How Could One Tyrant's Health Affect A Separate Country

Speculation about Chavez’ probable impending death is swirling in the Caribbean.  The rumor mill indicate that he was opened and closed today, and has months or less to live.  His own words published in international press reports yesterday support that thought.

Many say that Cuba’s reforms of late are directly related to a fear that Chavez would die, and aid and petroleum would dry up.  The article below refers to the fear of the so-called “Special Period”, during which Cuba’s economy crashed after the Soviet Union collapsed. 

Quoting opposition economist Oscar Espinosa, the article states that "Venezuela is now what  the Soviet Union was for many years until 1990, with the difference that if  (Venezuelan) aid ceases now the consequences would be much worse, because Cuba's infrastructure is worse than  it was at that time."

Chavez has strongly suggested that Maduro will take over the country, and we suppose that the hope of the Cuban government is that he will manage to keep all programs, including Cuban aid and trading alive, but who knows.

The people of Cuba, most of whom still live in the repressive and impoverished remnants of the Special Period, must be in great fear that things will be even worse if the Venezuelan support ends.

This photograph is in the article.  It’s a great picture, showing a photo of Chavez, and saying, “We are going to be the true dream of Bolivar and Marti. “

Shirley Lykes Ship Reunion

Some time ago, I posted a number of posts with photographs of Cuban people being taken to the United States on a ship named Shirley Lykes.  Links to the prior posts appear here.  The United States had delivered a great amount of supplies on the ship in exchange for Bay of Pigs invasion prisoners, and their families. 

I also had found and posted at the time a link to an official video of this event:

A couple of months ago, one year after posting the photos, I was contacted by a passenger on the ship.  She said, “I was 18 years old and traveling by myself when I got on the Shirley Lykes. My memory is that few hours after I have boarded the ship a Red Cross representative came to our compartment to announce that the government had given permission to leave to more passengers that originally agreed to, and he wanted a vote from us.  Should they allow them to get on the ship or should they tell them to go home and wait for the next ship?  The vote was unanimous: "Let them board until the ship begins to sink".  Consequently, since they only had provisions for 1,170  people, there were only that many cots and we ended up 4 to a cot.  Of course we sat all night.  I wish someone else that was there will collaborate with my story.  I remember the number being 4,000 (maybe because we were 4 on each cot).”

She said that she wished she could thank the Red Cross workers and maybe communicate with other passengers.  I said, would you like to meet the Chief Mate who worked on the ship during that trip -- the same man who delivered a video from which I obtained the photos.  She said she would. 
Recently, they met.  It was a beautiful evening.  He brought three photo books with very clear photos of the event, much clearer than the old video.   Here they are:

Immediately after they left, I checked my e-mail and found an email from a man who was a young boy on the trip.  I sent him a copy of the video and put the two passengers in touch with each other.  If any other passengers want to communicate, write to and I will put you in touch.

AP Report - Cuba Denounces U.S. Diplomats

The Associated Press reported earlier this month that Cuba has denounced U.S. Diplomats, because the American Interest Section "continues to serve as a general headquarters for the subversive policies of the North American government.’’

The U.S. is not allowed to have an Embassy in Cuba, just like Cuba is not allowed to have an Embassy in the U.S.  Instead they each have an "Interest Section".  Cuba's is in Washington, DC.  That is where one must apply for a visa, entry permit, etc.

The American Interest Section is in Havana, north of town, in the Vedado area, on the Malec
Interestingly, some years ago, Cuba constructed a number of distracting structures in front of the American Interest Section, in order to obscure it, post pro-Cuban government propaganda, etc.  Also, there is a statue of Martí nearby, holding a young child.  Martí  is pointing in the direction of the American Interest Section. A Cuban has told me the concept is that the pointing is taunting, or denouncing the U.S.

According to the writer, the U.S. admits that it communicates with Cubans in certain ways, which is the reason the Cuban government objects. The article says,

"U.S. officials have long maintained that they are doing nothing illegal in Cuba and that supporting free speech, cultural activities and Internet access is a common practice at missions around the world.
"We are absolutely guilty of those charges. The U.S. Interests Section in Havana does regularly offer free courses in using the Internet to Cubans who want to sign up. We also have computers available for Cubans to use," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington. "Obviously this wouldn't be necessary if the Cuban government didn't restrict access to the Internet and prevent its own citizens from getting technology training.""

