If you would like to read my full Cuba travel blog click on this link and start at "Revolutionary Cuba, laid-back Havana (1)"
In February 2008, after 49 years at the helm of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro stood down as president in favour of younger blood – in this case, his 76 year-old brother, Raúl. Optimistically, George Bush welcomed the news by saying that Fidel’s departure “should be the beginning of a democratic transition in Cuba that should lead to free elections”. Equally fancifully, many less ideologically driven commentators have been expecting dramatic changes to take place ever since Raúl took over as acting president in mid-2006. Both the ideologues and the pragmatists are still waiting.
The fact is that Cuba is the only truly communist economy in the world other than North Korea. And the entrenched, unquestioning commitment to that economic dogma is alive and well amongst the government elite, to whom the Chinese model of economic liberalisation combined with firm central control over political power appears to be an anathema.
Based on observations during our short visit to Cuba in July 2007 (and, no, we did not go there to lie on the beach), and everything I have read before and since, reformist dreamers will wait a long time yet for substantive changes to take place.
While I must admit that Cuba had not been high on my priority list of un-visited countries, Lisa had for a long time wanted to go there – and specifically before Castro passed on to whatever afterlife iconoclastic revolutionaries aspire to. So we planned this trip to make sure she accomplished that ambition.