What’s Changed in Cuba Since the Accords with USA?

By Circles Robinson

Egg delivery.  Photo: Juan Suárez
Eggs.  Photo: Juan Suárez

HAVANA TIMES – People abroad are wondering what changes are visible in Havana since the Castro and Obama governments decided last December to restart the relationship between the two countries.  Here are a few of the changes our writers report.

– People in general are more hopeful, although a certain degree of skepticism is common on whether an improved tourism economy will reach ordinary workers and their families who are not in that industry.

– Tourism in the capital is up considerably boosted by a surge in ordinary US citizens and Cuban-Americans. One can witness more tourists in the streets. As a result, renting a car can be very difficult.

– Many Cubans are studying English and learning tourism related jobs. A small minority with startup capital are fixing up homes to use as rentals as well as open cafes or restaurants. They are awaiting an explosion of tourism and dollars.

– Salaried workers are hoping the increased economic activity will translate into livable wages. (Currently the average pay is only around US $20 a month, with many workers earning $15 or less.). Some are hopeful for new employment opportunities with US companies that might establish on the island.

– Cross border exchanges of a professional and/or artistic nature are becoming more frequent.

Downside

-Some people thought that by 6-months after the thaw in relations the stores would be full of products. That has clearly not happened.

-Chronic shortages of all types of basic consumer products, including food staples, continues and in some cases is even worse. The lack of proper wholesale outlets makes families have to compete with businesses for scarce products at expensive retail prices.

-Communities and cities off the tourist trail are not yet experiencing the increase in business activity.

To be continued…


13 thoughts on “What’s Changed in Cuba Since the Accords with USA?

  • July 8, 2015 at 9:15 am
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    Just what they need, outsiders taking over all the land. That was the case prior to the revolution. Most of the best land was controlled by outside sources including United Fruit and ITT. I don’t believe it is of benefit to the country to give up it’s real estate. I hope that Cuba has sense enough to only lease the land and not outright sell it.

  • July 8, 2015 at 9:09 am
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    Why would you have a hotel in a town with only 34,000 residents if it isn’t in a tourist or business destination? I was in the hotel business and I certainly wouldn’t build a hotel there. If there isn’t any industry or tourism, how would you fill up a hotel? I know a lot of small towns in the U.S. that don’t have hotels or a lot of restaurants. Of course the hotels with high occupancies are in major cities or resort areas. Nobody I deal with beliefs that the infrastructure of Cuba is in good shape. However, with business improving and more money coming into the country every area of Cuba will eventually benefit.

  • July 8, 2015 at 8:58 am
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    You might want to read a report “Soft Landing in Cuba” by the Latin America Initiative at Brookings. It is about private business in Cuba and was written back in November 2013. Changes were taking place before Obama.

  • July 7, 2015 at 7:33 am
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    In my humble opinion there will be little change of the present economic conditions, until the government can assure that there will be growing value in equity of real estate. R.E. is the only real wealth and security for future of private ownership.

  • July 6, 2015 at 9:33 am
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    Here’s the problem: culturally, there are natural social barriers between classes of the 1 billion Chinese. Improving economic condtions for the Chinese at the top of the socila ladder has met with little complaint or resistance from Chines lower on the socioeconomic ladder. Centuries of separation have numbed poor Chinese to otherwise unfair improvements in living conditions. On the other hand in Cuba, the relatively minuscule 11 million Cubans see themselves as social equals. As economic conditions improve in Cuba as a result of greater interactions with the US, the benefits of these interactions with not be proportionately shared by all Cubans. Those Cubans, mostly white, with access to tourists, private businesses or who receive remittances from abroad are likely to benefit most. Cubans who don’t have access to tourists, mostly black Cubans, who also don’t have family abroad to who send them money, have fewer private businesses, and are less likely to see any benefits of rapprochement.

  • July 6, 2015 at 8:33 am
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    Nice to see you have friends that believe there is a chance to change their lives when the embargo is lifted. As with China, I believe Cuba will change by attrition when the embargo is lifted

  • July 6, 2015 at 7:58 am
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    Castro has ruled out any political reform. The army controls over 70% of the Cuban economy. Why would anybody expect any change?

  • July 5, 2015 at 7:38 am
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    I see things as Carlyle does, that majority of Cuba outside of touristic parts of Havana and the resorts having little or absolutely no impact at all. I spendtime in a municipality in the east with 34,000 residents but no hotel, no casas, and only one paladar that serves something other than pizza. The continuing economic struggle remains unchanged. Economic progress? Well, late last week the electricity to the library was shut off because there was not money in the budget to pay the electric bill. More Americans in Havana does absolutely nothing for them.

  • July 2, 2015 at 7:09 pm
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    Thank you Circles. The Havana rumour mill does not reflect Cuba. It’s impossible to find a room in an hotel in our middle of the island city, because there isn’t a single hotel. Almost 100,000 people live in the immediate area. Those optimists who thought of the opportunity to buy and sell houses and cars as the biggest change in their lifetimes remain optimistic, whereas the realists recognize that there is no change for them. The daily challenge of looking after their families by feeding and clothing them remains.

  • July 2, 2015 at 1:48 pm
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    In my 20 years of travel to Cuba, I am used to seeing hotels in Havana, particularly the older ones, with occupancy rates that appeared to be about 15% at best. You could look up at the Habana Libre at night and see lights on in 4 or 5 rooms. Lately I’ve read lots of articles by people w/ little or no prior experience in Cuba saying that it is impossible to find a room. They certainly don’t stay in the places I always go like El Lido or the old Bruzon near the terminal, but is it correct that the higher end places are all full now ?

  • July 2, 2015 at 1:20 pm
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    Excellent piece, amigo

  • July 2, 2015 at 11:00 am
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    Circles, I am hearing something similar. I will call it guarded optimism. My Cuban friend, Jorge, is both hopeful and bitter. He realizes that without the money to take advantage of future opportunities, he remains at the end of a long line of Cubans hoping for trickle – down economics to take effect. Nonetheless, he says that at least there is hope. Before December 17, Jorge had nothing to look forward to.

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