Here are links to other versions of the story:

What Hurricane Sandy Did at Melia Hotel in Santiago de Cuba

I saw a friend who just returned to Havana from Santiago de Cuba.  Told me the following:

"We were staying in the Melia Hotel in Santiago de Cuba the night Sandy hit.  The Melia is a large, impressive hotel, so we felt pretty safe.  But at three in the morning all hell broke loose. It was like being in a hurricane, a tornado and an earthquake all at the same time.

We were on the 6th floor.  The entire top floor, which I believe was the 20th floor,  was an elegant bar / restaurant.  The wind rocked the building furiously.  Debris continuously hit our windows and exterior walls. But the worst part was that the building rocked to and fro. We could feel creaking inside the walls, and we feared the building would collapse.  But we didn’t know of anywhere to go to feel safer. Obviously, we couldn’t take the elevator.  But even if we went down the emergency stairs, we wouldn’t be able to go outside when we got to the ground.  The lobby could be as bad or worse, since it had large pane glass windows, and if the building fell, it wouldn’t be any better to be on the ground than on the 6th floor.  So we rode it out, petrified.

Suddenly, the whooshing wind, pounding rain and smashing items seemed quiet next to another noise. It sounded like a huge explosion far above us, and maybe more than one.  Then we heard more sounds of large objects banging into other things. Outside the windows (which we shouldn’t have been looking out, but we were), we saw large chairs, equipment and a piano falling to the earth, some banging the building on the way. 

“What happened,” I asked my wife?

“I think the roof must have come off. That seemed to come from the restaurant on the top floor.”
The rocking became louder. More debris swirled around.  The rain came harder again.

Then something new began to happen.  It sounded like huge sewer pipes opened in the walls.  The sound of a huge water flow passing down through the building overtook the sounds we heard outside.  Again, we worried the building would come apart at the seams from the pressure of the water passing downwards from the roof.

Eventually, things calmed. The building remained intact, at least in the area of our floor.  We went down the exterior emergency stairwell, and found the glass that enclosed it broken in many places. We were glad we hadn’t entered it in the nighttime, and perhaps been sliced by flying glass.  Outside, it was unbelievable.  We realized that the roof hadn’t come off, but it might as well have because the restaurant floor was gone.  Many other higher floors were also badly damaged.

We were able to see exposed girders and other interior structures.   It appeared to us that the hotel will not be able to reopen for some time.  The interior damage is immense.  When we left Santiago, there was still no electricity in the area, and thus no Internet. This is one of the few hotels that offers wi-fi. It obviously won't be for a while."

Here are photos of the hotel and surroundings.

Franklin Marquez.


Top Floor Restaurant

See Top Floor Restaurant at Right

National Geographic's Cuba - On the Edge of Change

National Geographic's November, 2012 Issue contains an interesting article on Cuba.  The author interviews a number of people on both sides of government support, including dissidents who recently attempted to escape by boat.

Although it talks about change, it does not address the most recent changes, because it was written before the Pope visited, over a year ago.

The entire article appears there, but I do not know how long it will remain.  I am not printing the text, so I am not accused of copyright violation.

Franlin Marquez

Don't Tell Dad, I'm going to Cuba

Somebody gave me this interesting New York Times article about a person returning to Cuba for the first time since she was 6.  Her feelings match ours.  Her father's feeling matches that of many Cuban-Americans, and we sometimes hear the same comments on our trips to Cuba.

This article perfectly explains the two sides of the issues:

Franklin Marquez

Cuban Citizen View of New Laws on Travel

I asked Oswardo, who is a Cuban citizen, living in Havana, about the new changes to the law regarding ability to travel, to become effective in January.  He is very enthusiastic about the changes, much more so than I had expected. He says many in his country are just as excited.

He said, “I think the new travel laws are the best thing that has happened in over 40 years. ”

He recites how complicated, expensive, time consuming, and virtually impossible for the masses, any kind of travel has been until now, and how much simpler it will be under the new law.  He explains certain aspects of how a temporary visit outside the country will be easier, while leaving permanently will still be complex.  But, under the new rules, he feels confident that one can do that as well.

