Castro's resignation and Cuba's future

vimothy

yurp
You're avoiding the question.

Is there a difference between allowing the likes of, '...Butt and Hamza, who have terrorist sympathies.' and 'A Muslim who helped recruit young men to fight for the Taliban...' to remain free in the UK, and funding, supporting and encouraging the acts of paramilitary groups who openly boast of their terrorist activities against a foreign nation?

(Quotes are from your sources)
And just one more thing, the comparison is a not quite correct, because we have been sheltering, not just people with "terrorist sympathies" (whatever the hell that means), but actual terrorists, because to send them back to Jordan or Egypt would probably result in their torture, and would certainly result in an unfair trial by our own standards. But whatevs...
 

Gavin

booty bass intellectual
This thread reminded me of an old article by John Derbyshire. I found the article and it's pretty germane:

...With the centenary of Lenin’s revolution looming on the far horizon, and after all the horrors of our age—mountains of corpses, oceans of lies—these fools are still with us. Wherever there is a jackboot stomping on a human face there will be a well-heeled Western liberal to explain that the face does, after all, enjoy free health care and 100 percent literacy. Won’t they ever learn? No, their stupidity is impenetrable. They will never learn.​
You post this hackneyed tripe from the National Review, then call other people out on their sources?
 
D

droid

Guest
I was quite interested in the figures and the language in the voltairenet report, so I went to their site. "Who is Voltaire Network? Voltaire Network International gathers 8 press agencies, 15 publications and professional journalist unions." Fine, though most seem to be in Latin America. I wonder if there's a Cuban network...
Lets ignore the fact that there is significant evidence that the US was involved in the Venezuelan coup attempt, and have a history of involvement in right wing coups in Latin America - I was simply pointing to a convenient online source, it does not mean I agree with everything anyone who is involved in Voltaire Network has ever said or done. If you have a problem with the assertion that Cuba has been the victim of more international terror attacks than any other nation, other than with the person who is making the assertion - then I'm all ears

No I'm not. I answered the question, and it was clearly yes, there is a difference, I'm not interested in defending the anti-Castro terrorists....
I don't think that did answer the question, and I'm glad you have clarified that you see the difference in this response, as in your last one you say:

pointing out that lots of governments allow foreign terrorists to reside their country in safety, including democracies, for various reasons, one of which is some terrorists are more palatable to their constituents than others.
I'm not talking about allowing terrorists to reside, I'm talking about supporting them and funding their activities - there is a massive qualitative difference between the two.

Which is to say, you seem to have arrived on this thead, not to criticise Castro, but to criticise the US for not trading with Castro (something I find quite amusing) and for terrorising Castro / Cuba (though none of the links attempt to draw such a distinction and I do not think can be trusted to do so anyway). Why? Once again,
So are you saying that only those who are here to 'criticise Castro' have validity? The title of this thread was ' Castro's resignation and Cuba's future'. I don't believe that discussion of the embargo, or some little publicised historical facts about the US's relationship with Cuba are really that off topic in that context.

You're avoiding the question...
It was obviously a response to your assertion that the situation regarding terrorists in Miami and London were comparable. If you had such a problem with this tangent to the discussion I assume you would have mentioned this before exacerbating it.

And just one more thing, the comparison is a not quite correct, because we have been sheltering, not just people with "terrorist sympathies" (whatever the hell that means), but actual terrorists, because to send them back to Jordan or Egypt would probably result in their torture, and would certainly result in an unfair trial by our own standards. But whatevs.
Im not sure what 'terrorist sympathies' means in that context either - it was from an article you linked to.

Also, harbouring 'actual terrorists' because of fears they will be tortured if deported is still totally different to funding their terrorism isnt it?
 

vimothy

yurp
You post this hackneyed tripe from the National Review, then call other people out on their sources?
Two things:

1. National Review, one of countless magazines run according to the desires of their publishers and / or editors in a democratic country with what's known as a free press, vs. a news network that seemingly publishes, not only falsehood, but implausable falsehood, and which incorporates the official state news agency of Cuba, a dictatorship with no free press, and the country / regime in question.

