Havana spiffs up for Obama, Rolling Stones
17 March 2016, Nirapad News: Hundreds of workers have been scrambling for days to touch up building facades, patch potholes and spiff up Havana’s monuments ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit.
A number of the capital’s main avenues have been given a fresh paving — including the landmark Malecon seawall avenue which runs by the US Embassy — to look its best for the guest.
Obama next week will become the first US president to visit Cuba while in office in almost a century.
On other roads, cleaning has been done and road signs updated, particularly in Spanish-colonial era Old Havana. The Obama family is expected to do a walkabout there — typical fare when heads of state visit the Cuban capital.
“It’s all just fine. Just wish they would do it all more often,” joked a taxi driver, Pedro, 50 who declined to give his family name — referring to the pothole fixes.
Cubans are famous for their love of humor — and it serves as a coping mechanism in a country of almost endless frustration with waiting, delays and bureaucratic nonstarters. So far, the top-down economy has been tweaked on the rules and regulations front, but without Cuba giving up on one-party rule or state-led economics.
Most Cubans earn around 20 dollars a month, and struggle to put food on the table. Many spend much of the day queuing for food and lining up to wait for buses or other transport.
Cuba’s capital has recently undergone a huge renovation project. And in the Cerro neighborhood, the fabled Estadio Latinoamericano — set to host a game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Cuba’s national squad — also has been remodeled.
Teacher Armando Manzano, 56, said he wished Obama could see more of Havana.
Adding: “no society in the world is perfect.”
Once Obama heads out, the Rolling Stones will roll in with a massive benefit show in Cerro, another first for them.