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Cubans are complaining – loudly – March 2, 2008

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics.

Cubans are complaining – loudly – World Blog – msnbc.com
During many visits to Cuba over the last two decades, I have never heard so many everyday Cubans openly criticizing life on the island as I did during this last trip to cover Raul Castro officially taking over the presidency from his ailing brother, Fidel.

No one was surprised by Raul Castro’s nomination; that was widely expected. So all eyes that day were on the second-in-command position, that of first vice-president. When the person named was not a younger reformer type, as a lot of people had hoped, but instead a hardliner – a 77-year-old Communist Party ideologue named Jose Ramon Machado Ventura – many people in Cuba were disappointed and even felt betrayed.

In past years, such public complaining would have been punished and was rarely heard. People have always griped here, as they do everywhere else in the world, but in Cuba it used to be done much more discreetly, usually after looking both ways to make sure no one from the government was listening.

Millions speak up
What changed is that a little more than a year ago, after becoming interim president, Raul Castro actually urged Cubans to openly air their grievances. He even listed some of his own complaints about waste and inefficiencies in the government-controlled economy.

With that as a cue that they were now allowed to speak out, millions of Cubans let loose and registered a long list of criticisms.

They are fed up, they said, with low wages that can’t even cover basics necessities, overcrowded buses, meager supplies in government-run stores and long waits and too few workers in Cuba’s vaunted health care system.

Younger Cubans – in particular, those born long after the 1950’s revolution – expressed anger at not being able to enter Cuba’s luxury hotels, where only foreign tourists are allowed, unless they happened to be working there. They said they wanted an end to Cuba’s exit-visa requirement, where a person can’t legally travel outside the country without prior government approval.

In this fast-moving global world, they also want more access to the Internet and satellite television, which is tightly controlled. And they want the right to buy and sell a home or a car, which is currently prohibited.



1. talkingcuba - February 27, 2009

I’ve noticed the same, but it’s still guarded. The walls still have ears as they say in Cuba. But there is so little to lose. Everything is illegal in Cuba, unless expressly prohibited, but they have found a way to survive. Recently I’ve heard that there is greater enforcement of black market activity, people are being thrown in jail. It could be cyclical, or it could be trouble brewing. The internet is scarce in Cuba, but what little there is has made a difference in Cubans desire for freedom of expression. This should be a lesson to us that lifting the embargo would have an even greater impact. http://talkingcuba.wordpress.com/

2. talkingcuba - February 27, 2009

Oh, and I enjoyed reading your posts.

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