September 1991 collapse of the Soviet union has led to a sharp downfall
in the economy of Cuba. This event, together with the U.S. embargo,
has thrust the Caribbean island into a state of despair. The loss
of trade subsidies from the former U.S.S.R. has meant a cut-off in
supplies of fuel, raw materials, machine parts and technological products.
This has crippled the economy to the extent that President Fidel Castro
instituted in 1989-1990 what he called "a Special Period in a
Time of Peace." But it seems that this policy of tough austerity
measures is not enough to rescue the ailing economy: "After more
than 30 years of Soviet-style socialism, life has turned much worse
during ....the Special Period'." The rationing of food
items, the shortage of necessities such as soap and toilet paper,
the shut down of factories and the lack of harvest distribution have
caused severe inconveniences for the Cuban people.
events were enough to raise questions concerning the ability of Castro
to survive this period. However, the Cuban leader has remained steadfastly
in his position. He has survived primarily because of the great adulation
he has received from his loyal supporters. He has also been able to
work up patriotic fervour in combating "injustice and exploitation...
evil and good... the moral and immoral." Over the past three
decades, Cubans have been provided with excellent health care and
education, but these have come amid severe shortages in other provisions,
in particular food.
Cuban economic problems have been exacerbated by the 35-year old U.S.
embargo. In its original ( 1961 ) form, the embargo "prohibited
all commercial, financial and trade transaction by all persons subject
to U.S. jurisdiction, which includes United States citizens, permanent
residents, wherever they are located, all people and organizations
physically located in the United States and all branches and subsidiaries
of U.S. organizations throughout the world." The embargo was
strengthened through the Cuban Democracy Act ( 1990).
on February 25 1996, after repeated warnings against violation of
Cuban air space, Cuban air force jets shot down two light aircraft
belonging to a Cuban exile group called "Brothers to the Rescue",
based in Miami, Florida. The incident, which occurred during a U.S.
election year, prompted the U.S. congress into passing The Cuban Liberty
and Solidarity Act. Among the aims of this powerful measure is the
curbing of foreign investment in Cuba. This Act will most likely strain
foreign relations between the United States and Cuba even further
and can best be described as ominous
this paper, an attempt will be made to assess the current economic
and social situation in Cuba, along with the influence of external
policies. The initial sections aim to provide the reader with a historical
background of Cuba and the Castro government as it relates to the
current situation. The title section will look at events during the
last five years in the areas of economy, social and international
( mostly American) relations. Finally, an effort will be made to look
at the prospects for Cuba in each of these areas with the intention
of coming to some conclusion and making recommendations.