BY JOACHIM BAMRUD
On Sunday, Raul Castro became Cuba's new president, succeeding his brother Fidel Castro. Fidel had ruled Cuba since January 1959, when he led a popular revolution. However, once in power he failed to deliver on promises of democracy, and implemented a totalitarian system which also suffocated private enterprise.
Nearly 50 years of Fidel Castro have nearly ruined a once-prosperous economy, experts say. "It is a basket case, with a continuously shrinking basket," says Jorge Salazar-Carrillo, a professor of economics at Florida International University.
William Ratliff, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, agrees. "Cuba’s economy is as moribund as Fidel, its creator," he says. "It is an absolute disaster," adds Jose Azel, director of the Cuba Business Roundtable at the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. "The Cuban economy has deteriorated tremendously."
STANDARD OF LIVING HALF OF 1993
Although the Cuban economy has largely bounced back from its economic collapse in the 1990s, mainly due to a strengthened tourist sector and the subsidized oil it is receiving from Venezuela, the standard of living for the average Cuban has not recovered and stands at roughly half what it was fifteen years ago, says Daniel Erikson, director of Caribbean programs at the Inter-American Dialogue.
Even worse: Cuba today is far worse than it was before the 1959 revolution that swept Castro to power. Adjusted for inflation, the GDP per capita of Cuba is now only five percent of the one enjoyed in 1958, according to calculations by Salazar-Carrillo.
In 1957, Cuba’s real income per capita...