Imagine a world where, if you’re hungry, it’s hard to buy anything on the street apart from a ham sandwich. Welcome to Cuba.
In modern-day Cuba, taxi drivers make much, much more money than doctors and other professionals. On his quietest day, a Cuban taxi driver makes around CUC$60 (US$60). In contrast, a doctor is paid CUC$40 a month.
Just after Fidel Castro and his socialist revolutionaries came violently to power in 1959, his regime seized almost all private businesses and land. As per the video below, every restaurant, factory, hospital, and home became the property of the government.
The Cuban government sets all prices and wages, regardless of your profession.
Watch this five minute report by Vox on how Cubans get by in a one-party socialist state:
Facing sanctions from the U.S., Cuba survived on subsidies that were provided by the now defunct Soviet Union. With no more USSR, the Cuban economy went from bad to worse. Today, its economy survives on aid from China and Venezuelan oil.
Since the 1990s, some private enterprises in the Caribbean nation have been allowed to operate, and those who have been able to work in those limited fields — such as taxi drivers — do much better than those working for the state.
A downside of this is that highly trained workers leave their trade to work as taxi drivers or get a private license to open, say, a small barber shop so they can make a living wage.
Understandably, as explored in the video, if you live in Cuba and you aren’t involved in some way with the black market, then you’d also have a tough time getting by.
Now, imagine a world where your Internet access is strictly restricted, and yep, you’d be right to think that’s how things are also currently in Cuba.
This Vox video shows how media smugglers get Taylor Swift and The New York Times to Cubans every week through an illegal network of runners:
Outside of general living — despite claims of the country opening up — the ruling regime remains repressive. The Havana-based Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation recorded 7,686 political arrests this year through to November 30, reported The Wall Street Journal.