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At the height of the Cold War in 1961, the United States and Cuba severed diplomatic
In the succeeding decades, the US government slapped on economic sanctions and travel restrictions,
which, coupled with the policies of its repressive government, kept Cuba isolated and its people
trapped in poverty.
In 2015, diplomatic relations were restored, prompting major changes in the Cuban economy
and the lives of ordinary citizens.
So, how has life changed for Cubans in the last few years?
Well, one of the biggest changes for Cubans has been the sudden influx of American tourists.
The US government has gone back and forth on travel restrictions since the Cold War,
but for the most part, Americans have been legally barred from entering Cuba, unless
going as a journalist or as part of an organized tour group.
However since 2014, the US has significantly eased travel restrictions, and even allows
Americans to spend money there.
As a result, the number of American tourists in Cuba has increased every year, in 2015
by more than 75 percent.
Cubans, however, still need official permission to leave the country or even travel between
This is all happening as Cuba undergoes major economic reforms.
As a socialist country, most industries are owned by the state, and workers are paid a
fixed monthly salary.
However since 2010, the government has slowly begun to allow self employment and private
sector jobs.
Today, private employment extends to more than 200 occupations, many of which cater
to tourists.
As a result, many Cubans who were employed by the state, for instance as doctors, engineers
and farmers, working in their free time as taxi drivers or servers.
That’s because, counterintuitive as it may seem, these positions often pay more.
Nearly 500 thousand Cubans are currently registered as self-employed, however economists say that
number is closer to 2 million, or about 40 percent of the workforce.
Alongside these economic and diplomatic reforms, internet access has becoming increasingly
Traditionally, internet in Cuba was shoddy, expensive, and limited to internet cafes.
I remember when I traveled to Cuba as a journalist in 2002, the Internet was only available to
foreigners in certain hotels.
We brought our local Cuban guide to our hotel and introduced him to the internet for the
first time.
And he was absolutely blown away.
I will never forget the look on his face when he realized that news about the rest of the
world was just a click away.
But things have changed in the last few years.
The government has created dozens of public wi-fi zones, opened more, and cheaper, internet
cafes and increased connectivity speed.
American telecom companies can now sell computers and mobile phones in Cuba, and internet providers
have partnered with the state.
But even though more Cubans are getting online, still only about 5% have web access at home,
and their activity is closely monitored by state officials.
So, change is happening.
But many vestiges of communism remain.
Political opposition is repressed, commercial property cannot be bought or sold and the
government controls all imports and exports.
Cuba still has few wholesale markets, meaning that many restaurant and shop owners must
buy their inventory at retail prices or on the black market.
But besides their centrally planned economy, the biggest hurdle in the way of change is
the US trade embargo, which prohibits most American companies from doing business in
President Obama has pushed for a full lift of the ban, however the Republican-led congress
has repeatedly voted against it.
There’s no doubt Cuba’s economy is improving, but until trade with the US resumes, ordinary
Cubans will continue to live in relative isolation.
As the amount of privately-owned businesses grow in Cuba, more entrepreneurs are looking
for creative ways to work around the trade restrictions.
To learn more about what it takes to run a business under the embargo, check out this
video from Seeker Stories.
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資本主義如何改變古巴? (How Is Capitalism Changing Cuba?)

5828 分類 收藏
哈維 發佈於 2016 年 10 月 14 日    Jeanne 翻譯    Rachel Kung 審核
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