Cubans seek end to hardship, not revolution

Sun Dec 28, 2008 11:15am EST
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By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - When 70-year-old Communist Party member Amanda Gonzalez recalls life before the Cuban revolution, bitterness creeps into her voice.

She chokes back tears as she remembers her parents working long hours at dead-end jobs in a stratified society where the odds seemed hopelessly stacked against the poor and the rich showed little concern for their plight.

"Poor people at that time had nothing, and there were many poor. The rich only cared about profits and wealth," she said, sitting at a table in her peeling, 19th century home in central Havana.

Now, five decades after the triumph of the revolution that toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista and put Fidel Castro in power on January 1, 1959, the rich are gone and a social safety net is in place, but economic hardship remains.

Like many Cubans, Gonzalez is anxious for it to end.

"On balance, the revolution has been positive, but what hits me is the economic situation. We are forced to do illegal things to improve our lives," she said.

As their country prepares to mark the revolution's 50th anniversary on Thursday, Cubans complain about some things and praise others in their remade society.

They like the free health care and education which have helped make Cubans some of the longest-living, best-educated people in the Americas. They also appreciate the low crime rate and absence of dire poverty.   Continued...

<p>A man with a tattoo of late rebel leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara poses on a street in Havana December 27, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer</p>