August 21, 2012
Nick Miroff, NPR
Cuba is one of the world's last remaining communist states. Cuba's allies in China and Vietnam also maintain firm one-party rule, but have prospered by introducing market principles to their economic models. With Cuban President Raul Castro easing government controls on property rights and private enterprise, many are wondering if the struggling island is looking to Asia for a way forward.
The intersection of 23rd Street and 12th Avenue in Havana's Vedado District is a Cuban landmark in Cold War history. It was here during the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961 that Fidel Castro dropped his democratic assurances and declared at the peak of a fiery speech that Cuba "had carried out a socialist revolution right under the United States' nose." It was the first time he'd openly used the S word to describe his leftward plans for the island.
What Cubans ended up with was a tropical version of Soviet economics, defined by centralized planning and the elimination of most private property. Even Cuba's ice cream vendors had their Popsicle carts seized by the state in the name of ending inequality.