Protests in CubaJuly is an especially notable month in Cuban history. Cuba witnessed its largest mass protests in July 1994, when thousands protested due to a major economic crisis that the fall of the Soviet Union brought on. Now, on the weened of July 10, 2021, thousands of Cubans protested in the streets of its major cities due to food shortages, extreme inflation and authoritarian communist rule. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made extreme poverty and repressive government rule worse on the island. Many Cubans at the protests spoke out about starving and having no basic survival resources.

How Age Influences Cubans’ Views on the Communist Government

The recent protests in Cuba are much more complicated than they first appear. According to a man who refused to identify himself in fear of retaliation, younger Cubans tend to vehemently oppose the communist regime due to the lack of food, medicine and electricity. A 17-year-old protester said that the population was protesting because they were hungry and poor. The man noted how there is a lack of resources on the island. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel announced over a nationwide television broadcast that the protests needed to end. He called on the communists to deliver a “revolutionary response” to the destabilization of the island.

In response to Diaz-Canel’s message, older Cubans, in support of the government and the military and police, blocked off young anti-government protesters in their attempt to occupy vital parts of Havana. Pro-government supporters, some armed with wooden clubs, expressed their ties to Cuban patriotism and supported the security officials in quelling the anti-government protests. Pro-government supporters accused the younger protesters of taking a stand against communism by working as paid mercenaries for the United States. The U.S. spends approximately $20 million annually to support “democracy promotion” in Cuba.

How and Why the Protests Happened

Both economic and health crises largely drive the protests in Cuba. The COVID-19 pandemic and economic measures that the communist government took have made many Cubans’ living situations dire. Throughout 2020, Cuba held the pandemic in check, however, recently, virus cases increased rapidly. Cuba reported 6,750 new cases and 31 new deaths on July 11. However, opposition groups note that the true statistics are most likely much worse. Many Cubans have reported that their relatives died at home without receiving the care they needed to have a chance at survival by citing medical negligence.

The Cuban tourism industry has come to a standstill since the beginning of the pandemic, consequently creating a massive hole in the Cuban economy. Hyperinflation, electricity blackouts, food shortages and a lack of everyday necessities are widespread throughout the island. Economic reforms at the start of 2021 increased worker wages while also causing a major spike in prices. Cuban economists, including Pavel Vidal, believe that prices could rise in Cuba by as much as between 500% and 900% within the next few months. Cuban banks additionally stopped accepting cash deposits of U.S. currency. Many economists viewed this as the most severe restriction put on U.S. currency since the rule of Fidel Castro.

Internet access and mobilizing young people through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were essential in getting the protests started. In 1994, very few Cubans living outside of Havana knew that protests were taking place. Young Cubans have expressed their disdain for the communist regime on social media for years. The Cuban regime has deactivated the internet on the island to stop the unrest.

US Officials’ Response and Cuba’s Future

President Biden called the protests in Cuba a clarion call for freedom and noted that Americans wholeheartedly support Cubans in their fight for freedom. The acting assistant secretary for the state for western hemisphere affairs, Julie Chung, expressed her support in a tweet commending the peaceful protests and Cuban concerns with the multiple crises they face.

Foreign aid to Cuba from the United States and the international community has been minimal in recent years and throughout the islands’ history. This is because the communist leaders would take all of the money and resources for themselves while refusing to distribute them to people in need. The $20 million the U.S. currently spends to support democracy promotion efforts in Cuba is a start. To liberate the Cuban people and end extreme poverty on the island, the United States and the international community need to do whatever they can to help keep the protests going.

– Curtis McGonigle
Photo: Wikipedia Commons


$10 a Month
While some Cubans work hard their entire lives, outlooks are bleak due to cut assistance from the U.S. and Venezuela. Some seniors living on the country’s monthly retirement pension survive off of $10 a month.

Rationing books are a common item in many Cuban households. Cuba’s $10 a month pension makes it impossible for some seniors to live a normal lifestyle. Ration books help many Cuban seniors ration what food they can buy each month at heavily taxed prices. A majority of retired Cuban seniors do not actually retire. They continue to work out of little shops to try and sell whatever they can to make more money than their pension gives them.

