Showing posts from August, 2009

Modern buses, modern problems

    The Big Deal in the Cuban economy isn’t nickel or tourism (and certainly not sugar, tobacco or coffee). The Big Deal is petrĂ³leo . And not as export or other revenue-earner, but as money-costing import.    So why, at this point in the Oil Age, should Cuba be different than most other countries?    Cuba does produce oil, but the product of its offshore wells is heavily sulphurous, and even then not enough to meet its needs. The rest is supplied by Venezuela at below market rates (in exchange for Cuban medical missions and technical training), but the bill still adds to a trade deficit that in 2008 jumped by 65 per cent.     According to a report in The Economist , the addition of “thousands of thirsty diesel generators” – the Cuban government’s response to the island’s infamous power failures – is a big part of a sharp rise in demand for oil. To cut costs, the government ordered that air conditioning be restricted to the five hottest hours of the day this summer in shops, factor

By their funky old buses ye shall know them

    Photos of Fidel Castro looking fat ‘n’ sassy – or at least smiling, and appearing to have gained weight – surfaced last week on the retired (sort-of) leader’s 83rd birthday.     Their source? Not some Cuban government agency, but the U.S.-based Pastors for Peace , which in July met with Fidel and brother Raul on the arrival of the group’s latest caravan of embargo-defying aid.    The interdenominational group works for social justice throughout Latin America, and considers the U.S. restrictions on trade with Cuba “immoral and unjust.” Since 1992, it has delivered more than 3,000 tons of medical equipment, hurricane reconstruction supplies, powdered milk and other aid. Its caravans of brightly painted, decommissioned school buses – looking like stretched versions of ’60s-era hippy vans – wend through Canada and the United States before crossing the border to Mexico for eventual transfer to their destination.     The buses remain in Cuba for the use of schools and organizations,