Letter: Castro's Cuba

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Ken Livingstone (Comment, 4 August) is right that life expectancy in Cuba under Castro has risen, education matters, and Cuba has an impressive number of well-trained doctors.

But all is not well in Cuba. Since dollars have been flooding in, the Cubans have been clearly divided into the "haves" and the "have-nots". The former are people with access to tourists and hence the dollar tips they rightfully expect. This allows them to be part of the "dollar economy", able to shop in well-stocked dollar shops and even buy prescribed medication in dollar pharmacies. In short, they manage to live decently.

The "have-nots" have to live within the "peso economy". This means rationing even of staple foods such as rice and beans, empty shops - except bakeries - access to a doctor, but no available medication in the "peso pharmacies", old ladies begging for money to replace their worn-out shoes, children begging for writing utensils (I shall never forget the expression of joy when I gave a schoolboy my pen) and everybody constantly asking for soap.

And yet, most Cubans manage to be friendly, although I did detect not only welcoming smiles on people's faces, but also resentment and anger at their divided society. And yes, people are becoming more outspoken and open in their criticism of their government. Even Fidel Castro is not exempt from criticism.

SABINE STEEL

Winchester

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