An article for the German website Deutsche Welle talks about Cuban seniors that work after retirement to help alleviate some of the pressure that only $10 a month creates. One local man, Antonio Loreno Lozana, runs a small tobacco farm with one of his sons, which gives them an extra $150 a month when they sell to the state, including extra proceeds from selling coffee to tourists. Another man, Raul Bouza, sells small household products outside of his house. This is to pay for the license to run his business which costs 500 pesos, which is double the 240 pesos he receives from the government each month.

Cuba’s $10 a month pension means some Cubans will never actually have the chance to fully retire. Ebaristo Dia Dia, who is 85-years-old, works in a print shop in Havana where he folds boxes. He makes an extra 300 pesos a month and his boss offers him breakfast and lunch. Some citizens depend on tourists giving them small tips and donations. Some senior citizens are too old to work, so they rely on small donations from helping lost tourists find the right direction.

In Cuba, there is a law in which citizens over 65 can apply for less work-intensive jobs after retirement but many of these jobs require significant pay cuts and they lose certain benefits that help them with medical care and other expenses. Cuba is also unique in the sense that it is a developing country with free education and health care. Yet, many seniors are still working, and some through poor health conditions.

The Elders Care Program

The only English-speaking Protestant church in Cuba provides the Elders Care Program, which offers a bundle of food to people involved with the program each week. This bundle costs about 36 pesos ($1.50 US) and includes a few taro roots, a few bananas, a tomato or two and a pound of black beans. This is where the ration book comes into use, rationing sugar, rice or a daily piece of bread which is vitally important for elderly Cubans to survive.

Cubans that receive this care from the Elders Care Program are extremely grateful. It helps add some form of nutrition and calories to their limited diet. An elderly couple interviewed in the article mentioned above, says they are very appreciative of the efforts the Elders Care Program puts forth. The husband stated that “We have a piece of chicken and five eggs per month. Eggs are a luxury. Sometimes all we have in a day are some beans and a bread bun.” This is an example of what extreme poverty some Cuban citizens are actually experiencing after retirement.

The Cuban Economy

Without economic reform and cheap oil that used to come from Venezuela, the economy has stalled. Population rates are also declining in Cuba, which puts a damper on the Cuban economy even further. The country has essentially frozen pensions while rising inflation continues to eat up their value. The country is facing one of the biggest challenges it has faced in decades. The pension system has proven ineffective, and an economic recession and a huge impact on social services might happen in the near future.

The current impacts on the economy are only the beginning of what is to come in the future years for Cuba. Cuban society should prepare itself for the demographic issues that Cuba is dealing with. One broad solution is to increase the production of all Cuban goods. The second solution is for emigrants to return to Cuba. These solutions could take years to take effect, which is time that Cuba does not necessarily have.

Cuba’s $10 a month pension is not a sustainable, proper solution for any retired Cuban. Although assistance programs exist, none of these programs allow for enough money to flow to each household. There are not enough solutions in order to solidify a plan that the government can follow in order to gain more money for each retiree. The government will most likely require aid from a foreign country and will have to reform many laws that put in place more solid, long-term solutions for Cuba’s retired population. The current programs in place cannot support the growing number of retiring citizens in Cuba at this time. The government needs to take certain measures in order to provide Cuba’s elderly with a solid monthly pension that provides them with funds for many necessities.

– Quinn McClurg
Photo: Flickr



Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Cuba

The rise of Cuba’s Marxist-Leninist regime is situated in the context of the nation’s history, leadership and government. Cuba remains one of the few one-party socialist government bodies in the world. Living conditions for the people of Cuba were on par with European levels prior to the Cuban revolution of 1959, led by Fidel Castro and his socialist constituents. Following the overthrow of then-Cuban authoritarian President Fulgencio Batista, specific metrics of living conditions from the macroeconomic, sociopolitical and sociological perspectives weakened and consequently placed the people of Cuba under enormous political and financial strain.

Presently, little empirical evidence suggests that the top 10 facts about living conditions in Cuba are contextually related to Cuba post-revolution or pre-revolution. Living standards measure the general wealth, prosperity and quality of life for any given national population. Economic and non-economic factors that contribute to the assessment of living standards include but are not limited to: consumption, GDP per capita, income inequality, regular access to food and water, housing, crime rates, education, healthcare, social services, environmental health and economic freedom.