Oswardo explains the Letter of Invitation. “Until now, an immediate family member (mother, father, brother, son) living in the country to which a Cuban wished to travel had to issue a document called the Letter of Invitation, inviting the Cuban.  This letter cost 200 dollars (which is about ten times what a working Cuban citizen makes per month). The Letter of Invitation requirement is eliminated under the new law.

Under the prior law, after a Cuban citizen received a visa or other document from the government of the country to which a Cuban wished to travel, he or she would have to submit an application for permission to leave the country. The government of Cuba would take a long time to determine whether or not to issue this document, and charge a fee of $150.  Many people never received it before the visa expired, or were denied outright. Certain public figures like musicians, authors and sports figures were issued the document, but they would generally receive it only if they were outspoken proponents of the government. Dissidents were denied.

In addition to the above, before a most countries would issue a visa to a Cuban, they required a cash deposit. Oswardo explained that the amount of the cash deposit “depended on the country to which one wanted to travel. Venezuela required 1,000 CUC [roughly $1,000 American dollars]. The deposit had to be made in the bank a minimum 6 months in advance. Other countries require more. Countries like Spain and Italy required 5,000 CUC  and 7,000 CUC. To obtain a visa from Mexico, one had to show a bank account, but no dollar amount or period of time.” He also said neither Ecuador nor Chile required a deposit.  The U.S. does not have such a requirement because it gives visas to Cubans very cautiously.  Once a Cuban goes to the other country and does not return to Cuba, the deposit is lost.
In addition to the cash requirement, one had to disclose real property owned by the one wishing to travel or by a family member.  If one leaves and does not return, the government apparently still takes their property.

The changes in Cuban law do not of themselves affect the deposit requirement, since it is a rule from the country to be visited.  But Oswardo says “as soon as the new law was announced, Venezuela dropped the $1,000 requirement, although it still requires some bank account.”

Oswardo says now all one needs from the Cuban government is a passport, and the passport will be issued if there is a visa from the other country.

Dissident Yoani Sanchez, who has been denied the right to travel numerous times, has pointed out that the government may cut back on issuance of passports. She is skeptical that she will really be able to travel.  But Oswardo did not have that concern.  Oswardo explains that “the cost of a passport increases from $55 to $100 under the new law.”

He also says if one has permission from one’s work, one can remain outside the country for three months without losing his or her job, and one can remain outside the country for up to 2 years without losing any rights.

Oswardo says under the new law, travel will be, “really like anywhere in the world.”
I asked about the special occupations that are excepted from the new, open law. He said, “Before, if a doctor wanted to travel for pleasure the doctor could not do it, and if the doctor wanted to leave Cuba permanently, I would have had to wait between 5-15 years for permission.”  He said, “Now if a doctor or anybody wishes to travel temporarily, he or she may do so by requesting permission from his or her work, and to be able to leave permanently, one must wait between 1-5 years maximum to live in another country.” [I am not so sure that the special rule regarding doctors is quite as liberal as Oswardo thinks.]

Another area that changes under the new law according to Oswardo is the need of Cuban citizens living in other countries to obtain an Entry Permit to visit Cuba. He says under the new law, they only need a visa, like any other traveler to Cuba. Up to now, a Cuban returning to his homeland could remain in Cuba for only 90 days, but he says they under the new law, the Cuban could remain almost 11 months.  

He and others indicate there are further tweaks to the new law, to be announced soon.  

He acknowledges that it is still expensive for Cubans to travel, if their income is the $20 to $30 paid by the government. But many people will “sell their homes and property to pay for the trip and take money to start in other countries.” He says that with the new financial reforms allowing businesses, “Cubans will now be allowed  to  travel to buy cheaper goods in other countries and return to resell them here.”
He says because of all these changes, “many people are happy with the measures, which are very liberal; the bans were removed in their entirety.”

