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AP PHOTOS: Cuba transition sparks hope for many generations

April 18, 2018
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In this April 12, 2018 photo, artist and former diplomat Hector Pascual Gallo Portieres poses at his home in the Alamar public housing complex in Havana, Cuba. The barber by profession was approached in 1960 to go on a mission to find out how the U.S. would attack Cuba. He found answers in Costa Rica, and was highly decorated for alerting Cuba to the 1961 U.S. invasion of the Bay of Pigs. After years in diplomacy, he returned home to teach intelligence and retired after 30 years. Gallo, now 93, says he hopes the next generation will be faithful to national hero Jose Marti and to the process Fidel Castro started. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

HAVANA (AP) — From a 93-year-old former intelligence agent to a 28-year-old economist working as a maintenance man, Cubans of every generation are watching this week as Raul Castro leaves the presidency as part of a broader handoff to a group of younger leaders.

Few expect deep or rapid change in Cuba, a nation ruled by the same party for six decades. But the transition is sparking some hope that the new generation of leaders will make progress on deep problems, including an economy long unable to provide people with enough well-paying jobs. Cubans are also hoping for improved relations with the United States.

Amable Lopez is a 69-year-old veteran of Cuba’s more than 15-year intervention in Southern Africa who has worked as a carpenter, a firefighter and oil refinery worker.

Lopez says that Cuban youth have more resources than his generation but “they need to improve the economy, raise salaries, lower prices. There are things that can be improved. Let’s see what happens.”

Yojany Perez, 28, has an economics degree but works in maintenance and other odd jobs to help support his family. He also says that with the arrival of a new Cuban president, people are expecting an improvement in the economy, for prices to decline and salaries to rise.

“Our current economy does not allow for many luxuries,” Perez said.

Ninety-three-year-old Pascual Gallo Portieres says he’s proud of his service as an intelligence agent for Cuba in the early days after the revolution, when the United States was actively trying to overthrow the government. And he’s sure the outgoing president will take the right decisions.

“At far as the future, I’m very confident because Raul has all my trust, and I hope that Raul can achieve all his plans.” He said he also hopes that relations with the United States improve.

Lazaro Rodriguez, 42, a baker and maintenance worker, says Cuba has seen “very positive changes in the economy in recent years and I would like to continue with the path of development. The generation that comes after me will have much more. I would ask for progress and economy for the future, to go forward and not stop. No country in the world can stop.”

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