Fidel's Cuba
December 2016 
On 25th November 2016, Fidel Castro died aged 90.

He had ruled Cuba for nearly 50 years. Turning it into a one party socialist state he nationalised the countries industries and introduced many social reforms.

In 2008 he retired due to ill health, handing over the reigns to his younger brother Raúl, who has made a number of significant changes. 

Raúl is due to retire in 2018, and many Cuban's fear life under a new president. Relations with America were improving under the Obama administration, but the election of President Trump creates more uncertainty.

I visited Cuba a few weeks after Fidel died. The following images hopefully capture a bit of Cuba as it is now. 

 

Sugar is still Cuba's biggest export, and accounts for some 10% of the world's sugar production. The sugar plantations and refineries are state controlled.

Eesme has been employed by the state all his working life, and is now a superintendent overseeing the harvest.

Interestingly the brand new tractors were made by J I Case - an American company! 


Family has always been at the heart of Cuban life but this is rapidly changing. Family size has decreased with many parents only having one child. Education is good, and increasingly the  educated young are moving out of the family home leaving the old to fend for themselves.  Pensions are small, and those unable to cope find themselves in a "hospital for the aged".

With such a huge coastline, it is surprising not to see more fishing boats. Access to the small clusters of home-built boats is restricted and the catch has to be sold to the state. In spite of relaxation of travel restrictions, is this a deterrent to escape?

Hurricane Mathew hit the eastern end of the island in October 2016, and repair work is still being carried out.
High priority on Fidel's list of reforms was the provision of sports facilities for young people. Sadly some are now seriously neglected, but work is being carried out sprucing up the artwork......
1n 1990, with the demise of the communist countries such as Russia, Fidel suddenly lost the subsidies that his country's economy was dependent on. 

Food became scarce with many loosing a third of their body weight. This time was referred to The Special Period.



In order to obtain much needed hard currency, Fidel opened the country to tourism.

With an abundance of beautiful beaches, and  a warm climate, tourists from Mexico, Spain, UK and Canada arrived in their thousands. 

Tourism is now the main source of income in Cuba. A new currency - the CUC - was introduced for tourists, with one CUC being worth US$1.



Before Raúl came to power in 2008, most of the working popualtion (about 90%) were employed by the state.  
One of the first changes that he made was to grant business licences for a number of selected occupations.

Many have embraced the opportunity, particularly in the tourism industry,  seeing this as a way of earning the highly valued CUC.  

A cruise round Havana in one of the beautiful old classic car's is on most tourist's itinery. Some of these cars supposedly change hands at around 100,000 CUC, but provide the owner with a steady source of income.

Whilst the state run shops supply the basics, "luxary" items such as shampoo and cosmetics must be bought in a CUC shop. Items are often in short supply, and long queues form. Raúl has also allowed the import of certain electrical goods. 
Street markets and small shops are now providing a better supply of locally sourced produce.

Cuba grew rich on sugar money in the 18th and 19th century, when many beautiful houses were built. Most of these have fallen into disrepair, but there is a huge restoration program across Cuba to bring at least some of the buildings back to their former glory.

One of the problems of the growth of tourism, is an increase in prostitution, and now Cuba is treated by some as a sex holiday destination.

Another problem caused by the increase use of the CUC, is an emerging middle class. This appears to fly in the face of all that Fidel wanted to achieve.

But whatever the future holds in store for Cuba, one thing is for certain. Life will go on as it has for hundreds of years..................
And the sound of music will never be far away...
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January 2017