In assessing the top 10 facts about living conditions in Cuba, the country’s political climate, past and present, plays an important role in understanding living standards and how they affect the people of Cuba every day. Moreover, the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States insofar as mainstream tourism carries with it the caveat of unreconciled embargoes placed on Cuba’s economy. In addition to living standards, present and planned solutions serve to incentivize U.S. lawmakers to revisit relevant legislation that empowers Cuba to trade, produce and export with more sovereignty. Until the issue of U.S. embargoes is reconciled or at the very least ameliorated, living standards in Cuba will cease to improve. With Cuba’s past and present contexts in mind, here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Cuba:

  1. Cuba’s GDP has increased each year since its historic low of $5.69 billion in 1970 to a record-setting $87.13 billion in 2015. The country focuses much of its exports on tourism, construction, transport and agriculture. As of 2016, Cuba exported $1.18 billion worth of goods and services and imported only $6.73 billion. This denotes a negative trade balance between Cuba and the rest of the world.
  2. The Human Development Indicators (HDI) rank Cuba 73 in the world with an index of .777 according to the United Nations Development Program. This suggests Cuba has high human development. Cuba maintains a high HDI because of its allegiance to a centrally planned economy. Government ownership of land, labor and capital facilitates total control over goods/services production.
  3. Women in Cuba represent a large and growing faction within politics, labor and education. According to the American Association of University Women, they “make up 66 percent of the labor force in Cuba, and more than 70 percent of professionals in the country are women” (AAUW). Women and girls in Cuba have a long way to go as far as equality is concerned. However, female representation in political office maintains 43.6 percent of the 614 member unicameral legislature.
  4. Women have a significantly higher gross enrollment ratio as a percentage in education compared to their male counterparts. In 2008, women represented nearly 150 percent GER compared to men at just 90 percent. In the years following, women continued to dominate in the field of college enrollment. As of 2016, the parity of gender-based gross enrolment as moved towards equilibrium.
  5. The infant mortality rate has fallen from 80 per 1000 live births in 1950 to 5 per 1000 in the modern-day due to Cuba’s centrally planned government system. In 2015, over 10 percent of Cuba’s GDP, or $9.2 million, went to public health. Specifically, funding went to providing more staff, supplies and medicine to hospitals and clinics across the island. Additionally, Cuban Health Minister Roberto Morales Ojeda focuses his efforts on public health measures, including potable water, adequate diet and food supply and regular free checkups for expecting mothers and children.
  6. The construction of new housing units in Cuba has fallen from 42,940 in 2000 to 31,103 in 2012. This indicates a monumental challenge for Cuban residents to build and reside in safe, structurally sound homes. In response, the Cuban government shifted its focus onto the construction industry in order to attract more foreign investment. They have implemented 10 construction sector projects across Cuba, proposed in the 2016-2017 Foreign Investment Portfolio during the 34th Havana International Trade Fair. This is an economic development program in the works. No data has been released on its return or growth as of yet.
  7. The rapprochement strategy nicknamed “Cuban Thaw,” initiated by former President Barack Obama in 2014, is intended to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba after a half-century of hostility and restricted trade. Eased restrictions on travel and remittances allowed Americans to send unlimited sums of money to Cuba. Additionally, U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba for religious and educational purposes. As a result, the tourism sector strengthened and put more money into the pockets of Cuban business owners. Despite President Donald Trump’s recent attempts to stomp out the Cuban Thaw, more than 4.7 million visitors pumped more than $3 billion into the Cuban economy at the end of 2017, according to U.S. government figures.
  8. Hurricanes remain a threat to Cuba’s agricultural industry. Flash floods destroy coffee bean crops and disrupt communications and citizen access to electricity. In order to address the economic and sociological needs of Cuban citizens, a Spanish NGO named Hombre Nuevo, Tierra Nueva, works to aid farmers in rural areas, provide medicine to dispensaries for children and the sick and improve the food supply for the elderly.
  9. La Libreta, a 50-year-old food rationing system, is still operational in order to control food supply for Cuba’s population. This system allots a certain amount of rice, bread, milk, matches, sugar and oil depending on the individual’s age, gender and income.
  10. There are several subsidized public transport options for tourists and Cuban citizens, owned and operated by the Cuban government. Tourists tend to use Viazul, the premium bus service offered by the Cuban government. Viazul is different than other more mainstream public transport in that it has air conditioning and provides a more comfortable experience for passengers. Meanwhile, more accessible and affordable options leave much to be desired for Cuban citizens.

