[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Cuba: Either Very Rich or Very Poor

Monday, August 07, 2006

Cuba: Either Very Rich or Very Poor

The Miami Herald ran an interesting series of articles today on the present-day Cuban economy.

Here are some highlights:
Nearly half a century after Fidel Castro took power, the Cuban economy is such a study in jarring contrasts that few images can capture its reality.

There are showrooms where you can buy a Mercedes or Peugeot, sparkling hotels built and managed by foreigners, and a budding cellphone culture. There is oil, nickel and mineral ore, such as limestone and iron. China is investing, and Venezuela plowed in $900 million in 2004.

Yet the prosperous, modern pockets are mostly outposts of foreign corporations. Cubans still live in crumbling buildings with broken-down appliances. And the eight-million-ton sugar harvest of 1989 is just a memory -- only 1.3 million tons were cut last year.

Pretty sad. Here's more:

The construction and transportation sectors are expected to climb 15 percent this year, according to a report from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. The commission said the country is expected to construct 150,000 homes by the end of the year.

Tourism income will rise 8 percent. The sector brought in $2.1 million last year. And high nickel prices have helped Cuba participate in the commodities boom that has lifted the rest of Latin America, with nickel exports worth about $800 million.

Despite that money coming in, the country has an energy shortage:

The infrastructure is extensive, if in need of repair. Consultant Babun said he was surprised by how much money was invested in building power-line distribution in remote areas -- although access to energy is still tricky because of the country's energy shortage. Leaky water lines, paint-starved buildings and aging electricity poles sit side by side with road, bridge and cable construction.
Yep. That's what 47 years of the tropical "worker's paradise" has done to a country that was once had the second-highest per capita income in Latin America.

Is the solution to give Cuba more money and pour American tourists into Cuba? That's what anti-embargo folks claim. The article will throw serious doubts to those claims.

Want an idea of how things were B.C. (before castro)? Check this, this, and this from The Real Cuba. And check out Alberto's site dedicated to B.C. life: Havana 1950-1960.


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