! Economy 1A teaches us that debt is never the problem. The lack of revenue to service the debt is what will send you to an early grave. Cuba produces NOTHING which originates in Cuba in an amount great enough to lift their economy. Cuba must DEPEND on foreign capital to kickstart their economy. Foreign $$$ means foreign control. You see Gordon, the rules really never change. The guy with the money runs it.

  • I research the economy of Cuba. The USA and Canada are both loaded to the hilt with DEBT and can not recover. Cuba will shortly have the best expanding economy in the world.
    My email :::
    [email protected]

  • Brilliant post Carlyle. Where’s Ellio?

  • Es Cuba! As you may have noticed, my niece and nephew have been waiting for ten months for permission to commence building a home. The plans are in place and financing is in place. I hope that Terry and you meet up – if teetotal in the Plaza de Carmen and if not, at the trova in the square of the Agramonte statue. Wish I could join you both.
    Cuba has a marketing agreement for citrus with an Israeli company in Tel Aviv, but the citrus plantations are being allowed to decline. Cuba similarly has declining production of coffee and is having to import the stuff from Spain – which isn’t even a producer but re-packs coffee from Columbia. Cubans love potatoes, but the agricultural sector fails to produce sufficient. It is all such a sad tale of socialist incompetence .
    But plans are being made – so wait for next year!

  • Maybe we are focusing on different points. You seem to believe that the embargo is the biggest problem facing the Cuban people. Therefore, once lifted, your remarks imply things will be good for Cuba. I don’t share this belief. The Castros have decimated Cuba’s productive capabilities. Until Cubans learn to feed and clothe themselves, with or without an embargo, they will remain dependent on handouts. Until Cuba can build something that someone wants to buy, they will not have the money to buy the materials to rebuild their infrastructure. Again, this has nothing to do with the US embargo. Getting rid of the Castros and their repressive and destructive policies must happen first before life can begin to improve for ALL Cubans.

  • Terry, I think we may know each other in Camaguey, if not, then we have certainly seen each other. The embargo, blockade, anything you wish to call it has only given the Cuban government an excuse, a monster, a villain to point a finger at and say, “this is the reason we are so poor.” Explain to me why Cuba can and does trade with the rest of the world and yet the people have nada. For example why is there no manufacturing base in our beloved Camaguey province with Neuvatis (sp?) right there for easy shipping? A country, or a province with such a small population could and should trade and export with the rest of the world, what do they need the Americans for? Terry, I have asked for and received informal permission to do business in Camaguey and so far it has taken over four months to register a company (they still haven’t). It takes half an hour in Canada.

  • Terry, you hit the nail on the head when you wrote:
    “The Cuban people are caught in the middle…they are the innocent victims.”
    But Terry, the Castro regime has not released to the Cuban people the terms laid down by the US Congress for lifting the embargo.
    You are also correct when you say that that it is the Cuban people who are suffering from the embargo, NOT THEIR GOVERNMENT – for which read the Castro family regime. But it is not solely the embargo that is the cause of the poverty of the average Cuban, it is predominantly the policies of the communist dictatorship and their control of every aspect of daily life for the people over whom they exert their power.
    The Castros are living in great comfort, look at the smart suits and silk ties worn by Raul, look at the fleet of BMW’s, look at the personal residence of Fidel and look at his two island private retreat. The Castro family lack for nothing – except that is, for respect!

  • My view is that if there were to be an election today – with multi-party participation, the Communist Party of Cuba would be elected.
    If on the other hand there was a period during which there was open access to information with a free press, freedom of expression without the pernicious CDR
    and Cubans realising that there really are alternatives, then the page would turn.
    The majority of Cubans have spent their whole lives locked on an island with no communication with the outside world. They have no knowledge of alternative forms of political parties. They don’t know for example that there are national medical services in other countries, they don’t know that education is free in other countries. They have difficulty in comprehending personal freedom without the State sticking its nose into every aspect of their lives. My niece and nephew are not as perturbed by the long wait for permission to commence construction of their home, as I am. Why? Because only waiting – to date – for 10 months is not extraordinary, “Es Cuba”
    The Communist Party of Cuba would exploit FEAR. That is what they are good at. They would use their control of all the media and their control of the distribution of promotional materials to install FEAR of the loss of rations, FEAR of the loss of the $8 pittance of a monthly pension, FEAR of the loss of state medical services, FEAR of the loss of free education.
    My wife is a loyal nationalistic Cuban with 9 years of University education and 25 years of teaching experience. As my wife, she could immigrate to Canada, but her home, family, culure and community are in Cuba.
    When we visited the UK, she was astonished by the volume of commercial traffic reflecting the capitalist economy and by the enormous number of shops offering virtually everything for sale. The following year she made her first visit to Canada and to her surprise found yet another different world. Even within the city of Edmonton, wider roads than the Autopista, the main transportation axis of Cuba, and shops which were even bigger than those in the UK. A trip to the Rockies demonstrated the freedom and speed of movement in addition to the beauty of Canada.
    It was following that first trip to Canada that she upon return to Cuba, said that what Cuba needs is “capitalismo”. Saying that is a huge step for a Cuban when all their lives they have been harangued by their Revolutionary hero, Fidel Castro, about the evils of capitalism. Note, it took time for the realization to sink in.
    If you read the conditions laid down by the US Congress for the lifting of the embargo, you will find that Congress recognized that need for a period of transition. I am still opposed to the embargo, but understand what it’s purpose was. But Congress based its decision upon their concepts, not upon the degree of control and power which the Castros had already achieved.
    When Eastern Europe was liberated from the yoke of the communist USSR, it took time for the East Germans to learn to think like their brethren in West Germany. They even found it difficult to take individual decisions as they were trained to accept instruction, not to give it!
    Eastern Europe like Cuba, had those who defected, fleeing oppression – by balloon, by swimming, by sailing, by tightrope over the Berlin wall and when trying to scale the wall were mercilessly shot.
    It is difficult for free peoples living in free Western societies, to comprehend the depth of depravation suffered by those ruled by totalitarian socialism.