The top 10 facts about living conditions in Cuba concern the nation’s political history, present leadership and the possibility of civilian intervention insofar as to move the dial in favor of normalizing relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Presently, the U.S. embargo on Cuban trade creates disparate equality on the basis of income, GPD per capita, GDP by nation and GNP.

– Nicholas Maldarelli
Photo: Flickr

The Future of Infrastructure in CubaCuba has always been a land of intrigue. The communist island nation in the Caribbean is at the same time considered to be a tropical paradise and an inaccessible third-world nation with high poverty. Infrastructure in Cuba is infamous for its state of decay and disrepair.

In 1810, Cuba’s capital, Havana, had the same number of residents as New York City and nearly three times the population of Boston. It is home to countless historical colonial buildings as well as Soviet-style architecture built after Fidel Castro took power. In general, many of the buildings, historic or contemporary, are not well-maintained.

One of the constant threats to infrastructure in Cuba is natural disasters, especially hurricanes. Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, devastated Cuba in September. The damage caused by the storm was compounded by the structural unsoundness of many of the buildings in Cuba. Of the 10 fatalities from the storm, seven were in Havana and were caused by unsafe buildings collapsing. Some people have continued living in parts of these buildings even after the storm.

Irma left longer-lasting damage as well. Millions of people were left without power and thousands of hectares of sugarcane, a major Cuban crop, were destroyed.

Tourism has always been a huge part of the Cuban economy, but increased tourism has put a strain on infrastructure in Cuba. The Obama administration eased travel restrictions on U.S. citizens visiting Cuba so that one can now visit the country individually, as opposed to doing so with a tour group. However, both the United States and Cuban governments, as well as the tourism industry, have expressed concerns about the ability of the infrastructure in Cuba to accommodate a large influx of tourists.

There is no doubt that the infrastructure in Cuba needs a major overhaul, but there are some positive points. The easing of restrictions on Cuba during the previous administration indicates a future of increased foreign tourism and business, and the Cuban government has acknowledged this reality.

Ultimately, lifting the U.S. embargo on Cuba would be a positive step, as it prevents the country from joining the IMF and scares away major U.S. banks from doing business in Cuba. It will require major foreign investments for Cuba’s economy to right itself, which in turn will lead to better infrastructure.  

The future of the country and infrastructure in Cuba are still in question, but there is no doubt that there is a desire for a bigger foreign presence in Cuba, and with it, major changes. Cuba, once a leader in infrastructure, has good reason to build itself up.

– Andrew Revord

Photo: Flickr

Health Care in Cuba

Due to the dwindling trade restrictions between Cuba and the United States during the Obama administration, people around the world are getting a look into a country that has been closed off from much of the world for many years. While the country is known for its slow wealth creation and high levels of state control, healthcare in Cuba has made massive strides since the country’s revolution in 1959.

Cuba’s healthcare is recognized as being among the world’s most efficient and high quality systems. Former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that the country’s healthcare system should be used as a model for many developing countries.

Since the 1959 revolution, when Fidel Castro gained power in Cuba, the socialist ideology emphasized that access to healthcare is a fundamental human right. With this belief inscribed in Cuba’s constitution, the country focuses on preventative approaches to medicine. From providing annual, mandatory checkups to the most complex surgeries, healthcare in Cuba remains free of charge.

With this high level of accessibility, the country has made many health improvements since the beginning of the Castro regime. These include:

  • A 98 percent full immunization record by the age of 2 that protect children from 13 illnesses.
  • Low infant mortality rates. Cuba’s rate is extremely close to that of the United States’ with less than 5 deaths per 1000 births. This statistic makes Cuba the best performer in the developing world.
  • High life expectancies, with men living an average of 77 years and women living an average of 81. These expectancies are almost identical to those in the United States.
  • Record doctor to patient ratios that surpass many developed nations. Every doctor cares for around 150 patients.
  • A well-educated public regarding individual health. Family doctors, who make mandatory visits annually, discuss issues such as smoking, eating and exercising with patients while also providing tailored recommendations to remain healthy.
  • World leading medical schools. Former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that Cuba’s medical education system is the world’s most advanced. In 2014, over 11,000 students from over 120 nations pursued a career in medicine at the Cuban Institution.
  • A significant focus on research and development. The focus on innovation has been attributed to the U.S. embargo that prohibited trade in medicines for Cuba. This made investing in medical sciences a necessity to provide quality health care.

