Cuba’s Lessons after 55 Years of Socialism
Most Live in Deprivation; High-Ranking Officials Enjoy Marvels of Capitalism
During the last days of the Soviet Union, a Russian citizen posted a sign with a short phrase that shocked me. It read “72 years going nowhere.” I can’t help but relate those words to the famous Cuban revolution and its 55-year anniversary. Cuba is a living example of how socialism hasn’t kept its promises; rather, it has achieved the exact opposite of what it previously offered. Let’s analyze this in Cuba’s case.
Initially the revolution’s purpose was to overthrow Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorial regime — who had ruled for six years — rather than fight against poverty. Even though there was a democratic euphoria at first, it only lasted a few weeks. The result was what we see today, 55 years of dictatorship, first led by Fidel Castro and then — due to his weakened health — by his brother Raúl. This regime couldn’t be further from democracy, similar to North Korea, and could even qualify as an absolute hereditary monarchy, similar to colonial times.
It isn’t even a moderate dictatorship. For half a century, Cuba’s government denied its citizens the right to leave the country, banned all political parties and groups, and denied all press freedoms. Cuba’s government also brutally harassed any kind of anti-government protest and filled prisons with political prisoners. This is the same regime that tolerated, defended, and even praised supposed democrats like Dilma Roussef, Mr. and Mrs. Kirchner, and many other rulers in the region.
Some would say these are inevitable downsides of a revolution that had to confront United States’ imperialism and maintain a small country’s dignity. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s easy to remind these dreamers that Cuba has lived four decades as the Soviet Union’s colonial satellite, and it has survived only through other nations’ charitable handouts, currently from the generous oil-producing Venezuela.
Without freedom, there’s no dignity. Is there at least material well-being in Cuba? Not at all: to this day Cubans still bear with using the ration booklet, monthly wages of US$30.00, and until recently, they couldn’t even own cellphones or other items that the most poor in other Latin American countries enjoy.
The regime, however, continues to argue that the United States’ blockade has impeded Cuba’s economic growth. But there hasn’t been any blockade, only an embargo or prohibition to commercialize, established by the North American country and followed by a few others. Nothing has stopped Cuba from trading with the rest of the world, and they’ve had plenty of time to adjust to the prohibition.
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