Cuba – vintage cars and first world health care
Cuba has been described as a living museum of ancient cars. After five decades of US sanctions intended to oust the veteran Communist leader, Fidel Castro, the Caribbean island is still ruled by a Castro (Fidel’s younger brother Raul) and has also defied predictions that it would not survive the collapse of its one-time supporter, the Soviet Union.
Fidel Castro exercised control over virtually all aspects of Cuban life through the Communist Party. With Soviet backing, he built first class health and education systems, but failed to diversify the economy, partly because of the US trade sanctions. Even today, few people are permitted access to the internet.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union the Cuban government was forced to introduce tight rationing of energy, food and consumer goods. Controls were relaxed in the 1990s, with companies allowed to import and export without seeking permission and a number of free trade zones opened up. Raul Castro continued and improved economic reforms when he took over in 2008 but the money sent home by Cubans living abroad is still crucial to the economy, as is tourism.
It is not unusual for women to hold jobs in a variety of professions, but they are still expected to take on most of the domestic duties at home. Paradoxically, it is quite acceptable for women to walk alone at night or to dine alone in restaurants.
It is a well-known fact that the US leases the Guantanamo Naval Base on the eastern tip of the island – it sends Cuba US $4,085 per annum in payment. Less well-known is that Cuba under the Castros disputes the lease, saying that it was concluded under duress, and has refused to accept any payments since 1959.
Share any experiences you have had dealing in the Cuban business environement.
Sources: BBC News, Culture Crossing
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