In Cuba today, there’s a hit video game glorifying as heroes the victors of the revolution 55 years ago. The players slip into Fidel Castro’s and Che Guevara’s virtual skin and attack the dictator Batista.
January 1959 heralded a new dawn for the now one-party Caribbean island. In the 21st century, it’s one of the world’s only five remaining Communist countries, up there with mighty China, and lesser Laos, North Korea and Vietnam.
Founding revolutionary dictator Fidel’s brother on this New Year’s Day in Santiago – his successor as president – extolled the historic virtues of the revolution in pursuing change.
Raul Castro said: “The revolution’s programme will be updated every five years so that it always responds to the true interests of the People – the continued development and deepening of our social democracy – and promptly correct any errors.”
Raul raised the spectre of neo-liberal and neo-colonial ‘encroachment’.
The admission that there is always room for improvement is not without precedent; Fidel said it decades ago, while Cuba still had Soviet crutches. But while the brothers’ political resolve is unwavering, they have let economic reform bud, lately. They allowed more free-market activity, opened up to outside investment.
Four hundred thousand Cubans are working in their own small businesses now. The latest economic lid-lifting is on imported cars.
Entrepreneur Rolando de la Vega said: “It’s great! We can buy our cars now without needing a letter of permission. It’s modernising! To be honest, these cars – for us taxi drivers – are falling apart.”
But what the government giveth, the government also taketh away; the deadline has now passed for clothes vendors to sell any foreign stock. They’re not allowed to sell imported things now; it was too much competition for the home-grown variety.
Vendor Yordany Diaz said: “We’re going to have to see what we can do. We can’t be out of a job. We thought this was going to change and that they’d give us a license to deal in foreign currency, but it didn’t happen.”
Without political reform to allow Cubans a free voice, dissidents continue to protest against what they view as human rights violations by the government.