In 1959, Fidel Castro swept to power in Cuba, promising to end the “exploitation” of capitalism and American “imperialism.” His most important promise was that he would   bring a better standard of living to Cuba’s poor.

Castro still rules Cuba’s eleven million citizens in one of the world’s last remaining bastions of Soviet-style communism. After 38 years of Castro’s rule, it might be time to ask how the poor of Cuba are faring.

Mireli, aged 24, says, “My children have never even tasted chicken.” She and her husband, Juan, are fighting to be allowed to remain in their tiny shack, built of wood and tin scraps salvaged from a garbage dump. The couple are one of the millions of Cuban poor who have migrated from the countryside to one of Havana’s many slum cities.

Havana is now bursting with more than two million residents, many of whom are trying to escape from the desperate poverty of rural Cuba. In Havana, they often live in crumbling apartment buildings, with several families often sharing a single bathroom. A common feature of these buildings is exposed electrical wire and disintegrating stairways. But these people are the lucky ones.

In the shanty towns, the residents dig holes for latrines. They get their basic utilities, such as water and electricity, by diverting nearby water pipes and electrical lines.

Things are even worse in rural areas. “You can’t even get a job sweeping floors in the east,” says Mireli.

(Source: San Jose Mercury.)

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