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Cuba going gray

HAVANA — This country reached a tipping point in 2006. It wasn’t any one event in particular, but according to Cuba’s Office of National Statistics, the island’s population of 11.2 million stopped growing that year, and dipped slightly. And it has been falling ever since.

Cuba raises teachers' pay

Despite its dismal economic outlook, the Cuban government announced July 2 that it will boost pay for teachers and other educational professionals starting in the fall. The raises will amount to roughly $3 to $7 a month per worker, and while that may seem paltry by American standards, it’s nothing to scoff at in a country where the average wage is around $17 a month.

A coup without friends

HAVANA — When Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was roused from home by military officers Sunday morning and sent off to Costa Rica in his pajamas, the banana-republic days of crude political succession seemed to be back in the Americas. Then something different happened: Condemnation and scorn rained down on Honduras’ coup plotters from every corner of the hemisphere, uniting leaders from conservative Colombian President Álvaro Uribe to Cuba’s Raúl Castro to U.S. President Barack Obama.

Honduras coup: The view from Cuba

You won't find wall-to-wall Michael Jackson coverage on Cuba's airwaves. The island's government-run media has tracked the coup in Honduras closely, mostly by running extensive footage from Venezuela's Telesur network.

Troubled waters

HAVANA — In their diplomatic relations, the U.S. and Cuba are like a bitterly divorced couple, whose shared history is so marred by grudges and recriminations it's hard to figure out how to start talking again. So with the Obama administration offering a fresh start and an open hand, and Cuba welcoming the overtures, the two sides are preparing to meet for talks on a topic of common concern: migration. The discussions are widely viewed as potential building blocks for a broader dialogue between the two countries.

Cubans face dire formula

HAVANA — As a general rule with Cuban revolutionary slogans, the second choice is never a good option. Such is the case with Fidel Castro's famous rallying cries of "Patria o Muerte" ("Homeland or Death") and "Socialismo o Muerte" ("Socialism or Death"). And now, with the island facing its grimmest economic outlook in years, Cubans have been presented with a new mortal ultimatum: "Ahorro o Muerte" ("Conservation or Death").

A remnant of the Cold War

HAVANA — The Obama administration's plans to bring U.S.-Cuba relations out of the Cold War era have been tripped up twice this month by a naggingly familiar Cold War issue: espionage. First came the June 4 arrests of Gwendolyn Myers and Walter Kendall Myers, charged by the FBI with spying for Havana from inside the highest levels of the State Department for three decades. The arrests prompted several Cuban-American lawmakers to call for Obama to freeze engagement efforts with the Castro government.

Where Detroit still reigns

HAVANA — The Pontiac Aztek never made it to Cuba. Nor did the Dodge Nitro, Chrysler Crossfire, or any other flops of the past 50 years of American auto manufacturing. So as news of bankruptcy at General Motors and Chrysler reaches this city, where thousands of vintage cars from Detroit's heyday still rumble through the streets, Cuban drivers have been stunned. Where did these giants of American industry go wrong?

Condoms: not just for sex in Cuba

HAVANA, Cuba — On this island of constant shortages and scarcities, the latex condom has uses that stretch far beyond the bedroom. At baseball games, concerts and other entertainment events, Cubans blow them up and bat them around the crowd like beach balls. When Cuban parents can’t afford birthday party balloons or can’t find them, they unfurl a few “Vigor” brand prophylactics and start puffing. The latex is so strong and supple that kids can even draw faces on them.

For nostalgic Russians, Cuba is a tropical time machine

HAVANA, Cuba — She’d only been in Cuba a few days, but for Maria Malysheva, the memories came flooding back at the sight of Cuban schoolchildren, all dressed in the neat uniforms that identify them as "pioneros" — communist pioneers. “I was a pioneer leader when I was a little girl growing up in the Soviet Union,” said Malysheva, now the general manager of a Russian travel website, sounding wistful. “The children were playing and laughing. They seemed so happy.”
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