Cuba Needs Urgent and Substantial Reforms

By Angel Vazquez Mourenza*

Street in Trinidad, Cuba. Photo: Elio Delgado Valdés

HAVANA TIMES — I’d wanted to go to Cuba for a long time now, and I finally went. I would have liked to have gone a long time ago, 25 years ago for example, when the country seemed to be living better times thanks to their relationship with the Soviet Union founded on mutual interest. I decided to go now, understanding that it was now or never, given the fact that it will soon be full of McDonalds.

Even though I was trying to think positively and excuse or justify all of the negative and unpleasant things I saw, it really is hard to do so.

It is undoubtedly a beautiful country; we got a glimpse of Havana, Vinales, Trinidad, Remedios and the Cayos. We saw Centro Habana, practically in ruins, as if it had been struck by war, entire streets lifted up, magnificent buildings without doors and windows.

It’s true that the squares in Old Havana have been renovated, as well as the main streets that go off them, but when you venture a little off of these, we were back into what’s normal here, that is to say, a semi-destroyed city which has only been partially fixed up for foreign tourists.

From a social point of view, I found many similar realities to those I experienced when I traveled to Beijing, a country which doesn’t have private property and is experiencing a fierce Capitalism. I’m sure the US blockade and the disappearance of the USSR had a lot to do with Cuba’s current situation, but you can’t blame everything on external enemies. A land where a hotel bell boy earns in a day the same as a hospital surgeon would in a month isn’t a decent country.

Photo: Juan Suárez

My impression of Cuba was that it was very expensive, even for tourists, and inaccessible to Cubans who don’t work closely to foreign tourists, or don’t deal on the black market. Nonetheless, it’s surprising to see Cubans in hotels which cost 120 euros/night, or in restaurants where you spend 20 euros for a meal, which would mean 15 days of work for a university professor. There is clearly corruption and nepotism involved.

On the other hand, you can’t really expect much from a regime, where the majority of its subjects are longing to leave and head towards the enemy, and this is the feeling I went away with. I’m sure that this longing to leave the island has a lot to do with the Cuban people’s difficult prospects of survival. The only industry I saw was that which exploits tourists, and its main sector is firmly rooted in the past, without technology, working the land with plows pulled by oxen and cutting sugar cane with machetes.

Ultimately, this country, which apparently has great potential, is in desperate need of immediate change, with political reforms and in its productive system. It would be ideal for these reforms to come about from the Cuban people’s own freedom, for their own well-being, and not those which are imposed on them by whoever wants to transform it into their colony, casino or brothel.
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*Guest writer


40 thoughts on “Cuba Needs Urgent and Substantial Reforms

  • February 4, 2017 at 9:32 pm
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    Insults don’t change facts. You are the one with a “lazy brain”.
    Read up:
    http://prostitucionencuba.impela.net/
    The regime hasn’t been doing substantial to end prostitution in general and even child prostitution. A couple of convictions for tens of thousands of abuses. Lots of countries have done a lot more than Cuba. Cuba is still in denial and greed (get the tourists and their cash) is what drives the Cuban policies. The actions of the regime have turned prostitution in to a real criminal environment by repressing the “independent jineteras” that now are under the thumb of pimps that pay the corrupt police.

  • January 31, 2017 at 6:48 pm
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    Democrat rule and a market sector would not bar a national healthcare and education system. An oppressive dictatorship and slave wages is not the necessary to achieve social justice. The Cuba system can evolve by building strong governing institutions. I grew up in Cuba, it is not or nor ever was it a socialist paradise. This is about going forward. Not back to Batista’s 1950’s or Fidel’s decades of social experimentation.

  • January 30, 2017 at 5:21 pm
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    To each his own; I just say set up your own cafes, paladares, restaurants, fast food places; with Cuban and international food. Don’t be taken over by American companies.