2. John Derbyshire's piece is opinion, whereas the voltairenet article is presenting facts, so the two are not comparable. If you go and look at the website, you will see that there is not a single thing cited for the accusations quoted by droid, and only three footnotes in the whole article.
 
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Gavin

booty bass intellectual
Two things:

1. National Review, one of countless magazines run according to the desires of their publishers and / or editors in a democratic country with what's known as a free press, vs. a news network that seemingly publishes, not only falsehood, but implausable falsehood, and which incorporates the official state news agency of Cuba, a dictatorship with no free press, and the country / regime in question.

2. John Derbyshire's piece is opinion, whereas the voltairenet article is presenting facts, so the two are not comparable. If you go and look at the website, you will see that there is not a single thing cited for the accusations quoted by droid, and only three footnotes in the whole article.
One thing: how is calling "liberals" apologists for totalitarians (like this idiotic rightwing cliche hasn't been thrown around billion times before) "germane" to the topic? It's played-out shit-stirring from an avowedly right wing newspaper and from a hack columnist who admits being a racist, sexist, and a homophobe, and has cheered on the deaths of innocent people in the middle east. He's a troll, and you're trolling by throwing that in.
 

vimothy

yurp
Also, harbouring 'actual terrorists' because of fears they will be tortured if deported is still totally different to funding their terrorism isnt it?
Yes!

Ok, ok, I apologise for acting like a dick in this thread, but I couldn't help seeing what you said in the context of the people who always come out in defense of Castro with all the usual stuff about "universal health care", the trade embargo, the assassination attempts (as if I care, the guy is a revolutionary who used violence to win power and violence to stay there), and all the rest. The very same arguments that were advanced on this thread, in fact, and the very same arguments that you quoted, in one form or another. The purpose of these arguments to me seems pretty clear: to reduce to level of responsibility of Castro for the impoverishment and immiseration of Cuba, and to increase the level of responsibility of the US for the same. It seems to me that you are trying to deflect criticism from Castro and using the regime's propaganda to do it.

"Castro may have been bad, he may have been in power for nearly half a century (!), he may have run a corrupt dictatorship, but the US harbours anti-Castro terrorists, their blockade keeps Cuba poor (though not Castro, for some reason) and anyway, their health care is the best in the world!"

If you have a problem with the assertion that Cuba has been the victim of more international terror attacks than any other nation, other than with the person who is making the assertion - then I'm all ears
Why don't you link to a site that makes more than bald assertions, then I can examine the evidence and make my own mind up? I find it very hard to believe something that reads like an official Cuban press release, especially when it's free from supporting evidence and when it's funded by the official Cuban press agency!
 
D

droid

Guest
Yes!

Ok, ok, I apologise for acting like a dick in this thread, but I couldn't help seeing what you said in the context of the people who always come out in defense of Castro with all the usual stuff about "universal health care"....
Big up for that.

I think its clear from recent shenanigans on this board that making assumptions about someones position and then arguing on the basis of those assumptions is not (how shall I put it) a very constructive way to argue.

the trade embargo, the assassination attempts (as if I care, the guy is a revolutionary who used violence to win power and violence to stay there) and all the rest. The very same arguments that were advanced on this thread, in fact, and the very same arguments that you quoted, in one form or another.
Are you saying that it's llegitimate to use violence to oust a dictator? Thats not a position I would expect you to take ;). There's also the fact that the Cuban revolution enjoyed massive popular support.

The purpose of these arguments to me seems pretty clear: to reduce to level of responsibility of Castro for the impoverishment and immiseration of Cuba, and to increase the level of responsibility of the US for the same. It seems to me that you are trying to deflect criticism from Castro and using the regime's propaganda to do it.
I was simply pointing out salient facts. As you yourself have pointed out, US actions against Cuba have hardly helped foster democracy, in fact, its almost impossible to imagine how democracy could develop in Cuba considering they have been under terrorist and economic attack from the worlds most powerful nation for half a century.