The day after the changes were announced, he wrote on Facebook, “Last night was a great night. New immigration measures met my expectations and those of the majority of Cubans. At last we can perform procedures like any other citizen of the world without much bureaucracy and be free to come and go as we like.  It is not perfect, but compared to 50 years of absurd laws, in my opinion I think is a remarkable improvement. What I like is that those who have family members who left illegally can return to see their family here in Cuba freely because they are allowed to come for visits. Cubans who are scattered throughout the world, for one reason or another, we can finally meet in the land that gave birth to all Cubans. For me, it will be a unique experience and relevant. For the first time in my lifetime I see a strong blow to the bureaucracy, it was necessary.”

Many news sources are not as supportive of the new law changes as Oswardo. They says the Castro government is still just gasping for air.  Other news articles on the subject include:

Franklin Marquez

More of Hurricane Sandy in Santiago

Power is still not completely repaired in Santiago de Cuba, which Hurricane Sandy crossed early on it's way to wreak devastation in the U.S. Northeast.  Fortunately, Santiago is rather elevated over the harbor, but there was plenty of wind damage.  I met people tonight who were there when the hurricane hit, and they told of the damage, and the roads under water between Cienfuegos and other cities to the north west.

Franklin Marquez

Are Cuba’s New Free Travel Policies For Real?

This past week, the Cuban Communist Party newspaper, Granma, announced that as of January 13, 2013, Cuba will no longer require its citizens to apply for an exit visa. They will only have to show their passport and a visa from the country to which they wish to travel. Up to now, only certain well-known artists, musicians, authors and sports stars and other government favorites have been freely able to travel.

It is the most significant change to the law this year in President Raul Castro’s five-year plan of reform that has already resulted in legalization of home and car sales and a significant increase in the number of Cubans owning private businesses.

According to an AP report, “Granma published an accompanying editorial blaming the travel restrictions on U.S. attempts to topple the island’s government, plant spies and recruit its best-educated citizens.”

The AP report translates and quotes the editorial as saying, “It is because of this that any analysis of Cuba’s problematic migration inevitably passes through the policy of hostility that the U.S. government has developed against the country for more than 50 years.” The editorial stated that the Cuban government recognizes its citizens’ right to travel abroad and said the new measure is part of “an irreversible process of normalization of relations between emigrants and their homeland.”

The AP report quoted citizens who questioned the new law.

The article also states that a “letter of invitation from a foreign institution or person in the country they plan to visit” is no longer required.

The new provision itself states that not everybody is allowed to travel.  It says that doctors, scientists, members of the military and others considered valuable parts of society are still forbidden to travel.

I personally talked to a physician whose wife was permitted to travel last year.  He said he was forbidden to leave previously because he is a physician, and it is his understanding that he will remain unable to travel. The provision says that it must “preserve the human capital created by the Revolution in the face of the theft of talent applied by the powerful.”

To leave the country, one has been required to obtain permission from the country to which the person would travel, and deposit a sum of money six months in advance of applying for the exit visa. The sum of money varied depending on the country to be visited. If the Cuban citizen did not return home, the money was retained by the government. Some citizens believe that the country receiving the person is entitled to part of the money, and that is why it varies.  This is unclear.  The new law says nothing about the need for a deposit.  A taxi driver in Havana told me today that he believes the deposit requirement remains, but that is unclear as well.

Regardless of whether the person is still required to post the deposit, they do have to have a visa or other permit to enter the country to which they wish to travel.  That certainly won't be any easier to obtain than it has been.  you can imagine that under the "Wet Foot, Dry Foot" policy of the U.S., it will not be inviting a number of Cubans to come to the U.S. if it is not certain that they will return to their homeland afterwards.  The U.S. is not going to be willing to further tax social security, Medicaid and other services for a number of people.  In fact, the U.S. Congress might even take the stance some time that with the "improvements" in Cuba, including the right to travel, Cuban citizens who find their way to the U.S. are no longer allowed to remain.  Does Raul Castro really believe opening the right to travel is going to result in an actual ability for the masses to repatriate themselves? We doubt it.

I have asked some other people on the streets, and am planning to ask others about their thoughts on this new issue.  I will post some interviews shortly.

Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez has reported many times that she has been turned down the right to travel 20 times over the last five years. She has been honored with awards and invited to participate in presentations, but has never been able to attend.

She wrote this blog on October 1, 2012: [Translated by her translators on her English-language blog.]

