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Dismantling Cuba’s Socialist Success Myth

By: Vanesa Vallejo - Sep 22, 2016, 9:01 am
(Taringa) revolución cubana
The Cuban revolution was undoubtedly one of the most important events of the 20th century in Latin America. (Taringa)

Every time I talk with defenders of the Cuban Revolution, they end up saying something like, “at least, children in Cuba do not starve, like in Colombia.”

Well, slaves did not starve either. The masters were actually interested in keeping them alive so they could continue working.

Nevertheless, is there anyone who wants to live their entire life as a slave?

The Cuban Revolution was undoubtedly one of the most important events of the 20th century in Latin America, especially given what it meant for socialism and progressive ideas, as it encouraged a vigorous wave of revolutionary projects that took place in almost all countries in the region, from Argentina to Mexico.

Fidel and his bearded men in Sierra Maestra inspired a whole generation of young people, who were willing to put their lives in risk if needed, only to follow the socialist path.

Almost 60 years later, the results of the Castro dictatorship are appalling. Millions of Cubans have been forced to flee the island. Thousands have died defending their political ideas, while many others have spent decades in prison, or have been persecuted and harassed by Castro’s security services.

In the economics, the picture is no less devastating. The destruction of private property and free trade have had no other effect than to tear down the country’s productivity. And the few areas that look prosperous, such as tourism, only serve to ensure, using foreign currencies, the continuity of the regime’s coercive apparatus.

Castro’s followers insist that the terrible results Cubans face are compensated by an alleged welfare state that guarantees all kinds of social benefits to its citizens. In addition, they say Cuba is a true socialist utopia that, despite the opposition of the “empire,” serves as an example for the rest of Latin America.

To support their opinion, they mention its health and education systems, and even the achievements of its athletes. The blame also falls on the “embargo,” with accusations that the United States prevented the paradise island from being even more idyllic.

One of the challenges of dismantling the myths of “Fidel’s paradise” is the absence of reliable statistics. There is no independent validation for the extraordinary coverage and quality indicators of health on the island, which progressives often use for propaganda.

It would be very naive to believe that in a country where there is no free press, and where people cannot express themselves against the government without going to jail, a serious audit of the figures of the health system are allowed.

The few independent reports that have been done in Cuba on the subject help us to have a more realistic perspective of the situation. According to reports from the War and Peace Institute, hospitals “are generally not well maintained, and they fall short on staff and medicines.”

In the same vein, Director of the non-profit Cuba Archive Maria Werlau, asserted:

Healthcare in Cuba is terrible for ordinary citizens due to the lack of resources. There is an apartheid that favors the ruling elite and foreigners who pay in US dollars, while authorities deny medical care to prisoners and dissidents for political reasons.”

While Cuban doctors and specialists work in a semi-slavery environment where they earn only between US $16 and $23 per month, the government “exports” these professionals to countries like Venezuela.

The reality of the Cuban health system is far from ideal. We can find on Youtube plenty of graphic evidence of the deplorable facilities to which ordinary Cubans, without any connection to the Castro “royalty,” must go.

Another thing that has been related to “socialist pride” for decades is the alleged high quality of Cuban education. This myth, like the previous one, cannot withstand the most elementary critical analysis.

While primary and secondary education are nearly Marxist indoctrination systems, universities are training centers for bureaucrats, totally disconnected from the needs of today’s world. To enter the best careers and the best universities, people must be related to the bureaucratic elites, and also demonstrate a deep ideological conviction.

Moreover, as journalist Yusnaby Perez stated, it is not true that education in Cuba is free. While students do not pay tuition as they pursue their career, after graduation they are forced to provide “social service” (three years for women, and two years for men). During this period, young professionals receive a salary of US $9 per month.

If a student fails to comply with this requirement, the Ministry of Education will invalidate the title. Therefore, there is no “free education” — students pay for it through forced labor.

Another propagandistic stronghold of the Castro regime are sports. Despite the successes of Cuban athletes who have won more than 200 medals at the Olympic Games and are Latin American referents in various disciplines, the fact is that many of them leave the hotels and seek exile in each country they visit.

In recent the Pan American Games, for example, at least 28 Cuban athletes left their delegation and sought asylum in Canada.

In other words, and to put it in Marxist terms, Cuba’s health, education and sports — the jewels of the dictatorship — are based on exploitation, coercion and constant attacks on individual freedoms.

Castro has nothing to be proud of.

Vanesa Vallejo Vanesa Vallejo

Vanesa Vallejo is a Colombian economist, columnist, and classical liberal activist. She is a member of Colombia's Libertarian Movement. Follow her: @VanesaVallejo3.