"Castro may have been bad, he may have been in power for nearly half a century (!), he may have run a corrupt dictatorship, but the US harbours anti-Castro terrorists, their blockade keeps Cuba poor (though not Castro, for some reason) and anyway, their health care is the best in the world!"
The fact is that Cuba has made remarkable achievements in health and education - incredible by regional standards. I think youll also find if you go through AI and HRW reports, that Cuba is one of the least of the violators of fundamental human rights in the hemisphere - and Im sure dont need to point out the fact that many of the worst abusers of human rights in Latin America have traditionally enjoyed direct and significant support from the US. It is also worth noting that AI have shown just as much concern about the situation in Guantanamo as they do for the rest of Cuba.

None of this minimises the crimes of Castro of course, and I certainly dont believe that Cuba is (to quote Mr. Burns: 'a socialist paradise') but the point Im making is that if the US has such concern for human rights in the region, why have they consistently and explicitly supported and trained terrorists, dictators and anti-democratic forces there?

Why don't you link to a site that makes more than bald assertions, then I can examine the evidence and make my own mind up? I find it very hard to believe something that reads like an official Cuban press release, especially when it's free from supporting evidence and when it's funded by the official Cuban press agency!
Mainly because I havent got one to hand as all of my info comes from stuff Ive read in books, which I then try to find a link to online when im in a hurry looking for a source. I have to also point out that you linked to two pieces, both of which made bald assertions, neither of which had footnotes backing up these assertions and one of which has a clear political agenda and has been accused of publishing misleading articles in the past.

That said, Im not denying your points about that site, and I will try and find another online source.
 

vimothy

yurp
Big up for that.

I think its clear from recent shenanigans on this board that making assumptions about someones position and then arguing on the basis of those assumptions is not (how shall I put it) a very constructive way to argue.
Not sure what you mean exactly, but I wouldn't think you'd need to have read anything on this board to know that making assumptions about people is not per se constructive. You have to make some assumptions, though, or you'd never get into these (often hugely enjoyable and informative) arguments. These threads would just be long collections of links and a few boring burbles about Grime.

Are you saying that it's llegitimate to use violence to oust a dictator? Thats not a position I would expect you to take ;). There's also the fact that the Cuban revolution enjoyed massive popular support.
The question of legitimacy is not simple in the case of dictators. You say that the "Cuban revolution" had massive popular support. What does this mean? If true, does it mean that the Castro had massive popular support for nearly fifty years of rule, or does it mean that at the time the revolution itself had popular support? If the latter, why has Castro rigorously suppressed coordination goods for the length of his term? Why hasn't Castro simply held free elections if his rule is so popular? You have no way of knowing whether or not Castro has popular support, and neither does he, which is fine because Castro quite obviously doesn't care. He is a dictator and is interested in one thing: keeping power. His retirement comes now because he is seriously ill and wants to avoid a coup from his old cronies, who will be looking to put someone new in power who can keep the private goodies flowing. Castro has put forward Raul (who has been informally running the country for some time) so that he can secure his dynasty (oh brave socialist dream!), keep his coalition in happy and ensure that nothing changes. Popular support has little to do with it. Popular support is, unfortunately, irrelevant. Cuba is a dictatorship, a prison state where (as per Mao) all power comes from the barrel of a gun.

It's informative to compare stats in the case of Cuba. According to Rudolph J. Rommel, Batista was repsonsible for 1,000 deaths, whereas Castro is responsible for 70,000 to date. In the interests of "universal health care", however, we must be prepared to make some sacrifices!

I was simply pointing out salient facts.
"Salient" ;)

As you yourself have pointed out, US actions against Cuba have hardly helped foster democracy, in fact, its almost impossible to imagine how democracy could develop in Cuba considering they have been under terrorist and economic attack from the worlds most powerful nation for half a century.
You are forgetting the context in which these things occured. Cuba was, at one time, a satellite of the USSR, an agressive Communist Empire that had designs on world domination. Castro begged the USSR to launch nuclear missiles at American cities from Cuba. So saying "Cuba [has] been under terrorist and economic attack from the worlds most powerful nation for half a century", ignores the fact that Cuba was also sponsored, at one time, by the world's other most powerful nation, and that these two powers were in mortal combat. Cuba itself, of course, sponsored terrorism around the globe, with the ambition of setting up more Communist "utopias".