By the mid-1980s, Cuba developed the world’s first Meningitis B vaccine. In 2012, Cuban doctors developed Cimavax, the first therapeutic cancer vaccine. Additionally, The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized the country as being the first to eliminate HIV transmission between mothers and their children in 2015. These outcomes are found to be a direct result of the huge investments made in Cuba’s biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.

Healthcare in Cuba has benefited more than just the citizens of its country. Every year, Cuba sends around 50,000 health professionals abroad, providing care to developing countries. In only one decade, Cuba’s contribution to Mission Miracle, a program supporting people with sight impairments, has restored around 3.5 million individuals’ vision. Many of these contributions are made in Latin America, where 165 Cuban institutions maintain 49 ophthalmological centers and 82 surgical units in 14 countries.

However, Cuba’s support reaches beyond its own continent and into Africa. The Cuban chemical and biopharmaceutical research institute LABIOFAM launched a vaccination campaign against malaria in 2014 in more than 15 West African nations. Additionally, during the recent Sierra Leone Ebola crisis, over 100 Cuban doctors and nurses were of assistance.

Castro was an advocate for providing international health support, as he believed by assisting developing countries, Cuba was preventing the expansion of epidemics that could spread to its own nation if not handled correctly. In addition to the philanthropy aspect, Cuban doctors and nurses working in over 77 countries generate $8 billion a year, which makes international health services the country’s largest export.

While the country’s GDP per capita is ranked 137th in the world, healthcare in Cuba has demonstrated that a poor country can create dramatic developments in its population’s quality of life for the long term. Castro’s form of leadership, while questioned in many other areas, has improved the living standards for Cuba’s poorest with regard to medical needs.

The WHO stresses that Cuba provides a prime example of a developing nation with limited resources that can provide an efficient health care system to all of its population. However, for such an outcome, the political institutions of the country must make human beings the center of their policies and not their own wallets.

Tess Hinteregger
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in CubaHuman rights in Cuba have had a tumultuous history, especially after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959. His communist regime, lasting almost 50 years, marked the country and created tension between other countries including the United States. Under his dictatorial leadership, the government fell into oppressive patterns. Although Castro has not had power in Cuba for almost a decade and died in 2016, Cuba still struggles with human rights violations.

Under Fidel Castro’s rule, human rights in Cuba did see improvements in some areas. Castro pushed to increase literacy rates and the education systems became stronger. Healthcare services also saw vast improvements, earning the government – specifically Castro – the love of many. After his death last year, the majority of Cubans mourned his death.

While he may have had the support of many of his fellow citizens, Castro also perpetrated egregious human rights violations. With a regime characterized by intimidation and blunt force, he squashed any opposing views. The government put thousands of people in jail to avoid any possible threats to the security of their control, and used physical force to spread fear throughout any groups that did not support the communist party. Human rights viewed as inconvenient to the government were not respected and freedom of expression did not exist.

Even though Castro does not hold power in Cuba anymore, the pattern of governmental oppression of free speech continues. Fewer human rights activists spend significant amounts of time in jail, but they still suffer from sporadic arrests meant to intimidate them. Racism also plagues Cuban communities, with Afro-Cubans receiving the brunt of racial discrimination. Afro-Cubans report higher difficulty obtaining jobs and housing than their white fellow citizens. They are also more likely to be racially profiled to be criminals.

The government largely controls the information Cubans have access to and also has a heavy hold on the media. However, in the past few years Cuba has relinquished some control of worldly information. Private Internet access used to be illegal except for under specific conditions, but as of March 2017, Cubans are allowed to use the Internet freely at home.

While there have been improvements to human rights in Cuba, the country still has a long way to go to achieve justice for all. The United States has begun to restrict trade with Cuba, hoping to force the country to improve its human rights. Hopefully, in response to pressure from the United States, the Cuban government will take a magnifying glass to the human rights violations happening around the country and make efforts to remedy them.

Julia Mccartney

Photo: Flickr

Help People in Cuba
Since the 1990s, Cuba has been in a severe economic slump. Every day, Cubans face shortages of everything from food to medical supplies to clothes. The Cuban state struggles daily with crumbling infrastructure and inadequate housing and transportation. In light of these tough financial times, it is useful to know how to help people in Cuba.


