Cuba has been ruled by a one-party state under one man for nearly 50 years. When Fidel Castro toppled the US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959, he made it a Communist state where he exercised full control over all aspects of Cuban life.
With the aid and backing of the Soviet Union he resisted all efforts by the US to topple his government. And so Cuba remains to this day, a Communist state in the US’ own backyard, much to the chagrin of the only superpower in the world. (See map)
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba’s $4 billion annual aid disappeared with it. While Cuba had used the aid to build a reputable healthcare and education system, it did nothing to grow its economy. With the US continuing its 48-year economic blockade, Cuba was forced to ration food, energy and consumer products. The nation relies heavily on money sent by Cubans living abroad and on tourism and other investments from Canada, Latin America and some European countries.
But change is afoot. Fidel Castro is old and ailing and in 2008 appointed his younger brother to take over the helm. And now Cuba wants to “concentrate on solving its problems in the economy and updating the Cuban economic model”. Raul Castro wants Cubans to participate in a debate to discuss the changes they want in the economy while still keeping it a socialist state.
Already thousands of Cubans have been given licenses to set up businesses and small businesses are being encouraged to hire staff, borrow money and sell their services to government departments. Yes indeed, times they are a-changing and the USA is waiting to see the last bastion of Soviet-style Communism to fall.