It is not true that Cuba has been under "economic attack" from the US. It is up to the US who it trades with and it is not a right of Cuba (or anyone) to have access to American goods, simply because it demands it or you think it deserves it. It is certainly my opinion that now, post Communism, trade with Cuba would be a very good thing and would hasten the end of the regime, but describing sanctions as "economic attack" is disingenuous. Partaking in the global economy is very powerful and to the benefit of all, but it is not clear to me why exactly Castro should have the right to capture these benefits. You reverse responsibility: I will decide if I want to trade with you, and you will decide if you want to trade with me. Refusing your goods is not an attack, but my own choice.

It would be interesting to know how much distinction there is to be made between Cuba and the regime itself as a victim of terrorism (and economic sanctions for that matter). Can you link to something good or explain in more detail the intended nature and actual victims of US sponsored and non-US terrorist operations against Cuba?

Finally, it is not at hard to imagine democracy in Cuba. Again, you return to the position that annoyed me in the first place: that Cuba's misery is ""America's" fault, rather than the man who has run the country as a personal fiefdom for half a century. I don't believe anything will change until Castro dies, because his "resignation" merely formalises the de facto arrangement already in place, that Raul is running in Castro's stead. But when he does die, I think that we will have one of the "critical junctures" Mr BoShambles mentioned in another thread, and that Cuba will put itself on the road to democracy and international community. In fact, I can easily see Cuba becoming the newest State in the Union in the not too distant future.

The fact is that Cuba has made remarkable achievements in health and education - incredible by regional standards.
And how do you know that? What is the nature of Cuba's Communist, two-tier system relative to health and education? Do you take this into account? What is the amount of public health and education spending relative to military spending and private goods provision?

There is an even more obvious point made here:

No sooner have I intimated that Cuba's allegedly splendiferous health-care and education statistics were probably a crock, then up pops cast-iron confirmation courtesy of this hilarious bit of fawnography in the Guardian:

Which only goes to reinforce what has long been obvious: that US hostility to Cuba does not stem from the regime's human rights failings, but its social and political successes and the challenge its unyielding independence offers to other US and western satellite states. Saddled with a siege economy and a wartime political culture for more than 40 years, Cuba has achieved first world health and education standards in a third world country, its infant mortality and literacy rates now rivalling or outstripping those of the US, its class sizes a third smaller than in Britain.

Which goes a long way to explaining why untold numbers of Americans are risking their lives every year in order to escape from America and get a better life in Cuba.

Er, no, wait a sec...that's the other way around:

Untold numbers of Cubans flee the island every year, trying to cross to nearby Florida - including via a truck turned into a raft this week.

Have these 'untold numbers' of Cubans all gone stark, raving mad? Who, in their right minds, would want to risk being eaten by sharks in order to get away from first-class health-care and education? Don't these insane Cubans realise just how poor, miserable, stupid and sick they are going to be in America?

Some ungrateful people just don't deserve 'social and political successes'.
[more coming... post too long...]
 

crackerjack

New member
Which goes a long way to explaining why untold numbers of Americans are risking their lives every year in order to escape from America and get a better life in Cuba.

Er, no, wait a sec...that's the other way around:

Untold numbers of Cubans flee the island every year, trying to cross to nearby Florida - including via a truck turned into a raft this week.
Have these 'untold numbers' of Cubans all gone stark, raving mad? Who, in their right minds, would want to risk being eaten by sharks in order to get away from first-class health-care and education? Don't these insane Cubans realise just how poor, miserable, stupid and sick they are going to be in America?
Oh God, not this tired old line again...

Stop press: People from poor country emigrate to rich country.

And in more news:

Pope refuses to renounce Catholicism.

Woodlands experience ongoing ursine defecation problem.
 

vimothy

yurp
I think youll also find if you go through AI and HRW reports, that Cuba is one of the least of the violators of fundamental human rights in the hemisphere
Against All Hope - Armando Valladares:
This is a book about my 22 years in Fidel Castro’s political prisons for expressing ideas different from those of the Castro regime.