  • Moses, as usual, you’re completely missing the point. Your American embargo and Helm-Burton act demands have done nothing to sway the Cuban government for 50+ years. From their inception, and by design, those policies have only meant to hurt the innocent men, women, and children of Cuba, as they continue to do so today. I was using the word ‘torture’ as a metaphor for the unjust abuse and misdirection of power that your government is continuing to use as a hopeful catalyst for political change…but in reality, it continues to cruelly punish the Cuban population. Whether the Cuban government supports the rogue dictatorships of North Korea and Syria is neither here nor there when juxtaposed against the insane rogue policies of your government that affect only the innocent people of Cuba. As usual, you still don’t get it…you’ll continue to support using the Cuban people as cannon fodder regardless of the misery it creates.

  • Torture? The US embargo is far from “torture”. The Castros fervently support the dictatorships in North Korea and Syria. These despots torture their own people. Not letting Budweiser do business in Cuba is not torture to the Cuban people.

  • IC, Carlyle gives some interesting reporting where he and his family live and it’s an eye opening one for me. The author also reiterates how the average Cuban has
    very little to be hopeful for vs. a small entrepreneurial group who are making headways in the bigger cities. In short, when I see the picture of how Cubans have little or no motivation and or hope it’s distressing but not nearly as much as those living on the island. The bewildering fact is I read often with all this happening as I write, many do speak highly of the educational and medical benefits they enjoy as citizens. The mantra of course they are brainwashed but that’s too simple of an excuse so the final question is what would happen today if free elections were held and the choice between the present system vs. a newer more progressive one was presented? I will throw a figure out and predict half and half but time will tell. Perhaps the Castro brothers aren’t as reviled as we outside of Cuba view.

  • I think the Cuban government has already demonstrated that they won’t be pressured into doing anything your government demands. In the mean time, it’s the Cuban people who are suffering for your government’s policies…not their government. The Cuban people are caught in the middle…they are the innocent victims. Given that, why would you continue to support a continuation of your government’s abuse of power and torture of the Cuban people? When will the US truly take the moral high-ground and lead by example…not by way of repression?

  • What are you researching Gordon?

  • ….or if only Raul would act to meet the requirements set forth under Helms-Burton. Who is under greater pressure to act first?

  • John, 11 million Cubans do NOT overwhelmingly support the Castro revolution. The Castros remain firmly in control of Cuba. Donald Trump is NOT my friend. You are wrong on all three points and you call me the loser.

  • The Castros are still firmly in power, so that has not changed, and thus no real change has occurred.
    And resorting to name calling does not help you make your point, it only makes you look silly.

    ….by the way, when you say 11 million Cubans overwhelmingly support their revolution, do you have any data to back that up?

  • Georgie Ann Geyer -a reactionary TV personality and author – predicted back around 2000 that when Fidel went, that Cuba would change dramatically back to pre-revolutionary ways. .
    Didn’t happen.
    Wishful thinking.
    11 million Cubans overwhelmingly support their revolution, their government and overwhelmingly oppose U.S. imperialism .
    As your friend Dumb Donald Trump would say: “You’re a LOSER “

  • My last figure – 4.2 million Americans have a tie to Cuba and 92 % state they have ties to Europe. I will be down next month for my 90 th research trip to Cuba since 1993.
    Gordon Robinson Port Alberni B.C. Canada
    [email protected]

  • Interestingly, you mentioned nothing about the economic benefits of FULLY restored relations with the US… vis-à-vis, post economic embargo and Helms-Burton act. After all, those insane interventionist policies were meant to bring misery to the Cuban people…and on that account, your American government has been quite successful. Moses, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that the removal of those policies by your government will do more to genuinely help the people of Cuba than anything the Cuban government can currently afford. And that positive economic impact could happen well in advance of Raul stepping down in 2018…if only your American government would act to end the madness.

  • Not true Gordon. It’s not nearly that high.

  • The last paragraph – Over 90 % of Cuban Americans have have linage from Europe.

  • The last paragraph is the important one.

  • When, Rosa asks? When the Castros are dead or no longer in charge, whichever comes first.

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