  • January 30, 2017 at 11:59 am
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    You didn’t answer the question. No surprise. Fines levied against French-owned banks have nothing to do with the cost and AVAILABILITY of aspirin in Cuba. If Cuba chose to purchase more aspirin, the US embargo specifically excludes medicine. If what you wanted to say but failed to do so was that the US embargo has increased borrowing costs for the Castros, I would beg to differ. The Castros, and their disrespect of loan repayments, has had a far more damaging effect on Cuba’s cost of funds. As I commented earlier, while many like to parrot the Castro line on the ill effects of the embargo, very few know what those effects are.

  • January 30, 2017 at 11:46 am
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    Migue88: are you aware that the largest majority of illegal transfers by BNP Paribas involved Sudan and specifically prohibited individuals on the know terrorist list? Only a small part related to Cuba.

    Do you realize the fine was so large because of widespread management participation in filing fraudulent documents with the US Federal Reserve System? The judge described BNP as a “truly a tour de fraud.”

    Do you know the BNP fraud went back to 2002 and continued even after the US authorities began their investigation?

    This $9 Billion fine certainly was not for a few innocent transactions with Cuba but for BNP’s management, who plead guilty, in a long running fraudulent program to funnel some $30 Billion to terrorists?

  • January 30, 2017 at 10:51 am
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    UNICEF representative Juan José Ortiz made this statement in Havana:

    “On the planet, millions of children lack schools and vaccination against preventable diseases, besides being the object of labour and sexual exploitation in the international prostitution networks and none of them is Cuban”

  • January 30, 2017 at 10:46 am
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    Yea right, whatever…But just if Trump does not destroy the whole planet first!

  • January 30, 2017 at 8:48 am
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    Easy man, I don’t hate you…If you go Cuba (under 12 allowed categories) you can meet real Cubans in the street, we are very friendly :):):)
    BTW: no matter your country of origin or your religion…

  • January 30, 2017 at 8:36 am
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    LOL, I also like Mac’s…

  • January 29, 2017 at 9:32 pm
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    Thank you for your effort to reply in English. How long have you lived outside of Cuba? What “damage” does the US embargo cause in the daily Cuban life. I have never had a straight answer to that question. I am excited to read your response. Many of Cuba’s problems don’t take even a week to see. Crumbling infrastructure, rampant corruption, low worker moral, poor environmental controls are just a few easily visible in the Joe Marti airport upon arrival.

  • January 29, 2017 at 9:24 pm
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    Actually, there are quite a few aid programs for legal immigrants.

  • January 29, 2017 at 9:21 pm
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    You misunderstood. When you respond to a criticism of Cuba by commenting that the US has problems too, there is no gain. No place is perfect. While the solution in the US is less guns, the solution for Cuba is more democracy. There’s no value in discussing the two very different solutions in the same space.

  • January 29, 2017 at 7:30 pm
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    How naive you are ! I live with and as a cuban……i see children so obese its heart breaking…how i wish they could eat a mcdonalds hamburger……instead they eat a daily supply of pizzas a glutinious obscene sandwich pizza of bad cheese and a red liquid with a one inch slab of bread….they eat it because they are hungry…they are hungry because thier parents spent the food money to pay for minutes to put on thier cell phones…..there are now over 3 million cell phones in cuba with a server that is on the edge of larceney…..its sickening and criminal….cuba needs change…..change to regain thier pride and self respect…and they will do it …..the young people will do it…..vive cuba !!!

  • January 29, 2017 at 6:06 pm
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    I can understand from where you are coming from but you cannot generalize regarding pride and freedom. And yes, we should all stop telling them how to live. Get away from Havana and go to the countryside and you will see pride and dignity abundantly in their faces. A tsunami of MacDonalds and other American junk giants, would make them momentarily happier , but it’s a double edged sword. This would be a death sentence ….. obesity , heart disease, strokes, certain cancers, setting off a domino affect of lack of health care , lack of hospital beds, etc. With American type progress comes American diseases and crime.

  • January 29, 2017 at 4:50 pm
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    I don’t think you will ever get it will you?
    There are people from all over the place who comment here.
    But it seems that a great many comments are from people who live in the USA writing about Cuba.
    There are obviously criticisms here about Cuba.
    Including frequent criticisms from yourself.
    But when people draw parallels between Cuba and your country, you get all flustered up and hot under the collar.
    People are just adding a bit of reason and context.
    It seems like you are very good a dishing it out (criticism), but you are very lame when it comes to being on the receiving end.
    It would suggest that it is actually not for you to decide what choice of subject matter contributors here choose to stray onto??