When the first edition of this book appeared in 1984, the government of Cuba and defenders of the Cuban Revolution denied that incidents that I recount ever happened. Castro sympathizers, who were more subtle, said the incidents I described were exaggerations. And there were others, well meaning, who simply could not bring themselves to believe that such horrors, crimes and torture existed in the political prisons of Cuba.

But there is something that not even the most ardent defenders of the Cuban Revolution can deny. The oldest dictatorship in the world exists in Cuba, and left wing dictatorships, like those of the right, have repugnant disdain for human rights.

My response to those who still try to justify Castro’s tyranny with the excuse that he has built schools and hospitals is this: Stalin, Hitler and Pinochet also built schools and hospitals, and like Castro, they also tortured and assassinated opponents. They built concentration and extermination camps and eradicated all liberties, committing the worst crimes against humanity.

Unbelievably, while many non-governmental organizations like Amnesty International and America’s Watch have denounced the human rights situation in Cuba, there has been a continuing love affair on the part of the media and many intellectuals with Fidel Castro. While I was on book tours in the mid 1980’s talking about Against All Hope, I encountered many individuals who argued fiercely on behalf of the Castro regime. And at that time, in 1986 the United Nations Human Rights Commission had yet to denounce the systematic violations of human rights in Cuba. That year I received a phone call from the White House. It turned out that Maureen Reagan had given a copy of my memoirs to her father, then-President Ronald Reagan. The President himself, in an Oval Office meeting, asked me to lead the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Commission to try to convince this body to open an investigation into the violation of human rights in Cuba. He named me Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC).

To convince such a politicized body to condemn human rights violations in Cuba was no easy task. The thousands of accusations of violations of human rights in Cuba that had been gathered by several non-governmental organizations conflicted with the double standard then current at the UN. Sadly, this body considered crimes according to the ideology of the victims and the murderers. Those who hated the crimes of Pinochet closed their eyes when the same crimes were committed by Castro. The posture of many countries was governed by their hostility against the United States, and they excused Castro out of a reflexive anti-Americanism. (The enemy of my enemy is my friend.) These political games still take place today
The Cuba Archive

- and Im sure dont need to point out the fact that many of the worst abusers of human rights in Latin America have traditionally enjoyed direct and significant support from the US.
And not just in Latin America...

It is also worth noting that AI have shown just as much concern about the situation in Guantanamo as they do for the rest of Cuba.
No suprises there.

Can I just ask, in terms of foreign policy strategy, what school do you support or would you support if you were a US citizen or a member of the US administration?

None of this minimises the crimes of Castro of course,
Er...

and I certainly dont believe that Cuba is (to quote Mr. Burns: 'a socialist paradise') but the point Im making is that if the US has such concern for human rights in the region, why have they consistently and explicitly supported and trained terrorists, dictators and anti-democratic forces there?
Well there's at least two things there, IMO. One is the foreign policy strategy (e.g the Kirkpatrick Doctrine, realism, etc) and the other is the institutional incentive compatible behaviour. It would be good to discuss these things further, re Cuba and Latin America.

Mainly because I havent got one to hand as all of my info comes from stuff Ive read in books, which I then try to find a link to online when im in a hurry looking for a source. I have to also point out that you linked to two pieces, both of which made bald assertions, neither of which had footnotes backing up these assertions and one of which has a clear political agenda and has been accused of publishing misleading articles in the past.
Those articles were really just referencing the two people quoted. I don't think they stand or fall on the basis of what the BTN thinks, or any Islamist vs Jacksonian/Rightist factional arguements. Hassan Butt was talking then as part of the UK leadership of Hizb ut-Tahrir and the British jihadist networks. He has said it in other places. Is what he said plausible? Do you think he knows what he's talking about? Is he lying? Mohammed Sifaoui is an investigative journalist with knowledge of European militant Islam. I don't like New Statesman anymore than you do, but both are in some sense authorities. Anyway, this is not really relevant.

