Friday, February 4, 2011

Between Hope ad Skepticism

Photo: Jose Goitia for The New York Times
This cafe in Bauta, near Havana, is part of a tiny, 
but now expanding, private sector in Cuba.

In a Shift, Cubans Savor Working for Themselves
By VICTORIA BURNETT, The New York Times, February 4, 2011

BAUTA, Cuba — Marisela Álvarez spends much of the day bent over a single electric burner in her small outdoor kitchen. Her knees are killing her. Her red hair smells of cooking oil. 
She hasn’t felt this fortunate in years.

Not everyone agrees about the good Raul's economic measures will bring to Cuba, not even husband and wife. Juan Carlos Montes remains skeptical, while his wife Yodania Sánchez is hopeful.

“When someone who has made the same argument for more than 40 years suddenly changes their tune, you have to have a lot of faith to believe them,” Juan Carlos said. 
His wife, Yodania, has been trying to change his mind. She has a license to rent two rooms in their higgledy-piggledy house and pays about $243 in taxes every month, whether the rooms are occupied or not.
“The changes are really positive; there are new opportunities,” she said on a recent morning as she cleaned their tiny kitchen. “People want Cuba to become Switzerland overnight, and that’s not possible.”
But Mr. Montes swears he will not open a new restaurant until there is a wholesale market.
“People can’t get what they need to run a business,” he said. “The carpenter has no wood. The electrician has no cable. The plumber has no pipes. Right now, there is no flour in the shops. So what are all the pizzerias doing? They have to buy stuff that is stolen from bakeries.”

Photo: Jose Goitia for The New York Times
A lack of raw materials is one of the greatest stumbling blocks for people establishing their own businesses. This man in Havana was making brake seals last month from old tractor tires.

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