Effective Ways to Help People in Cuba


Political outreach
The U.S. embargo of Cuba is responsible in large part for the inaccessibility of everything from food to internet access. For more than 50 years, U.S.-Cuban relations have been dominated by the governments of the two countries. It is high time for more U.S. citizens to become involved in the relationship.

Americans can help Cubans by advocating for better relations and an ease of the embargo to their elected officials. U.S.-Cuba relations are a low-priority issue for most Americans. A little effort from American citizens alongside a little political outreach can go a long way.

Visit Cuba
Tourism is Cuba’s second-largest industry today. International visitors directly address the country’s desperate need to inject foreign money into the country’s struggling economy. Even with the new travel restrictions, visiting Cuba can be a fun and rewarding way to help Cubans. Tourists can have the most positive impact by utilizing privately-owned services such as casas particulares instead of chain-run hotels.

When visiting Cuba, tourists can do more than put money into the Cuban economy. Most Cubans are unable to access goods such as clothes, medicines and necessary technologies such as flash drives. One of the best ways to help Cubans is to bring as many of these items as possible on a trip to Cuba. Visitors can give these products out to the Cubans that they meet or donate them to specific charities such as the Cuban Red Cross, health clinics or orphanages.

Those who want to help the people in Cuba beyond taking a beach vacation to Varadero can volunteer with various organizations that work to address the needs of the Cuban people. Two prominent groups with special volunteer programs in Cuba are First-Hand Aid and Global Volunteers.

In planning their service, volunteers should be careful to research the mission and impact of each organization. In the past, some charities have run programs with special interests that do not always benefit the Cuban people.

Support domestic charities
Americans can still help the Cuban people without leaving home. There are numerous advocacy groups based in the U.S. and Europe that also work to help the Cuban people through donations and advocacy.

Americans can support these efforts by donating to organizations such as Connect Cuba and Again, because of the contentious history of U.S.-Cuba relations, it is important that donors and supporters research each organization’s work and verify that their money will help Cubans.

It can be complicated to figure out how to help people in Cuba. Not every method or charitable organization may have the best impact for Cubans. Nonetheless, the options above offer great opportunities to help the hard-pressed people of Cuba.

Bret Anne Serbin

Photo: Google

Cuba, the largest country in the Caribbean, has had a tumultuous relationship with the United States for the past few decades. While the country has an exceptionally high literacy rate and health care program, Cuba struggles with patterns of disease. Those traveling to Cuba are warned to be extremely careful, and many vaccines are recommended for visitors. Some of the common diseases in Cuba are typhoid fever, hepatitis A and the Zika virus.

Typhoid fever occurs with a lack of sanitation and results from contaminated water or food. The disease usually manifests as fever and an upset stomach. There is no entirely effective vaccine, so it is crucial to avoid any food or water that could potentially carry the disease. If contracted, antibiotics will fix the symptoms within a few days as long as it is caught in time. Since 1990, Cuba’s mortality rate from typhoid fever has increased by almost 47.7%.

Another of the most common diseases in Cuba is hepatitis A, a liver disease. Its symptoms are usually fever, stomach pain, loss of appetite and yellowing skin. It typically spreads through water sources and can be contracted through the consumption of food or drink that has come into contact with these sources. While most people fully recover from hepatitis A, it is still important to be vaccinated against the disease before traveling to Cuba. Symptoms can last for almost nine months.

The Zika virus also poses a threat to the health of those living in and visiting Cuba. As of this year, nearly 2,000 people have contracted the disease in Cuba. Spread through mosquito bites, Zika is so feared because neither vaccine nor medicine has been developed to fight its spread. It can also be spread through sexual contact and is especially dangerous for expectant mothers due to its link to birth defects.

Thankfully, the Cuban government is taking great pains to fight against the spread of Zika. Their fumigation and hospitalization policies with communities struggling with Zika have proven effective but highly intrusive. With the continuation of this approach and an increase in the prevalence and access to vaccines, citizens should see a decrease in the prevalence of common diseases in Cuba.

Julia McCartney

Photo: Flickr

What Trump’s New Cuba Policy Means for Cubans
On June 17, President Donald Trump announced that he is “canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.” After only two years of normalized relations, President Trump unveiled a return to the restrictions on travel and trade between the United States and Cuba. While many news outlets have covered the impact this change will have for American travelers, what Trump’s new Cuba policy means for Cubans is far worse.

