Nightly News | August 13, 2011
LESTER HOLT, anchor: This week, the Obama administration reinstated a travel plan that makes it easier for Americans to visit Cuba , a country that has been mostly off limits for 50 years. But along with the island's vibrant culture, visitors could see evidence of Cuba 's crumbling economy and the new entrepreneurial spirit of the Cuban people . Here's NBC 's Mark Potter from Havana .
MARK POTTER reporting: Adrian Chichon and Alejandro Ortega have nothing to do now and fear they have no future. Both were laid off from state-run businesses in Havana as the Cuban government begins to reduce the jobs and social programs Cubans have come to expect during 50 years of communist rule.
Mr. ROBERT PASTOR (American University): President Raul Castro has understood that the Cuban economy is simply not working.
POTTER: Under the socialist government of Fidel Castro , all of the jobs, health care, education, housing, and food were provided by the state. But with the country bankrupt, the government now says the free ride is coming to an end. Ironically, it is the current president, Raul Castro , Fidel 's younger brother, who is demanding Cubans become more self-reliant saying, "We have to erase forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where it is not necessary to work."
Mr. PHILIP PETERS (Lexington Institute): It's a sign that they realize that -- and they say it very clearly -- that the system will sink. It'll go under if they don't fix the economy.
POTTER: Cuban officials say a million government jobs will gradually be cut. To help fill the gap, more than 300,000 Cubans have already been granted licenses to open their own small businesses. This woman, who calls herself Juana LaCubana , proudly says her new restaurant is booming. Armando Rodriguez , once a teacher, now makes and sells shoes to feed his family. Cuban officials say they are not embracing capitalism by allowing some free enterprise, that this is simply an adjustment to their socialist system, which will remain firmly controlled by the government. Amid concerns economic change could spark political dissent, President Castro says the government will move very carefully in imposing reforms, which he insists must come if Cuban communism is to survive. Mark Potter , NBC News, Havana .