  • January 29, 2017 at 4:34 pm
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    Miguel, I have had the privilege of spending a period of time living in your country and I go to visit regularly.
    It is like a second home to me (I’m from England).
    I find Cuba to be a place of many contrasts between Havana and the provinces and between the urban and the rural.
    I have met people from all parts of society and with all points of view.
    I have seen a lot of changes from when I first went there 20 years ago.
    Cuba has it’s issues and problems.
    It is not a paradise.
    But from what I have experienced, I would say that the vast majority of Cubans have a good deal of pride and dignity.
    I find that generally speaking, in Cuba there is a wonderfully dark sense of humour and the vast majority of people there have a very strong ‘never say die’ outlook on life.
    I would also add that on more than one occasion, I have known complete strangers in Cuba to help me out without any self interest whatsoever.
    It is difficult to describe how much this type of kindness means to me.
    For me such acts are examples of real Pride and Dignity.
    Mr Dalton is making comments that make no sense to me.
    As far as I’m concerned, he has to be talking about somewhere else!!

  • January 29, 2017 at 9:52 am
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    There’s a newspaper called the New York Times that does just that. Also the Washington Post and many others. You should check them out if you are longing for a venue to express your comments about the problems in the US. This is HAVANA TIMES. Subject matter: Cuba

  • January 29, 2017 at 9:43 am
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    Oh please allow me to translate”
    Now let’s see,,,,,

    1-torture IS an “effective interrogatory method” & if you disagree, you just have never been tortured obviously

    2-83 million killed, where was that exactly that we killed 83 mil?…oh, yeah,
    I forgot, we call that “cost of doing business”,,,, so sorry 🙂

    3-wait wait ,, we also have black police officers killing unarmed white colored people,,, (that way, the public is kept in suspense when they come in contact with the pinche policia)

    4-there has never been a door actually,,, thats why we are building a wall you dummy… without a wall where would you attach the door to 🙂

    5-actually drug and crime are pretty much not just a “day order menu”,,, we actually serve that 24/7

    6-ahhhhh, wait are you talking about Bill (as in Bill Clinton) or John F. Kennedy… you know they both grabbed a whole bunch of pussy… but keep that to yourself,,that one is still classified,,,,,,, oh, yeah, Bill also shoved a cigar up the girls you know what? and I hear he never smoked that cigar,, he said it was too moist 🙂 AND,, he sold the cigar far far more expensive than a 56 guage Behike.

    7-well, sorry to disappoint, but it is a DECENT COUNTRY…

    8-oh, thanks for your concern, but we are focused on our problems, hence The Donald getting elected …. we are building a Wall so that you can leave us alone.

    Now go drink a cold glass of water, take a deep breath, and STOP HATING ON US. 🙂

  • January 29, 2017 at 9:41 am
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    Regretfully the Castro regime already has turned Cuba in to a brothel and a known destination for child sex tourism as international organisation to protect children ECPAT confirmed.
    http://www.ecpat.org.uk/sites/default/files/cuba05.pdf
    Illegal gambling is going on as well as various press reports showed. No true casinos have been created, but “playgrounds” for the rich and – not so – (in)famous abound.
    The potential of Cuba lies in the people of Cuba. Their energy needs to be set free. The people need to be released from repression, slavery and bondage. To paraphrase Orwell: “the future lies in the proles”. The elite is the problem. No Castro, no problem.

  • January 29, 2017 at 9:13 am
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    ARE YOU KIDDING?????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    life is worthless with out the “BIG MAC”,,, ok ok,, it makes your stomach ache few hours ofter consumption, no dispute there,,,but it’s soooooooooooooooooooo good when you are eating it 🙂

    and the fries??? those are the absolutely, hands down, the best french fries there ever existed. How can you deprive ANYONE of these two horrendously unhealthy but most deeeeeelicous heart attack causing U.S. inventions.

