Cuba being a socialist state is definitely different to anything I have experienced in all my travels.
People who have never experienced the basic necessities of life, which we in the 1st world countries have taken for granted.
The government make sure the people are kept on one level, doctors, lawyers, in fact any professional person earn a monthly salary of not more than 30 US. Thatīs if there is money to pay them.
Two currencies: the Cuban Peso and the Convertible Peso. 24 Cuban pesos equals one convertible peso, which the government introduced as a tool to rake in money from unsuspecting tourists!
Sitting on a bench in one of the plazas of Santiago de Cuba, Eduardo, his wife Maria, and his breast sucking child sat next to me and started a conversation in quite good English, being an English teacher. He explained that he had not received his monthly June salary of 360 Cuban Pesos (15 US). I gave the Chile some lemonade and a couple of chocolate biscuits, which were gulped down. After some more interesting conversation he asked me to take them for a coffee, and after five minutes of walking narrow side streets we came to a small coffee shop with all local Cuban people. I bought them two cups of coffee each, asked for the bill, which came to six Convertible pesos, or a 144 Cuban Pesos. I guess Iīve done my good deed for the day. He would receive half of that money for showing me to that particular place, as sort of a commission.
These are only a few of the sad stories of life in Cuba.
Viazul is the bus company especially for tourists, and I made good in traveling around Cuba with it. Very few Cubans use it, seeing as it can only be paid for in Convertible Pesos, and would cost a Cuban a years salary to do the trip I did, to Baracoa, Guantanamo, Holguin, etc...
Using locals house share, where you get a bed, dinner, breakfast, you end up paying around 20-25 Convertible Pesos. In Havana you pay more. These people let you use their house, but everything is recorded and signed for a government official to scrutinize. They are forced to pay between 130-200 just to be registered to house foreigners, irrespective of whether or not they actually get people to stay there. If somebody gets caught without a license, they are fined 1000 Convertibles, a price impossible to pay.
I got the definite impression that there is no work ethics, motivation, or will to do anything, other than drink their Bucanero beer, or Havana Club rum to drown their sorrows. Few smile on the street. Only chat with each other when long queues form to obtain their weekly ration of rice, chicken, bread, etc...
This is an interesting country. After 47 years after the Revolution, on January 1st, 1959, they havenīt got much to show the outside world that a socialist state really works. Brainwashing has taken its toll.
Roland - July 2006
P.S. On the plus side, they have free medical, education, free universities, and hardly any crime and drugs. I felt perfectly safe walking the streets at anytime during the day, or night for that matter.