My suitcase has worn out its wheels in five years of rolling around the house, from one corner to the other. The underwear stored in the little thing has lost its elasticity and its color has faded. The airline tickets I never used are gone, after postponing them over and over they ended up in the trash. My friends have said goodbye to me so many times and so many times I didn’t go, that the farewell has become routine. The cat adopted as his own that handbag I never managed to take on a plane, and the dog chewed on the shoes meant for a trip I could not take. Nor did the picture my friend gave me of the “Virgin of Good Travel” resist the test of time and even the shine in her eyes has gone out.
After five years of demanding my right to travel outside the country, today I woke up to the news of travel and immigration reform. My first impression was to shout “Hurrah!” mid-morning, but as the day advanced I considered the shortcomings of the new law. Finally the objectionable Permit to Leave has been eradicated, as well as the annoying Letter of Invitation that we needed to leave our own country. However, now in the issuance and validation of passports they will define those who can cross the national frontiers and those who cannot. Although the costs of the paperwork will be less and I imagine the time required shortened, this is not the new travel and immigration law we were waiting for. Too limited, too narrow. But at least it has put in writing a legality as a starting point from which we can now demand, protest, denounce.
In my case I am going to believe – until January 14, 2013 – that I am not on any “black list” and that the ideological filters to leave have come to an end. I will fill out the application for a new passport, and wait with that dose of ingenuousness necessary to survive, to not become apathetic. I will be there when they open the doors to decide which Cubans can board a plane and which will continue under the “insular imprisonment.” And my suitcase will be at my side, with worn out underwear, unworn shoes, and a pale picture of Mary who no longer knows if she’s leaving or returning, if there are reasons to be happy or to be satisfied.”

Yoani’s blog can be seen at

Franklin Marquez, In Havana

Photos of Hurricane Sandy Damage in Santiago

Some photos of Hurricane Sandy damage have come out of Santiago de Cuba.

These photos are from El Parque Cespedes in Santiago de Cuba.  This is about a mile above the Harbor.  The white building in this photo is the Ayuntamiento, where Fidel Castro made his acceptance speech when he took over on January 1, 1959.  To the right, out of the photo, is Hotel Casa Granda.  The building to the left, where all the debris lies on the ground, is a church.

Following is a photo I took of the Ayuntamiento from my hotel room in Casa Granda a couple of years ago.

This is a view from the roof of Casa Granda to show here the building is in relation to the bay.

This is the Hotel Casa Granda.  The photos above show debris outside, but don't show the hotel.

This is the church, whose towers show up in the above photo, and outside which is debris.


Does it Matter if Fidel Is Alive or Not?

I started hearing new rumors of Fidel Castro’s death a few weeks ago, from friends in Venezuela and the U.S., and even in Spain. Then newspaper articles started popping up.  I thought it was amusing that the talk was going on as I was preparing for my next trip to Cuba.  I wondered what the people of Cuba would say about it.

This past weekend, the buzz has culminated with new “proof” that he is alive.  The Associated Press has reported that former Venezuelan Vice President Elias Jaua stated he met with Fidel for five hours this weekend. He said Fidel even accompanied him to the Hotel Nacional on Saturday. That is the hundred-year-old hotel with two towers that stands on a small hill overlooking the Malecon in Havana. I was at that hotel for several hours on Saturday.  I wish I had seen the duo. But actually, the article does not indicate Fidel got out of the van.  And it says a hotel executive was in the van for a photo.  It seems to me a little odd that he would go for an outing, remain in a van, invite hotel personnel into the van to take photos, etc., etc. I also didn’t see a van, or people getting in and out of a van, or anything else like that. Well, maybe that is what happened. Who knows?  Who cares?

Reports state that the recent indications that Fidel was gravely ill were raised by Jose Marquina, a Venezuelan doctor in Naples, Fla.  He has now been quoted as saying he did not believe the story of the photograph in the van was real. 

Marquina is quoted as saying, "The information that I have is that it was a maid who claimed to have seen him. This is a fabrication. If you're going to believe the communists, who have been lying forever, that's OK. I don't believe them."

