Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cuban newspaper challenges government employment claim

Cuban newspaper challenges government employment claim

By Marc Franck
José F. Sánchez
Bureau Chief
Research Dept.
La Nueva Cuba
November 26, 2007

HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters): An official Cuban newspaper questioned
government claims of 2 percent unemployment on Sunday in the latest
challenge to government rhetoric begun under acting president Raul
Castro more than a year ago.

The article in the Union of Young Communists' "Rebel Youth" newspaper
questioned government claims that almost all young people are working or
in school.

The Union of Young Communists is the youth wing of the ruling Communist

"The figures never reflect reality," said the article, which concluded
that those involved in ensuring youth are working or studying should
"tear themselves away from illusory figures" and take another look.

Among numerous examples provided by the two-page article was a report
that around 16,000 youth in eastern Santiago were unemployed in 2006,
when a survey by social workers put the figure at 29,000.

Eastern Granma province claimed only 2 percent of its population as
unemployed in 2006, or around 2,000 people, while another social worker
survey found the number of unemployed under 45 was 37,000, the newspaper
said, including housewives and 13,000 men.

Raul Castro, since temporarily taking over for his ailing brother Fidel
Castro 16 months ago, has urged the official media to be more critical,
blasted bureaucrats for inaccurate reporting and encouraged debate among
ordinary citizens over the country's social and economic ills.

Since then retail-level pilfering and fraud, problems with the free
health care and education systems, a lack of entertainment for young
people and worker apathy are some subjects that have captured the
attention of the usually docile official media.

Fidel Castro, 81, suffering from an undisclosed intestinal ailment, has
undergone various operations since stepping aside. He regularly comments
on international and domestic affairs through writings published and
broadcast by all media, but has not appeared in public.

Cuba launched a series of programs to reincorporate high school
drop-outs into society in 2001 and has managed to find work or study for
tens of thousands of them since then, in an effort that has helped limit
drug use and violence in comparison with many other countries in the region.

However, Sunday's report said some youth signed up for high school
equivalency and other community education programs, for which they are
paid a government stipend, and never showed up. Many others refused
employment because of poor working conditions and low wages, it said.

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