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Friday, January 1, 1999 Published at 02:23 GMT

World: Americas

Cuba - the struggle goes on

A victorious Castro speaks to his people 1 January 1959

By Havana correspondent Tom Gibb

As Fidel Castro prepares to address the Cuban people from the balcony where he declared victory on January 1st 1959, little remains of the popular fervour which greeted his revolution 40 years ago.

Tom Gibb reports on from Santiago on Cuba today
Most Cubans express more concern with overcoming daily hardships than following the flood of anniversaries which dominate the state controlled media.

"Cubans are naturally rebellious," said Carmen Flores, a scientist boarding a crowded truck to get to work.

A Cuban citizen interviewed by Robin Day in 1961 speaks about life under Castro
"That's why many people have left the country. We thought 40 years ago the future would hold a different promise. But now there are so many material limitations. Not everyone can develop their life as they would like. All Cubans aspire to live well - but it's not possible."

[ image: After a two-year battle Castro paraded through Santiago de Cuba]
After a two-year battle Castro paraded through Santiago de Cuba
Santiago, Cuba's second largest city, is the traditional heartland of the revolution. Fidel Castro fought his guerrilla campaign to oust the corrupt and brutal dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in the Sierra Maestra mountains above the city.

The bearded revolutionary quickly brought antagonism from Washington.

After a failed US invasion attempt, he threw in his lot with the Soviet Bloc, declaring the revolution socialist, "of the poor, by the poor and for the poor."

Today there is still real poverty in the Sierra Maestra.

[ image: Felix Sanchez: worried about food]
Felix Sanchez: worried about food
60-year-old Felix Sanchez lives in a tiny dirt floor hut, behind which he grows a meagre crop of roots and beans. Before the revolution he worked on a private coffee farm, which was then collectivised.

But living conditions improved little. His dream of his own land remains unfulfilled.

"That would resolve everything," he says. "Because then you know that you are working for yourself."

Today he gets health care and some food rations - but not enough to live on. This year the rains have failed and he is worried there will not be enough to eat.

The government blames the 36-year-old US economic embargo for the island's continued inability to feed itself. But there are also dozens of restrictions on farmers growing and selling.

[ image: Basic foods are rationed]
Basic foods are rationed
Many basic foods, like potatoes and beef are only obtainable through the ration book. In some areas plots of land are now being given to individuals to cultivate instead. But the reform is slow and piecemeal.

"People are getting fed up of this rationing," said Cuban journalist Moises Saab. "The situation needs a shake - a hard shake in order to change."

Most money-making opportunities centre around hustling tourists. In the last five years prostitution and street crime, two of the evils of the old Cuba which the revolution promised to stamp out - have returned in force.

In Santiago prostitutes are once again being rounded up for re-education on farms in the countryside.

The slogans say that the revolution will last for ever and that there will never be a transition to capitalism. They call for ever greater struggle and effort for efficiency. But increasingly these are sacrifices which many Cubans are unwilling to make.

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