Cuba

A note from the editor

Vanessa Baird

‘Julius Caesar from Havana sends his love’

Sunday morning in a provincial town in Cuba. We’d been chatting in a park for a good half-hour – and had migrated to a nearby open-terraced bar.

‘You know,’ the man said, ‘if this had been a few years ago, we’d have been interrupted by now by police asking to see my ID and wanting to know why I was talking to a foreigner.’

I’d noticed the difference. Compared with 10 years ago, people seemed more open, more relaxed. Less cautious and reticent.

There were complaints aplenty still, but they were more detailed and nuanced than before. Many had to do with the profound economic and social changes that the communist country is going through – the topic of this month’s Big Story.

Some things, like old Cold War allegiances, seemed to have stayed the same. One woman told me her heart went out to ‘that poor Assad’ who was trying so hard to ‘save Syria’, and she thanked heavens for Putin’s actions to ‘protect’ Ukraine.

Others confounded me in different ways. Like the taxi driver, who, after a long and cogent analysis of why Cuba was not ‘socialist enough’, had offered as a parting shot: ‘Say hallo to Elizabeth for me.’

‘Elizabeth?’

‘Yes. Your queen. She’s a great lady, very dignified. Tell her Julius Caesar from Havana sends his love.’

This edition of the magazine also sees writers and activists Ilan Pappé and Norman Finkelstein debating whether the academic boycott of Israel is justified – a poignant question given recent events in Gaza. While our Worldbeater takes a swipe at Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, described as ‘a military strongman with an electoral fig leaf and a big ego’. Now there’s an image to conjure with.

Vanessa Baird for the New Internationalist co-operative.
www.newint.org

The big story

Behind the vintage taxi is one of Havana’s new Japanese-made co-operative buses. And behind that – the city’s iconic Capitolio, also being renovated.

Behind the vintage taxi is one of Havana’s new Japanese-made co-operative buses. And behind that – the city’s iconic Capitolio, also being renovated.

Photo: All photos in the Big Story are by Vanessa Baird unless otherwise stated.

A new Cuba in the making

The communist island is opening up for business. Vanessa Baird begins an investigation into what's going on - and what it means.

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Say Cuba, and you will provoke some of the most polarised responses, even from people who have never been there.

The tropical island nation has come to symbolise so much – depending on your perspective.

But beyond dispute is its most remarkable story of survival. Few could have imagined that the country’s communist government, led by Fidel Castro, could have continued for more than a few days after the collapse of the Soviet Union that was its mainstay.

And yet, 23 years on, the...




Features

One of Cuba's half a million new entrepreneurs at work in her front room in Old Havana.

Winners and losers

The streets are alive with micro-enterprise. Who benefits? asks Vanessa Baird.

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Gaps or spaces? This new sculpture is located in Havana’s historic and imaginatively restored Plaza Vieja.

Making space

Cuba is inching towards a free media and political choice - or not. Vanessa Baird explores.

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Women and Cubans of colour are still not reaching the higher levels in politics and media.

The 'shame' of pale and male

Sexism and racism get official recognition in Cuba. Vanessa Baird explores an issue that's long been kept silent.

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Pedro - out, gay and at home in Matanzas.

'Sex is too important to me'

Vanessa Baird explores how life has changed for LGBT people.

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Cuba's big bet

It sounds perverse, but in the shadow of the US embargo, Cuba is building a gigantic port and free trade zone... Vanessa Baird looks into the issue.

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'Our main crop is hope'

Meet Cuba's highly successful organic farmers. Why are they getting short shrift, when the country needs more homegrown food?

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Cuba‘s balancing act – maintaining its social provision while relaxing economic and political control.

Future conditional

Expect the unexpected. Concluding thoughts - and a look ahead. Vanessa Baird contemplates the future of Cuba.

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The point of no return? Construction of the Xayaburi dam is well under way, despite fierce opposition.

Madness on the Mekong

Tom Fawthrop reports from Southeast Asia, where a series of proposed dams could trigger a food crisis.

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Regulars

Letter from Bangui: The widening gulf

Are aid workers actually improving things in CAR? wonders Ruby Diamonde.

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Country profile: Mexico

Facts, figures and photos from Mexico.

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Open Window: Arab Citizen

Morhaf Youssef from Syria with ‘The Burden of the Arab Citizen’.

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Worldbeater... Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi - a big ego backed by military might.

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And finally... Okwiri Oduor

Kenyan author Okwiri Oduor talks to Chris Brazier about winning this year's Caine Prize for African Writing.

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Film, Book & Music Reviews

Mixed media: Film

Mixed media: Film

Pride, directed by Matthew Warchus; Still the Enemy Within, directed by Owen Gower.

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Mixed media: Music

Mixed media: Music

Film of Life by Tony Allen; Voice + Vision by Various Artists.

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Mixed media: Books

Mixed media: Books

The Jihadis Return by Patrick Cockburn; The Establishment by Owen Jones; The Last Wave by Pankaj Sekhsaria; Lila by Marilynne Robinson.

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