In a Communist Stronghold, Capitalists Become an Economic Lifeline

A modern grocery store whose shelves are packed with everything from pasta to wine fills a spot in central Havana once occupied by a drab state-owned flower shop, its ceilings and walls repaired and repainted.

A former state glass company in a Havana suburb now houses a showroom for a private business selling Cuban-made furniture.

And at the Cuban capital’s port, forklifts carefully unload American eggs from a refrigerated container. The eggs are bound for an online private supermarket that, much like Amazon Fresh, provides home delivery.

These ventures are part of an explosion of thousands of private businesses that have opened in recent years across Cuba, a remarkable shift in a country where such enterprises have not been permitted and where Fidel Castro rose to power leading a communist revolution determined to eliminate capitalist notions like private ownership.

But today Cuba is confronting its worst financial crisis in decades, driven by government inefficiency and mismanagement and a decades-long U.S. economic embargo that has led to a collapse in domestic production, rising inflation, constant power outages and shortages of fuel, meat and other necessities.

So the island’s communist leaders are turning back the clock and embracing private entrepreneurs, a class of people they once vilified as “filthy” capitalists.

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