  • January 29, 2017 at 8:55 am
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    “the majority of cubans do not have any pride…..thier pride has been stolen from them…..they have no diginity”…Let me explain you HOW INSULTING ARE YOUR WORDS for a Cuban. I will explain it making use of Fernando Ortiz definition: WHAT IS A CUBAN? (i´m apollogize for the Google Translation, but could not find it in English):
    The Cubans are among you but they are not yours. The Cubans drink in the same cup the joy and bitterness. They make music of their weeping and laugh at the music. They take jokes seriously and make jokes about the serious. Did not believe in and believe in everything. Do not dare argue with them ever! Cubans are born with wisdom. They do not need to read, they know everything! They do not need to travel, they’ve seen everything! They are something like the chosen people … by themselves. The Cubans are individually characterized by their sympathy and intelligence and in groups, for their shouting and passion. Each of them carries the spark of the geniuses and the geniuses do not get along with each other, hence bringing Cubans together is easy, but putting them together is almost impossible. Do not talk about logic, because that involves reasoning and moderation and Cubans are hyperbolic and exaggerated. For example, they invite one to a restaurant to eat, they do not take us to the best restaurant in town, but to the best restaurant in the world. When they argue, they do not say, “I do not agree with you,” but “You’re completely wrong!”…Cubans offer solutions before they know the problem. For they never have problem. All Cubans know what needs to be done to eliminate terrorism, (…) , eliminate hunger in Africa, pay foreign debt, who should be President and how any country can become a world power. They do not understand why others do not understand them, when their ideas are so simple and they do not understand, why people do not want to learn to speak Spanish like them… Ah … the Cubans … You can not live long with them, but it is impossible to live without them.

    Love them, RESPECT!!! them and let them be “CUBANOS”.

  • January 29, 2017 at 8:45 am
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    I´m agree with you…This person truly does not know a real cuban. I´m cuban and I´m very proud…I know my own country…If they are planning to reclute cubans for the “cause” against Castro…Better to learn about cuban´s pride and dignity…

  • January 29, 2017 at 8:32 am
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    Advanced Reply…Why thousands of cubans leave the country every year? For the same reason thousands of Mexicans, and other southamercicans leaves their country, even when other southamericans does not receives any economical support from the US Gov on arrival and can´t apply for permanent residence after one year… Or, Why do you think they are planning to the build wall?

  • January 29, 2017 at 8:19 am
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    My grampa during the “great, great, great” Batista´s government worked making charcoal at Cienega de Zapata 14 hours a day, his first son died with 2 years from a curable disease…Just because he has no money…Of course, Havana had a lot of casinos, bourdels, marines making pis on our National Hero monument, …If that is your meaning of a great, great country…No, thanks. My meaning is: yes we have economical problems, a lot…But is really “double-dealing” to to criticize Cuba, omitting the damage that US “Embargo” causes in our daily life. Its more “double-dealing” coming from some one that think he can get a PhD degree in “Cuban Problems” after a “week tour” to Cuba…BTW did any one knows already where is the Cuban Capitol Diamond???

  • January 29, 2017 at 8:07 am
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    I am one of those Cubans who had left the country. Cuba has a system which suffocated any individual rights. It is a corrupt unipersonal dictatorship very similar to North Korea. The Castros have ransacked my country for almost 60 years. The Castro”s have trillions of dollars in secret bank accounts in Switzerland ,Panama and Cayman Islands. Some day that is going to be well known and all of those that have defended this criminal system like Michael Moore and the pro Obama Hollywood elite will be shocked to find out the Nazy style system imposed on the Cuban people by the Castro Gang.

  • January 29, 2017 at 7:35 am
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    You’re ALL RIGHT!!! They should write about deportations, about the wall, about people without health insurance; about inocent people dying on daily shootings; but they prefere to criticise other ones.

  • January 29, 2017 at 6:48 am
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    Sometimes the truth hurts. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t the truth however.

  • January 29, 2017 at 6:45 am
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    Your observations of Cuba are sadly accurate.

