by Mario Marino Six years ago, Raul Castro took power from his older brother Fidel after the "Lider Maximo" was declared seriously ill and had not been seen in public for many months.  With the arrival of Raul, there followed talk of pragmatism and the hope that Cuba might finally be opened up to the outside world.  However, the talk proved to be wishful thinking and the Caribbean island remains the 'closed' society that has always been since Fidel and Raul Castro seized power more than half a century ago on New Year's Day 1959. More than seventy percent of the eleven million Cubans who were born after 1959 have experienced nothing but poverty, oppression and hopelessness.  They have also been showered with anti-American propaganda which blames the 'dark power' for blockades which have and continue to prevent Cuba from blooming into a beautiful island paradise. In reality, fifty years of economic embargoes from Washington have little to do with the miserable living conditions experienced by the majority of Cuban people.  The dictatorship has used  American embargoes as an excuse for the failure of the communist experiment which has been crippled by corruption.  The Cuban goverment has long warned of an attack to the sovereignty of Cuba and talked of defending itself.  In reality, however, Castro faces not an attack from outside, but growing pressure from within.  The average monthly salary is the equivalent of just 15 euros.  Young Cubans have few prospects and there is growing anger about conformity and social restrictions. To reduce this pressure, the regime from time to time opens valves. Some sectors - food, crafts and some services - have been opened for private initiative.  Cars, houses and apartments may be purchased and sold under certain conditions. But in all areas bureaucratic hurdles remain in place which keep taxes so high that there has not been a significant rise in private economic activity or even an increase in productivity. On the granting of civil liberties and human rights, the Cubans are still waiting in vain. Butcher’s shop, Havana. From the Series - Havanna 2012 - Photographer Mario Marino, © Copyright Mario Marino Manuel, Havana Angel, Havana Raphael, Boxing Academy, Havana Calle, Havana Boxing Academy. Air-Rifles. A popular pass time.  There are many ranges like this in Havana. Girl asleep in car. Street carnival. Selling eggs on a street corner. Shoe mender trading on a street corner. Alain and his mother. School bus, Havana. Back to current issue