Cubans Are ‘Fed Up’ — and Saying So Openly Newsmax, 3/10/08)

Cubans Are ‘Fed Up’ — and Saying So Openly

Now that Fidel Castro has officially stepped aside, Cubans are complaining more than ever before on conditions in their island nation — but the new government has given little hint that significant change is imminent.

That’s the report from Mark Potter, an NBC correspondent who has traveled to Cuba many times over the last two decades.

“I have never heard so many everyday Cubans openly criticizing life on the island as I did during this last trip to cover Raul Castro’s officially taking over the presidency from his ailing brother Fidel,” Potter writes in a blog.

“In past years, such public complaining would have been punished and was rarely heard.”

The impetus for much of the new Cuban carping is Raul Castro himself, who after becoming interim president more than a year ago urged Cubans to openly express their grievances, Potter notes, adding that the Cubans are “fed up with low wages that can’t even cover basic necessities, overcrowded buses, meager supplies in government-run stores and long waits and too few workers in Cuba’s vaunted health care system.”

Among the other major gripes of Cubans — especially younger ones — are:

-Not having open access to the Internet and satellite television.
-Being barred from buying or selling a home or car.
-The lack of citizen access to Cuba’s luxury hotels, where only foreign tourists are allowed.
-Inability to travel outside the country without prior government approval.
Many Cubans had rising expectations of change following Raul’s call for criticism and Fidel’s departure — but they were dashed on the day Raul formally became president, Potter reported.

That’s when the government announced that the new first vice-president was not a younger reformer, as widely hoped, but a hardliner — 77-year-old Communist Party ideologue Jose Ramon Machado Ventura.

One Cuban woman told Potter she was going to sit down and cry.