Local visitors to Cuba expect slow change

Dr. David Putnam said he doesn’t think Cubans will be dancing in the streets now that Fidel Castro h

Dr. David Putnam said he doesn’t think Cubans will be dancing in the streets now that Fidel Castro has resigned as president of Cuba.

“They see this as change, but they aren’t going to rejoice because if they start dancing in the street, someone will be taking their names down,” he said.

Putnam, a cardiologist at Capital Cardiology Associates in Albany, has visited Cuba twice, the last time in August. He is working on his MBA from Union Graduate College, concentrating on health care administration. He is researching how other countries have been able to provide health care to citizens at low costs.

Castro announced his resignation in a letter Tuesday. The health of the 81-year-old dictator has been failing for more than a year.

Putnam, who spent both his visits to Cuba in that island country’s capital city of Havana, said most Cubans don’t talk about politics.

“They just live,” he said. “They are careful what they say because they don’t want their comments to get back to the wrong people because it could affect their jobs.”

Putnam said most Cubans make between $15 and $20 per month. Their major expenses, including health care and education, are paid for by the government. Putnam said Cuba is working toward a dual economy with the tourism industry, in which an employee might make an additional $15 per day in tips.

Putnam said that while Castro’s brother, Raul, who was temporarily given power in 2006, is more liberal, change is going to happen slowly.

“In the end, this will have an impact, but everything there is one stone at a time,” Putnam said. “This is a major thing, but this is just one step on the road to a more open and liberal society.”

Mabel Leon, 67, of Schenectady, has been to Cuba four times with the national organization Pastors for Peace. The last time she visited was in 2005.

Leon has become involved in trying to change America’s foreign policy with Cuba. She said that under the current administration of President Bush, relations with Cuba have become even more restrictive.

“It is time for Fidel to step down. He was ill and it’s time for younger people to take over,” she said.

Leon hopes that with a new leader, relations between Cuba and the United States will evolve.

“Cuba is not a threat to the U.S.,” she said. “They are a tiny island and they have done some amazing things.”

Putnam said it was Castro who had a fear and hatred of the United States. He said most Cubans don’t agree, but in order for change to occur, the old, conservative politicians have to give way to moderate and then liberal ones.

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply