This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, yet citizens of this small socialist nation continue to wait for their government to deliver on promises made in 1959. A new constitution that will go up for a highly scrutinized referendum on February 24 may rein in their rights further. Here are five ways that the Cuban Communist Party has failed its people.
Ahead of the February 24 constitutional referendum, the Cuban government has stepped up repression of political opposition figures, such as José Daniel Ferrer (above), leader of the Unión Patriótica de Cuba (UNPACU), the largest dissident group in Cuba. Opposition figures such as Ferrer have pressed the regime for a more transparent and fair process. On February 11, Cuban police raided multiple homes and offices of UNPACU activists, confiscated property, and beat and detained several dissidents, including Ferrer. As a result, dozens of UNPACU activists have initiated a hunger strike.
Empty shelves are a common sight in Cuban stores. Most economists agree that poor centralized management is the cause and that the Cuban government doesn’t allow the private sector to reach its potential. As a result, citizens use their meager state-issued salaries — which can amount to less than a dollar a day — to pay astronomical prices for groceries on the black market.
Unfair working conditions
Cuban doctors are a major export. The Cuban government takes in roughly $11 billion annually from the salaries of health-care professionals participating in its overseas medical missions. Recently, the Cuban government recalled its doctors working in Brazil rather than agree to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s demand that Cuba pay the doctors a fair wage. Eight of these doctors filed a lawsuit in Miami against the Pan American Health Organization, claiming forced labor.
Limited access to information
Independent media in Cuba only exists online, yet accessing the internet is prohibitively expensive for most Cubans. A paltry 600 megabytes of data a month — enough for a few Skype sessions with family overseas — can cost 25 percent of a worker’s wages. Users get 300 “bonus” megabytes for using domains on the state-sanctioned, censored “intranet” that is more readily available and affordable than the global internet.
Cuba’s musicians, dancers, artists and writers – celebrated around the world for their creative output – now suffer the indignity of Decree 349, requiring them to seek government permission to perform, sell or display their work or else face consequences.