Half a century ago, when Fidel Castro’s revolutionary forces entered the Cuban capital Havana, the new leader pledged to improve the lives of the poor by putting an end to capitalist excess.
One of the revolutionary government’s key measures was the elimination of the property market as a lucrative business. Housing was declared a human right, private rental was abolished and the majority of Cubans were given free properties to live in.
But with a US embargo declared on the revolutionary island and its finances dependent on an inefficient state-driven economy, the government ran out of money and vast parts of Havana fell into decline.
In a radical move, Raul Castro opened up the economy in 2011. Property laws were reversed and Cubans were allowed to buy and sell their homes once more.
The government says its revolutionary vision hasn’t changed and that the reforms are aimed at safeguarding rather than dismantling socialism. But will the re-introduction of private property make Havana’s urban poor worse off? And how will the government deal with the growing, wealthy new class that the regime once fought so hard to defeat?
In Cuba for Sale, reporter Juliana Ruhfus and filmmaker Seamus Mirodan investigate the impact of the country’s recent economic changes and whether the re-introduction of private property heralds an end to Cuban socialism.
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