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HAVANA _ Mouth agape, medical student Ivan Parcel moved with the throngs of Cubans admiring the bounty of products that foreign capitalists were displaying at the Havana international trade fair.
Fair exhibitors jammed Havana hotels. Traffic gridlocked outside the grounds. And inside, Cubans gawked at long-scarce goods like German cars, Italian clothes, Japanese electronics and Spanish hams.
``Please, take a photo of me with this ham. I want to remember it,'' said 23-year-old Parcel.
Parcel is not alone in his incredulity. Battered by four years of economic free-fall and scarcities, Cubans today are reluctant to believe signs that the economy is making a turn _ one perhaps slight and fragile but definitely upward.
Economic signs point to the first solid growth this year since 1991. Family businesses and tourism are booming. ``Habaneros'' are buying more food, and seem less gaunt, better dressed than at the top of the crisis in 1993.
But ask average Cubans how they're doing and many will say something about ``the possibility of a small improvement'' _ then blast the high prices and other deep inequities of their new, dollar-dominated economy.
``We used to have lines outside bread …