On an island paradise
The latest (and much welcomed) report comes from Carol J Williams of The Los Angeles Times, who writes from Havana on how the regime's much-hated two-currency system "adds up to a social divide".
The subject of Ms Williams' report is a woman called Rosa, a 72-year-old pensioner who lives in truly appalling conditions in Marianao, trying to get by on her monthly State pension of 164 pesos - or about USD7.00.
Like many other Cubans, Rosa prefers not to reveal her surname to foreigners for fear of official repercussion although as the reporter points out, "it's difficult to imagine how her circumstances could worsen". Trust me, Carol, it could ...
Anyway, with no one outside Cuba to send her hard currency and with no "marketable" skills, life is tough for Rosa.
According to the report, the "ever shrinking" monthly basket of basic foodstuffs she gets from the State at subsidised prices lasts barely a week, public transport is almost non-existent and buying even essentials such as powdered milk is described as an "unimaginable luxury".
But at least she has access to a terrific (and free!) health care system , right?
Well, the visit to her allocated doctor, who happens to be three miles away (she walks there and back), is indeed free, but Rosa "pays with her time", forced to wait outside all day until the doctor can see her.
OK, but she gets good-quality, low-cost medicines, right? Hmmm .... the pills her doctor prescribes cost the equivalent of 50 US cents each - so a vial of 15 would use up her entire monthly income. Not surprisingly, Rosa "rarely buys them, preferring to spend the money on food".
And on and on and on ... enough to make you weep. Read the article here.