A new generation votes with its feet as the US' economic blockade keeps Cuba suspended in time

Whoever is to blame, the results are seen everywhere in Cuba, writes ITV News' US Correspondent Dan Rivers. Credit: ITV On Assignment

Cuba has endured one of the longest economic blockades in history.

Since Fidel Castro’s rise to power and the Cuba missile crisis in 1962, the United States has kept this Caribbean island in a stranglehold, limiting key imports and trade.

Now, a new generation is voting with its feet, fleeing either illegally or through the limited legal routes to seek a better life beyond these shores. 

Beside a churning sea, on a shore just 90 miles from the US, I met Stacy Miranda Valle who is training to be a lawyer.

Almost a third of her class has left Cuba. Life his hard here and the future for her generation is not bright. So, young Cubans are forming part of a modern exodus.

In the past two years, almost 425,000 people have upped and gone - that’s almost four percent of the population.

Laura Cepero Elordi has three jobs, her husband works two. Credit: On Assignment

To understand what is driving ordinary Cubans to turn their back on their home, I accompanied Laura Cepero Elordi shopping near her home which she shares with four generations of her family.

She shows me how basics like bread and vegetables are limited by the government. It makes every meal a challenge.

To help make ends meet she tells me she has three jobs, her husband works two. They don’t go hungry, but putting food on the table is a struggle.

Cuba’s President for the first time in six decades is not a member of the Castro family.

Miguel Luis Canel is a new leader with an old message.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel (left) with Bolivian President Luis Arce in 2021. Credit: AP

During a conference on migration in Havana, he says: "Our country is being punished for our desire to be free, independent and sovereign, 90 miles away from an empire (the US)."

Successive US administrations have left sanctions in place, partly because the powerful Cuban lobby in Miami is so vocal in its opposition to the government in Havana.

The degree to which the embargo is enforced has waxed and waned under different presidents, but it has always remained in place.

US sanctions towards Cuba are codified by statutes, meaning only Congress can lift the embargo.

Officials also stress there are  important exemptions and authorisations which permit agricultural products, medicine, medical devices, and other humanitarian supplies, to be exported to Cuba.

ITV News US Correspondent Dan Rivers reports from Cuba. Credit: ITV News

An official told On Assignment on background: "US sanctions are one set of tools in our broader effort toward Cuba, including to advance democracy, promote respect for human rights, and support the Cuban people exercising the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"US sanctions have an impact, but Cuba’s mismanagement of its most productive sectors is a primary driver of the current economic crisis."

Whoever is to blame, the results are seen everywhere in Cuba; from the old cars kept on the roads, because of the difficulty and expense in importing modern vehicles, to the decaying buildings and limited tourism.

The blockade has left this a country preserved in aspic, freezing time and limiting the opportunities of those trapped behind a sanctions regime which is older than many of those whom it affects.

Watch On Assignment on ITV1 at 10.45pm.

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