Cuba is a small country with a very weak economy. While Cubans benefit from social services such as free health care and education, a crumbling infrastructure and the inaccessibility of basic goods create tremendous hardships. As a result of these challenges and a longtime dependence on the sugar industry, Cuba is in desperate need of foreign investment.

In the two years since restrictions relaxed, U.S. travel and trade helped mitigate the effects of these challenges. In 2016, 614,433 U.S. visitors traveled to Cuba, a 34 percent increase in U.S. travelers to the country’s hugely important tourism industry. The hassle and expense of the new travel restrictions are designed to stem this influx of visitors from Cuba’s richest neighbor. What the president’s new Cuba policy means for Cubans is less money circulating in the economy and fewer customers for the small business workers who depend heavily on tourism.

Similarly, the new trade regulations, which restrict trade with businesses owned by the Cuban military, are likely to end almost all trade between the two countries. Since Cuba’s is a state-run economy, it will be almost impossible for businesses to create deals that do not indirectly feed into the military. Cuba will be forced to pay high prices to import goods such as rice from China instead of dealing with nearby rice farmers in Louisiana. Again, this move reduces the amount of money in the Cuban economy and exacerbates the inaccessibility of much-needed goods.

What the president’s new Cuba policy also means is a decrease in private workers’ incomes and an increase in the inaccessibility of daily items. The good news is that none of these restrictions will take place immediately. The White House will most likely roll out regulatory amendments in the next few months. Further good news is that Cuba is a low-priority policy for most Americans, so even a small amount of outreach can have a big impact in amending the proposed changes. To truly help the people President Trump calls “voiceless,” American citizens should raise their voices to their representatives about the damage this new policy could cause to the Cuban people.

Bret Serbin

Photo: Flickr

Facts and Figures About Cuba
A Caribbean island with Spanish as its official language, Cuba is a nation rich in tradition and culture. The United States has had a strained relationship with the country since the travel ban of 1962. However, learning about Cuba continues to provide incredible insight about how to strengthen diplomatic ties between the two countries. Here are 10 facts and figures about Cuba.

  1. Only 6.3 percent of the population lived below the poverty line in 1984, which is impressive for a nation with such limited resources.
  2. In 1986, nearly all school-aged children had enrolled in some form of schooling. By 1990, the country reached a 98 percent literacy rate.
  3. Fewer than five percent of Cubans can access the Internet. However, companies like Netflix and Google have made plans to incorporate their systems into the Cuban economy. Netflix made its services available to islanders in February of 2015.
  4. Although the official religion of Cuba is Roman-Catholicism, with 60 to 70 percent of individuals identifying as Roman Catholic, the island is home to great religious diversity. Approximately 5 percent of the population is Protestant, with most identifying as Baptists and Pentecostals. There are also 94,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, 30,000 Seventh-Day Adventists and Methodists, 22,000 Anglicans, 15,000 Presbyterians, 300 Quakers, 50 Mormons and 1,500 Jews.
  5. The current population is around 11.2 million, making Cuba 107th on the list of global population density.
  6. Since 2011, 93.8 percent of Cubans have had access to improved drinking water sources, and 92.1 percent have had access to improved sanitation facilities. People living in urban areas largely have better resources than those in rural areas.
  7. Between 1990 and 2012, the under-5 mortality rate in Cuba decreased significantly. This rate was 13 percent in 1990 and is now about six percent.
  8. Cuba’s constitution lists healthcare as a fundamental human right. As a result, the government has implemented things like its vaccination program. The vaccination program began in 1962, and the nation maintains some of the lowest global rates of vaccine-preventable infectious disease.
  9. Cuba emphasizes women’s rights. It is ranked fourth in the world in terms of women in politics and approximately 43 percent of their parliament members identify as female. Women receive 18 weeks of maternity leave with full pay. They also have additional leave, with 60 percent pay for the first year of their children’s lives.
  10. Cuban cities are dedicated to sustainability efforts. As of 2010, for example, organic urban farms provided 100 percent of produce in Havana.


While these facts and figures about Cuba cannot fully encapsulate the country, they certainly paint a vivid picture of the exceptional nation that Cuba continues to be. A hub of diversity and human rights, Cuba’s recent successes support the claim that these things will continue improving in the future.

Emily Chazen

Photo: Flickr