- April 1, 2014: Vol. 26, Number 4

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Lessons from Havana: Scenes from dystopia

by Claude Gruen

My wife and I visited Havana for New Year’s week. Cuba’s music, higher education, enthusiasm for baseball and much of its art are great. The quality of medical care is higher than it has ever been, allowing the average Cuban to live to 77, just below the average life span of an American. Infant mortality rates in Cuba have dropped below those of the United States.

Since the revolution, whose 50th anniversary was being celebrated during our visit, the once strong economy has deteriorated into shambles. Except for the elite of the ruling party, workers serving the thriving tourist industry or those receiving remittances from overseas, Cuba’s 11 million people are living on the very edge of subsistence. The history of housing conditions in Havana, which now holds 3 million people, provides an eye-opening example of how a nation’s attempt to help its poorest citizens wound up worsening their situation and impoverishing or forcing out its middle class and the truly well-of

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