Monday, 1 February 2016

Parting Thoughts From Cuba

It's Cuba, where they will happily sell you a card to access the Internet, then have a non-functioning Internet for days at a time. I'm writing this post in the vain hope that I might, just maybe, get a working window with some sort of connectivity. On the other hand, I'm in Cuba. What do I have to complain about?

While I may be having a good time, Cuba presents some real challenges to me. By coming here, I am clearly supporting an oppressive regime, a security state. My hard currency is allowing the Cuban government to spend money on weapons and military. Yet at the same time there are a great many local people who benefit substantially from tourisim, not just through the meagre wages they earn from the government, but through the tips and through whatever gifts tourists like me might bring with them.

There are two schools of thought here in Cuba, as you might expect. There are those who want to leave this country, and there are those who want to stay and see it change, to work for change. I've had opportunities to talk with both; both points of view have their benefits. Those who want to leave are not willing to risk the dangers and time needed to build the Cuban economy. Those who want to stay would rather live with the devil they know rather than the devil they don't.

Overall the Cuban people seem happy enough. They are used to the frustrations and insanity of a government which promotes the raising of cattle for milk, so that every child can have milk, but then see no milk in the stores. They are used to rules which allow them to own a cow, but not to kill that cow. Meat can only be slaughtered with government permission, and then only for sale to the resorts. In  Cuba, beef is for tourists. Pork is for the locals. Chicken is a rarity, but can be had either way.

Many of them are angry at what they call the "lies" of the government. Certainly the propaganda here is pervasive as the Castro's attempt to keep alive the myth of the revolution. Yet even in this "worker's paradise", there are those with the right connections, those within the ruling class, who have so much more than the average worker. Most of them are either cynical about it, dedicated to changing it, or desparate to leave it. I've found nobody yet who actually believes it.

As I leave, one thing strikes me clearly. Cuba is a country ready and waiting for change. You can smell it in the air. There are a great many people talking about what will happen over the next few years, as the embargo lifts, what will happen as the aging Castro brothers attempt to pass power to the next generation. Things will change, that's for sure. Just how is a bit of a crap shoot.

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