Will US-Cuba Relations Resume Smoothly When Cuba Is Such A Contradictory Country?

Cuba Releases Man. Photo Credit: Jon Crel CC 2.0

Cuba Releases Man. Photo Credit: Jon Crel CC 2.0

President Obama has declared a new relationship with Cuba. But what will the U.S. find when its citizens are free to cross those 90 miles of shark-infested waters? Fidel Castro thrust himself into the role of Cuba’s dictator over half a century ago on January 1st. After overthrowing Dictator Fulgencio Bastista, the brash young revolutionary molded Cuba into a Communist country. And Castro has ruled this island country with an inflexible hand. Times were good when the Soviet Union backed Castro.

But when the Soviet Union fell apart over two decades ago, Cuba became a land of contradictions. It is important for the U.S. to understand those contradictions as it implements President Obama’s new Executive Order. The order allows visits and imports to and from Cuba among other objectives.

What is life like for “Eduardo,” a young man native to Cuba? From the National Geographic:

—the laws allow people to buy and sell houses and cars openly, obtain bank loans, and work legally for themselves in a variety of small businesses rather than being obliged to work for the state…new self-employment laws and new flexibility in agricultural land use.

But no. More eye rolling. “All that is for the benefit of these guys,” Eduardo said and tapped his own shoulder, the discreet Cuban signal for a person with military hardware and inner-circle political pull.

 “I love my country,” Eduardo kept saying. “But there is no future for me here.”

Cuba is beautiful, but it is decaying just beneath its surface. Now that people from the U.S. can join every other country as tourists, they will see a place that seems to have frozen in the 1950’s. That is thanks to Presidents Eisenhower’s and Kennedy’s embargo that has continued through every other president until now.

The beautiful old buildings houses U.S. tourists vacationing and smoking renowned Cuban cigars. But those building are crumbling from within and crashing. Cubans call the old American cars “maquina” (machine). And they can be vividly colored restored machines. But these elderly cars are fragile and prone to failure.

As evidence of its contradictions, Cuba has two currencies. One is for anything connected to tourists. The other currency pays the Cubans. The government subsidizes food, but there have been substantial cutbacks. People are well educated, but there are no jobs. The country provides it people with healthcare. Yet physicians drive taxi cabs to supplement their inadequate government salaries.

Coming together amicably with Cuba will not be easy. It will be like trying to fit two different-shaped pipes together using no hands. I am curious to watch how President Obama accomplishes the tasks at hand in this land of baseball and ballet.


*Note: This article first appeared on LiberalAmerica.org

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Gloria Christie

Gloria Christie founded Gloria Christie Reports, a common sense column about liberal politics. She wrote for Addictinginfo.org, the Kansas City Star, Where High Technology Meets Politics for London’s IDG-Connect Blog and The Best Times. Her total readership is over 5 million. Christie has an MS in radio-TV-film and an MPA in business/government relations. She was a systemic problems consulting expert for Fortune 100/500 businesses here and off-shore. Christie invented and implemented the first computerized patient chart. She also worked on Howard Dean’s, John Kerry’s, and Barak Obama’s presidential campaigns. She is particularly interested in liberal politics, high-tech, complex systems, and change.