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  • At the height of the Cold War in 1961, the United States and Cuba severed diplomatic

  • ties.

  • In the succeeding decades, the US government slapped on economic sanctions and travel restrictions,

  • which, coupled with the policies of its repressive government, kept Cuba isolated and its people

  • trapped in poverty.

  • In 2015, diplomatic relations were restored, prompting major changes in the Cuban economy

  • and the lives of ordinary citizens.

  • So, how has life changed for Cubans in the last few years?

  • Well, one of the biggest changes for Cubans has been the sudden influx of American tourists.

  • The US government has gone back and forth on travel restrictions since the Cold War,

  • but for the most part, Americans have been legally barred from entering Cuba, unless

  • going as a journalist or as part of an organized tour group.

  • However since 2014, the US has significantly eased travel restrictions, and even allows

  • Americans to spend money there.

  • As a result, the number of American tourists in Cuba has increased every year, in 2015

  • by more than 75 percent.

  • Cubans, however, still need official permission to leave the country or even travel between

  • provinces.

  • This is all happening as Cuba undergoes major economic reforms.

  • As a socialist country, most industries are owned by the state, and workers are paid a

  • fixed monthly salary.

  • However since 2010, the government has slowly begun to allow self employment and private

  • sector jobs.

  • Today, private employment extends to more than 200 occupations, many of which cater

  • to tourists.

  • As a result, many Cubans who were employed by the state, for instance as doctors, engineers

  • and farmers, working in their free time as taxi drivers or servers.

  • That’s because, counterintuitive as it may seem, these positions often pay more.

  • Nearly 500 thousand Cubans are currently registered as self-employed, however economists say that

  • number is closer to 2 million, or about 40 percent of the workforce.

  • Alongside these economic and diplomatic reforms, internet access has becoming increasingly

  • prevalent.

  • Traditionally, internet in Cuba was shoddy, expensive, and limited to internet cafes.

  • I remember when I traveled to Cuba as a journalist in 2002, the Internet was only available to

  • foreigners in certain hotels.

  • We brought our local Cuban guide to our hotel and introduced him to the internet for the

  • first time.

  • And he was absolutely blown away.

  • I will never forget the look on his face when he realized that news about the rest of the

  • world was just a click away.

  • But things have changed in the last few years.

  • The government has created dozens of public wi-fi zones, opened more, and cheaper, internet

  • cafes and increased connectivity speed.

  • American telecom companies can now sell computers and mobile phones in Cuba, and internet providers

  • have partnered with the state.

  • But even though more Cubans are getting online, still only about 5% have web access at home,

  • and their activity is closely monitored by state officials.

  • So, change is happening.

  • But many vestiges of communism remain.

  • Political opposition is repressed, commercial property cannot be bought or sold and the

  • government controls all imports and exports.

  • Cuba still has few wholesale markets, meaning that many restaurant and shop owners must

  • buy their inventory at retail prices or on the black market.

  • But besides their centrally planned economy, the biggest hurdle in the way of change is

  • the US trade embargo, which prohibits most American companies from doing business in

  • Cuba.

  • President Obama has pushed for a full lift of the ban, however the Republican-led congress

  • has repeatedly voted against it.

  • There’s no doubt Cuba’s economy is improving, but until trade with the US resumes, ordinary

  • Cubans will continue to live in relative isolation.

  • As the amount of privately-owned businesses grow in Cuba, more entrepreneurs are looking

  • for creative ways to work around the trade restrictions.

  • To learn more about what it takes to run a business under the embargo, check out this

  • video from Seeker Stories.

  • Thanks for watching Seeker Daily, please make sure to like and subscribe for new videos

  • everyday.

At the height of the Cold War in 1961, the United States and Cuba severed diplomatic

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How Is Capitalism Changing Cuba?

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    哈維 posted on 2016/10/13
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