By Leno Rose-Avila
A world apart and yet so close. Recently I went to Cuba and found so many interesting aspects that I encourage many of our members and readers to go to this island country and see for yourselves.
Obviously seniors are taken care of better there than here in the states. They are given free housing and medical assistance. At the Bed and Breakfast where I was staying there was an emergency dental clinic that was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And it is all free. For a developing country their citizens have great teeth.
But all is not perfect in Cuba. They still have a government that does not have full protection of human rights and still has long term prisoners which have never really received a fair and honest trial. But as you know we still control Guantanamo which has been the site of torture and long term imprisonment without the decent standards demanded under the universal declaration of human rights.
Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother who is now president, is opening Cuba up to more tourism, allowing more small businesses, and is looking for ways to build the economy. The Chinese are pushing the Cuban government to build up their tourism and make a bigger profit.
On my next trip to Cuba I will go to the eastern part of the country where I am told there is more poverty and more of the Afro-Cuban population.
The people were friendly and were willing to discuss Obama and his promise for immigration reform. I distributed many Obama shirts and other immigration rights information.
One Cuban gentleman said that Cuba may have too much government but that the United States may need more government.
One stark difference from other Caribbean or Central American Countries was the lack of weapons on the street. Havana was safe and it did not take assault weapons to do so.
There are thousands of tourists from all over the world. The tourist buses are nicer than the buses here in Seattle, their first class hotels are on par or better than ours. And while the Government owns most businesses the service is not bad.
As of January 14th any Cuban who has the money and permission from their job is free to apply to travel to any country that will have them. This will create new immigration issues for our Homeland Security office.
And it is a delight to see all the late 50’s Chevrolets and some other models from those years still prowling the streets but now running with Russian motors. There are not many vehicles in Cuba so I never experienced rush hour traffic.
The U.S. government does business with China which is a more powerful Communist country and yet we still have an embargo with Cuba… that needs to change to benefit all of us.
Leno Rose-Avila is Director of Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs and a member of PSARA’s Executive Board.