Saturday, August 18, 2007

More Thoughts on Cuba

A propos of my recent article on Cuba, I have received this email from Cathrine Stephenson from Australia.

Hi Neil
I've just read your article 'A bit of socialism wouldn't hurt Cuba' published in The Australian newspaper today. Having recently spent 5 weeks in Cuba, I always read any news about it but for the first time since my visit, I was most pleasantly surprised to read something that accurately portrayed my feelings and opinions of the country.
My lasting impression and experience was of a beautiful country with wonderful people who struggle day to day to get the basics of food for their families and who, despite being the beneficiaries of a well trained health workforce, can't actually enjoy the benefits because the workforce doesn't have access to the equipment and medicines they need - and where a few CUCs might let you jump the queue to get soon to sooner.

The rhetoric of socialism that is prevalent as you know but all around me I saw a distinct division between those with access to CUC (as you say the small percentage of the population who works in tourism or has family overseas sending them hard currency) and the vast majority of people who don't and whose rations aren't even enough to last 2 weeks let alone the month they are designed for. Who can blame those Cubans who hustle tourists - I am sure I would if our roles were reversed.
Learning about the revolution was an eye-opener for me and I can understand why it happened - and the ideals that drove it - but I share your view that the socialist rhetoric is merely that these days and that the reality of life for most Cubans is harsh but not one equally shared by all Cubans.

So thank you for sharing your views - I still think about Cuba often and have struggled within myself to reconcile theory, rhetoric and the reality I experienced (which was only a small part). While I initially went there as I love to dance, Cuba challenged me on many levels and I think it is important that people's views of this country are challenged as well.
Cathrine Stephenson

Is there anyone else out there who has visited Cuba recently and feels the same about the place as Cathrine and I? If so, I'd be interested to hear from you. Or perhaps there are readers who have visited Cuba and who believe it really is a model socialist society?

1 comment:

Ken said...

Your correspondent left out the fact that anyone can exchange ordinary pesos for the convertible type. the rate is about 25-1. The problem is that when your wage is about 300 ordinary pesos a week, you can't buy many.

The problem I think that Cubans have was summed up here. Basically they want to work in a socialist economy, but enjoy all the goodies that a capitalist one can provide.

Talking to the petrol station attendant - link above - I told her that yes Mexico had all the goodies, but a woman like her would never be able to afford them. She heard me, but I don't think that she really understood.

That's the problem.