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Inside Cuba

March 28, 2018

I recently went on a tour of Cuba, a bus tour of the island that began and ended in Havana.  My photographs from this tour are now available.  Most of the people on the tour were Americans.  In fact, there was only one other Canadian in the group.

The source of these comments was my own observations, along with information given us by our Cuban tour leader.

Judging by the number of monuments and museums devoted to leaders of the revolution, Cubans do celebrate their revolution.  In particular, they celebrate Che Guevera as a war hero.

The American embargo, begun in 1960, plays a major role in the character of Cuba today.  It does block many imports that would otherwise come from the nearby USA.  For example, orange juice is almost never available at breakfast buffets featured by all the hotels.  In fact, Cubans tend to blame all failures on the embargo.

We watched a documentary on the Bay of Pigs invasion, saw the bay itself, and visited the nearby Bay of Pigs museum.  The invasion was planned by president Kennedy just after he had promised that the USA would not invade Cuba.  It was mounted by the CIA, and almost seems intended to fail.  Fail it did.  The invaders were mostly Cuban exiles, although they were trained and equipped by Americans.  All of them were captured by the Cuban military within a few days.

There are railroads all over Cuba, but no trains run on those tracks.  The rolling stock is sitting in rail yards waiting for repairs that never happen.  On the other hand, roads and highways are busy.

Many of the agricultural products have no market outside of Cuba.  Who wants sugar or tobacco now?  Bananas grow well, but they are too small for international markets.  Some crops, sugar and coffee for example, require a great deal of manual labour.  Nobody wants to do this work anymore.

Electrical power comes mostly from diesel generators.  It’s unreliable, going off almost every day.  It’s also expensive.  That’s why all of our hotel rooms had LED lights and a master switch mounted on the wall near the entrance door.

Cuba does have some oil, but it’s too high in sulfur for most uses.  Much of the crude oil and petroleum is imported from other countries.  Gasoline and diesel fuel is expensive in Cuba.

Our tour company gave us bottled water to drink.  In fact, some hotels advised their guests not to drink the tap water.  Every building seems to have rooftop water tanks.  These are filled by a water company when necessary.  Even then, the water supply in hotel rooms is unreliable.  They warn about the temperature of the hot water, but you usually get only a trickle of luke-warm water.

Socialism is the basis of the economy.  There’s only one political party.  However, according to our guide, the importance of a person’s political affiliation has been waning recently.  Still, the government operates all large enterprises.  Government corporations sell rum and cigars to tourists.  There are also many benefits of the socialist system for ordinary Cubans.  They buy food at subsidized prices and receive free health care, for example.  Unemployment is low.  However, wages are also low.  Still, there’s a great deal of support for the Cuban revolution, the socialist system, and for the government of Cuba.


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