Now I’m almost embarrassed to be speculating and writing about whether he’s alive or not. Does it really matter? I doubt it.  Cubans have told me that they believe Raul is just as bad as Fidel, and even though he has been behind the recent improvements (improving socialism?), he is a dangerous tyrant, and nothing will change if Fidel is dead.

At the same time that the other discussions are going on, there have been news reports in Miami about what would happen if Fidel dies.

In a 2007 article, a Miami, Florida official was quoted as saying that when Fidel died, there revelers would be herded to the Orange Bowl in order to contain their enthusiasm.  A CNN article at the time, said, “A Miami official said his idea of holding an event at the Orange Bowl when Fidel Castro dies has been misconstrued. “It's not a party. It's not going to be a conga line, I promise you," said Miami city commissioner Tomás Regalado.”

But that article was also resurrected this week, with a new article: Mayor Tomas Regalado Zings the Marlins On Rumors of Castro's Death

The article said, “Remember how the City of Miami made some controversial plans to allow protesters to gather in the Orange Bowl when Fidel Castro dies? Yeah, well, the city has never updated those plans even though the Orange Bowl was demolished and replaced with the Marlins Stadium.”

Regalado was asked last week about the use of the new stadium that replaced the Orange Bowl, and he reportedly told the Miami Herald, "I don't think the Marlins would want that. Knowing them, they would charge to protest."  I wonder if he’s made a new enemy, by making such a statement about the Marlins.

The new article also says, “With rumors of Castro's health problems swirling, Regalado says that the city will update plans on how to deal with protesters in the event he finally kicks the bucket.”

I have asked Cuban taxi drivers and others what they think about whether Fidel is alive or dead.  Some know of the rumors. They say such rumors are nothing new. They shrug.  They don’t seem to think it would make any difference. 

Hurricane Sandy in Cuba

We are trying to learn how our friends and relatives in Santiago de Cuba faired Hurricane Sandy.  We have not been able to reach them. But that’s not surprising, considering they have no Internet and telephone service is sporadic.  I found some photos posted by the Baltimore Sun.  Several are from Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo.

Franklin Marquez is Writing from Cuba Again

Friends and Followers of Cuba Libre Today.  I am sorry I’ve been a bit quiet here lately, but I have been active on Twitter.

I have just returned to Havana, Cuba for another visit.  When I can get Internet, I will upload some new items.

There are at least two things I want to talk about.  1. I am amazed about the changes I see in Cuba since a year and a half ago.  2. I am interviewing Cubans about how the people feel about the new elimination of restrictions on travel.  3. I am asking Cubans about the continuing  rumors about Fidel’s health, or death, or whatever. 

In the two days since I’ve been here, I’ve already taken almost 1,000 new photos. 


Marina Murillo’s Daughter Defects to U.S.

A number of news agencies have reported that the Cuban Vice-President’s daughter is now living in Tampa, Florida.  Following is a link to an article, for example, published in the Miami Herald:

“Cuba Vice President Marino Murillo’s daughter defected and is living in Tampa - Glenda Murillo, daughter of Cuban Vice President Marino Murillo, defected and set dry foot in Texas earlier this month.”

According to the article and other sources, Cuban Vice President Marino Murillo “sometimes mentioned as a possible successor to ruler Raúl Castro.”  According to the article, Marino Murillo is known as Cuba’s “reforms tsar,” after Castro put him in charge of executing vast financial reforms.
It says, “Glenda Murillo Diaz crossed the Mexican border at Laredo, Texas, around Aug. 16, the sources told El Nuevo Herald, meaning she was paroled under the wet-foot, dry-foot policy, which allows Cubans who set foot on U.S. land to stay.” ‘
The article says the 24 year-old left Cuba about two weeks ago to attend a psychology conference in Mexico, but arrived at the home of an aunt who lives in Texas.
While we in Florida think of Cuban refugees arriving by raft, many Cubans find their way to Mexico to walk across the border into the U.S.
The writer says, “Her decision to abandon communist-ruled Cuba and settle in the historically antagonistic United States would be a vote of no-confidence on the profound economic reforms that Castro has ordered and that her father is in charge of enacting.”
The writer indicates that her residence in Tampa is confirmed, and that has posted information on her Facebook page indicating that she is indeed living in Tampa. Her Facebook page shows the scales of justice and indicate she studied law and the University of Havana.
Yoani Sanchez, well-known Cuban dissident blogger, wrote on her blog, Generation Y, an article called TEMPERING DAD. The link to Yoani’s article is:
In it, she paints a very different picture of the President, and seems to indicate that Glenda and her siblings have long been lacking in support for her father and the government he helps lead.
She says Sr. Murillo’s whole attitude has changed remarkably since his daughter left, and that she regularly criticizes the Communist party to him.
If one clicks into the comments on what Yoani has stated, she has started a wild-fire of animosity.  But it is interesting reading. 

