At the beginning of this year, the Cuban government took a dramatic step away from its socialist policies of the past to break new ground: it began privatising its economy to create private sector jobs and issued thousands of licences for its citizens to start their own businesses. The ruling party dismissed 500,000 state employees in a bold experiment to boost the state and provide an injection of funds into the stagnant economy.
Over half a century since Fidel Castro began a socialist revolution, new reforms will now allow Cubans to open restaurants, sell flowers, run beauty salons and barber shops, and become budding entrepreneurs like never before. But not everyone is convinced that this attempt to overhaul the Soviet-style economic model will bring much needed improvements to the country.
Cuba still remains a one party state, poverty is rife, and political reform is not on the agenda. The US trade embargo, lasting five decades, remains firmly in place and sanctions continue to affect its population. Yet for many, these reforms signify a fresh start for Cubans, who are optimistic that this new progressive model may bring the country out of isolation.
Filmmaker Rodrigo Vazquez has been examining how these new reforms are affecting ordinary Cubans in this new chapter in the country’s history.