  • January 29, 2017 at 6:43 am
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    On the contrary, her observations are spot-on.

  • January 29, 2017 at 6:42 am
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    Nothing in your comment addresses the problems that the Castros have caused Cuba. What you have done is called deflection. There are many blogs where your concerns for the problems that the US is facing are better expressed.

  • January 29, 2017 at 6:11 am
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    Normalisation?
    Russia long ago moved away from Lenin.
    Since the collapse of the Soviet Union the following has occurred in Russia:
    Healthcare system has gone down the drain.
    Life Expectancy has dropped significantly.
    Absolute Poverty has boomed.
    Infant malnutrition is on the up.
    Crime and corruption are rife.
    Vastly unequal distribution of wealth has now reached sickening levels.
    And for a period of time Moscow became the murder capital of the world as the various capitalists, oligarchs and gangsters fought for the biggest slice of the cake.
    In your brain you call this ‘normalisation’??
    I think you wear an ideological blindfold.
    Cuba has its faults. Changes are indeed needed.
    But your definition of normalisation needs to be absolutely avoided.

  • January 29, 2017 at 5:57 am
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    Are you in some way attempting to produce the most sickening remarks ever seen on this forum?
    I don’t know where you are from Mr Dalton, presumably somewhere you believe to be perfect?
    Suggesting that the majority of Cubans have no pride or dignity is wrong.
    It is very very wrong.
    Shameful remarks.

  • January 29, 2017 at 5:07 am
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    In the same author´s words: A LAND where the torture is considered by the government an “effective” interrogatory method, A LAND that killed 83 MILLION people in their worldwide fight “for the pace and freedom” on last 214 years, A LAND where white police officers kills unarmed black colored people, A LAND that close their doors for most needed people (refugees), A LAND where drug and crime is a “day order menu” on many cities, A LAND where the presidente is a “Pussy Grabber”…ISN´T A DECENT COUNTRY!!! Focus on your LOOOOOOTTTTTTT of problems, Build your F* wall and leave us alone.

  • January 29, 2017 at 4:32 am
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    You lost me straight away too with your comment… “given the fact that it will soon be full of McDonalds”. I’m sorry, but your wide-eyed and naive assertions are that of a person out of touch with the reality that is Cuba.

  • January 28, 2017 at 7:02 pm
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    you clearly didnt enjoy your vacation in Cuba. Your post implies a bad expierence. No body likes to be critiizised, least of all the beautiful Cuban people, and their country.Learn some manners. As they say in Cuba, our wine may be sour, but is our wine.

  • January 28, 2017 at 2:29 pm
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    I read no farther than “given the fact that it will soon be full of McDonalds”. If you believe that, you know nothing about Cuba.

  • January 28, 2017 at 1:32 pm
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    Dont worry the food at mcdonalds is far to expensive for most cubans and mcdonalds works on cold hard cash not cuc or the cup and as far as i know they have no intentions of being the first u.s fast food company the beef in cuba would not be up to their standards

  • January 28, 2017 at 12:42 pm
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    I have to respond to you…..i need to respond to your post…….the majority of cubans do not have any pride…..thier pride has been stolen from them…..they have no diginity…..i cry sometimes at thier behaviour in public and my compassion grows….do not claim that you know whats best for them….they have had enough of people telling them how to live and controll thier every thought.if it takes a sunami of macdonalds to improve thier lot in life then so be it…..let them have thier day in the sun .they have been confined long enough!!!

  • January 28, 2017 at 12:27 pm
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    Only the people themselves can change the course of this disaster. Normalization will shorten the years of misery yet to be suffered. But it is only when the people fully turn away from the false promises of the socialist bureaucracy that it begins. 100 years ago there was some question of socialism versus free markets. In 1959, it was an unsettled question. But in 2016, the failures of socialism are well known. Capitalism in raw form rages in China. Vietnam has transformed it’s economy. Russia long ago moved on from Lenin. The basket case economies that hang on are North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba. Already we see Cuba on verge of internal driven reforms.

  • January 28, 2017 at 11:26 am
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    Please be wrong about McDonalds, the Cuban people have too much pride.

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