Cuba Looking to Limit Free Health Care

The Associated Press and various agencies published an article a week or so ago about some apparent changes in the free health care in Cuba. 

Although it’s “free”, we have talked to a number of people who say that they have to bribe specialists to treat serious matters, that there are no clean, new instruments, bed coverings, etc., and that free isn’t necessarily good. The writer of the article says, “Scarcities now are common and sanitary conditions fall short of the ideal in decaying facilities where paint peels from the walls. Patients often bring their own bed sheets, electric fans, food and water for hospital stays.”

For years, Cuba has allowed its doctors to leave the country for Venezuela and other countries.
According to the article, “Cuba’s system of free medical care, long considered a birthright by its citizens and trumpeted as one of the communist government’s great successes, is not immune to cutbacks under Raul Castro’s drive for efficiency.”

Cuba’s financial crisis has resulted in a number of changes. One might think the changes are a positive move away from communism, but that doesn’t seem to be the intention.  The firing of numerous workers and expecting them to become entrepreneurs, the improvement of service at restaurants (to improve the attitude of tourists), and other moves all seem to be efforts to reduce the outflow.  The Cuban government has to be worried about the future of Venezuelan support.

The writer of the article said, “The health sector has already endured millions of dollars in budget cuts and tens of thousands of layoffs…”  “… the newspaper voice of the Communist Party, Granma, published daily details for two weeks on how much the government spends on everything from anesthetics and acupuncture to orthodontics and organ transplants.”

The government seems to want to “discourage frivolous use of medical services….”

The writer says that the propaganda currently being disseminated about how much health care costs is a precursor to some serious limitations on health care for Cubans.

I ran a google search using the words "Cuban Hospital", and was shocked by what I saw.

This is what you will see:  And clicking on the pictures provides much more information.

Household Goods in Cuba - English Translation

A Cuban-American who is returning to Havana for the first time since 1960 asks a young cousin who is a Havana resident what she should take for the family.

Oswardo answers:

Yes, it is very embarrassing to tell you, my mom told me to tell you please, she is already old and our sleeping sheets are very bad, all polyester or materials that itch. If you could buy her a cotton sheet it would be very nice.  My mom would be very happy. The sheet she uses is about 30 years old (older than me). It’s sooo thin.  Also, a kitchen knife for cutting meat would be great. Our knife was made from ​​a machete that although it is very hard, the blade loses its sharpness right away.
She says:

What you suggested about bringing sheets makes me happy. I’ll bring them for all the beds. Tell me the sizes of the beds. (twin, full, queen or king)
About kitchen knives, I had already thought about it.  You know how happy that makes me?  kisses


Oswardo answers:

Well cousin, I don’t know the measurements of the beds because those beds were made from a sheet of wood by a carpenter, but they are for 2 people. Here, we call them “camas cameras”.  But I would have to measure them.


She says:

I guess they are full size, which are those of the past!  Do the children have their own beds or sleep together?


Oswardo answers:

No, our son sleeps with his grandmother and our daughter in her crib that is attached to the bed where Yoana and I sleep.

She says:

You teach me so much! Isn't she a little old for a crib?

Oswardo answers:

........ Yes, in the case of the crib, my grandfather ordered it in Santiago de Cuba. They make them very nice and very cheap there.  The crib cost 1500 pesos (60 dollars), which was paid by my father-in-law, and he gave it to us.  Since we knew that we would have no room for a bed, we decided to make a larger crib than usual, with protective sides.  When she was a little girl, the sides kept her from falling. Now that she is bigger, we removed the sides, but the crib is still connected to our bed.