Havana’s revolution is dying a very painful death

The US embargo remains insane and counter-productive but aging dictators are equally killing their country:

Parque Trillo used to be a lively pocket of Havana. A small open space bounded by four streets, it was where Cubans came to gossip, shop, play baseball and dance.

On the surface little has changed. Pensioners chat on benches, housewives trawl the food market, teenage boys take turns swinging a bat, and the Palacio de la Rumba nightclub throbs after dusk.

Things are gritty – buildings are dilapidated, grass is strewn with rubbish and the park’s blue pillars are discoloured and peeling – but that is hardly new. Jaime Valdés, however, has noticed one big change. “It’s a lot quieter these days. Young people are disappearing. The ones in their 20s and 30s, they’ve left.”

From his bench the retired chemist pointed to San Rafael street. “Fifteen from there, gone.” He pointed to San Miguel street. “There, another nine or 10, gone.” From Aramburu street, another eight, and from Hospital street, about a dozen, said Valdés. “It’s an exodus.”

Neighbourhoods across Havana report the same phenomenon. Young people, especially well-educated professionals, are fleeing the island. Tens of thousands have emigrated in the past two years. The exodus has alarmed the communist government but remains largely unreported, a taboo topic for state media.

“It’s a sign that the revolution has failed, so they don’t want to talk about it. We are losing our future,” said Ricardo Martinelli, a university professor who has seen many of his students and his only child, a 23-year-old technician, emigrate in recent months.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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