4 questions to the CNN correspondent in Havana

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As Oppmann was about to move from Seattle to Havana in 2012, he recalled his boss giving him this advice: “‘Don’t bring a lot because Fidel (Castro) could die anytime. what day.'”

That’s because some thought CNN Havana was just a “death watch bureau” set up to cover up the possibility that communist Cuba might open up after the death of its aging communist leader.

While that hasn’t happened, Cuba has opened up in many ways since Oppmann’s arrival nearly a decade ago and Castro’s death in 2016. The increasingly short-lived island Money was forced to allow more capitalism, and information-hungry Cubans pushed for a greater Internet. to access.
Last July, the biggest anti-government protests since the 1959 revolution rocked the island and led to numerous arrests. And in November, Cuban activists said they were trapped in their homes as the government cracked down on plans for opposition protests.

Like never before, the Cuban government is under pressure to adapt or join other communist regimes that have collapsed in the face of rising dissent.

We caught up with Oppmann at his Havana home to talk about life there. The following is an edited version of our conversation:

Q: First of all, how is it to live in Cuba?

Opman: Living in Cuba can be a full-time job — everything that comes in is imported by the government; all supermarkets are government run. Before, you could bring things in suitcases, but not with Covid travel restrictions.

There are gasoline shortages, food shortages — there’s always a bit of desperation around food. We use WhatsApp listings if we’re at the market and there’s something hard to find, like eggs – we post it (on WhatsApp) so everyone knows. If they are really good friends, you will buy more from them during your stay.

Often during the pandemic I would drive in the countryside and load up my car with whatever was there – I’m lucky to have a car and gas. At one point we couldn’t find any protein so a friend dropped off a whole pig. I didn’t know what to do with it – luckily I found a YouTube video on how to butcher it!

A lot of people write to me and say, “Oh, that must be so hard,” but we’re very lucky: unlike many Cubans, we don’t miss a meal.

Q: You live in Havana with your wife and four young children. What is it like raising a family in Cuba? How was their childhood different from yours growing up in America?

Opman: For my kids it’s a great place to grow up – they play outside all the time, they love the beach which was closed for most of the pandemic due to Covid. They are fully bilingual and not gimmicky like they might be if they were growing up in the United States.

As Cuba experiences many food shortages, they appreciate the little things even more. They love apples — and then they disappear!

Q: Do Cuban citizens have internet access? Can they see CNN there?

Opman: Relatively few people have the Internet at home, but they do on their phones. The government started slowly to open up the internet, but was very careful about it. And there is no cable or satellite TV allowed here.

If you want a landline (phone), it may take years, but you can get a SIM card with 4G in just a day. You just go to the store and then, boom, you can log in. People joke that they’d rather skip a meal than not get any data – and I’m sure it happens.

It used to be fine – nobody checked their phone in Havana – but now it’s everywhere.

You have access to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram — and sometimes I wonder if the government regrets that. The year Cuba opened up wireless data, some analysts said was the biggest increase in people going online anywhere in the world. People here now have a better idea of ​​what life is like outside of Cuba – and this has created a lot of resentment towards the government.

Now that they’re connected and can see how people live in the world, people want the opportunities that other people have. Cubans are highly educated and they don’t know why they have to work and earn only $50 a month or why they can’t own their own farm. They want the same opportunities that people have in other countries.

Q: Have you ever considered returning to the United States?

Opman: I want to see how the story unfolds here, but maybe one day. We have learned to be very patient here.

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