Cuba Libre!

February 2nd, 2012   Uncategorized

Cuba, the former Spanish colony, gained its independence from Spain in connection to the Spanish-American war in 1898. In the Treaty of Paris, Cuba’s independence was determined in relation to the United States of America. The first years of independence were characterized by instability and corrupt regimes. In 1959, Fidel Castro staged a rebellion and managed to reach power. Thenceforth he ruled the country with a rod of iron for fifty years.

Cuba had a socialistic profile from the very beginning, and received major support – politically as well as economic – from the Soviet Union. This allowed Cuba to establish a comprehensive education system at an early stage, and Cuba is still the country that spends biggest part of its GDP on education in the world.

Human Rights are greatly neglected. Disappearances and political murders are not unusual and the judiciary is deficient. The freedom of speech is heavily infringed, and Cuba is the only state in Latin America that is classified as non-free by the think tank Freedom House.

Cuban politics are dominated by Fidel Castro and his younger brother Raul. Cuba has regular elections, but only candidates from the Communist Party – the only legal part on the island – are allowed to candidate. The opposition, as well as human rights organizations and other extra-parliamentary groups, are put under severe pressure. In February 2008, Fidel Castro resigned and was succeeded by his younger brother, Raul Castro. Several human rights organizations put hope in the access of the brother, but so far few reforms have been implemented.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba has been searching for political allies within Latin America. These partners, though, tend to be a lot weaker then the former ally. Hugo Chavez has, with his “Socialism for the twenty first century”, distinguished himself as an important partner, as well as several other socialistic regimes in the region.

Since the subsidies from the Soviet Union ceased, the economics of Cuba has more or less stagnated. Some reforms were implemented in the beginning of the nineties, but these have largely been reversed. Almost 80 percent of the Cuban workforce is to be found in the public sector, mostly within service.

The standard of living is poor on Cuba, and the country’s economy is highly dependent on favorable oil prices from Venezuela. The economy is increasing slightly though, as a consequence of highly educated Cubans working abroad, sending money to their relatives back home.

As Fidel and Raul Castro are getting older, possibilities of change are to be glimpsed. Whether the political opposition will be able to manage such a situation depends not least on how prepared they are for future challenges.

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