That said, Im not denying your points about that site, and I will try and find another online source.
Ta
 

vimothy

yurp
BTW, for the benefit of anyone scanning this qualified statement without checking the link,

One last point:

"The best thing that can be said about Pinochet is that without him, things would have been much, MUCH worse.
It seems somewhat inconsistent to laud the economic achievements of one dictator and ignore his human rights abuses whilst mocking the social achievements of another dictator in favour of highlighting his (comparable) human rights abuses.
droid is being slightly misleading. I didn't say that, I quoted it, and I quoted it in the context of a debate with HMLT where he posted a Greg Palast article that ascribed the economic success of Chile to Allende. He wasn't disputing that economic success, but was falsely attributing it to Allende's influence on the Chilean economy, i.e. to Allende's policies that were continued under Pinochet. My point was that in economic terms and compared to Allende, Pinochet did better for Chile. I still condemn him as another brutal tyrant now in history's dustbin, and I am very glad that he is dead.
 
D

droid

Guest
BTW, for the benefit of anyone scanning this qualified statement without checking the link,

droid is being slightly misleading. I didn't say that, I quoted it, and I quoted it in the context of a debate with HMLT where he posted a Greg Palast article that ascribed the economic success of Chile to Allende. He wasn't disputing that economic success, but was falsely attributing it to Allende's influence on the Chilean economy, i.e. to Allende's policies that were continued under Pinochet. My point was that in economic terms and compared to Allende, Pinochet did better for Chile. I still condemn him as another brutal tyrant now in history's dustbin, and I am very glad that he is dead.
Er sorry Vimothy - i don't believe I am being misleading. Ive linked to the original discussion for context, and though you did quote that (and I included the quote marks), you also stated on the next page of that thread without quoting:

'Oh yeah, and re Pinochet: the BEST thing, NOT the worst.'

But thanks for the clarification.

I would also strongly disagree with your assertion that Pinochet did better for Chile than Allende - but thats another discussion for another thread.

Anyway. thanks for the replies. Ill respond as soon as possible unless someone else beats me to it.
 

polystyle desu

Memories of green
Coming late into this but ...

Does anyone here actually know anyone who had the misfortune to be living in Cuba when Castro
took over ?
I do , and her family was basically stripped of what they had.
And got out when they could.

Can you imagine what that would be like, as we tap away on the net ?

My x loves her country but would never go back.

Not at all to excuse wot the US politicorp has been doing all these years, mind you ...
 

vimothy

yurp
Er sorry Vimothy - i don't believe I am being misleading. Ive linked to the original discussion for context, and though you did quote that (and I included the quote marks), you also stated on the next page of that thread without quoting:

'Oh yeah, and re Pinochet: the BEST thing, NOT the worst.'
Well, you mislead me. You said that I had lauded the economic achievments of Pinochet and ignored his human rights abuses, and gave that Samizdata quote as evidence, and it appeared (to me, at any rate) that I had said this. In fact I had gotten into an argument with HMLT about the effect of Pinochet's economic reforms on Chile's economy. My point was to correct HMLT when he credited the economic success acheived under Pinochet to policies originating with Allende, which Pinochet continued. I was not lauding Pinochet's economic achievements, nor was I ignoring his human rights abuses (even as that quote acknowledges them -- hence "the best thing..."). I was trying to explain that I was not in favour of Pinochet, nor ignorant of his abuses of power, but was making a limited argument about who was responsible for Chilean economic success.

To this end I linked to the Samizdata post in question, because I wanted to quote a relevant passage. HMLT attacked Samizdata as neo-lib fanatics and Social Darwinists and produced the quote, "The best thing that can be said about Pinochet is that without him, things would have been much, MUCH worse." He then started to spit and bluster about neo-liberalism and in an amazing passage, somehow to conflate Hayek with his collectivist ideological enemies (and the subject of his most famous book), the Nazis and Fascists of the 1930s. Regardless of how you feel about Samizdata or Hayek, "the best thing" is pretty limited praise and I was trying to explain that to him.
 

vimothy

yurp
Castro's Legacy

I’ve been thinking about Castro, Cuba and this conversation over the last few days, and have come to the reluctant conclusion that droid is right to suggest that my anti-Castro rants are less than constructive. With that in mind, and trying to look at Cuba and the achievements of Castro with some degree of objectivity and non-partisan alignment, I agree that he has provided good public policy, i.e. public goods, in some important, if very limited, areas. Health and education are prerequisites for civilised society, and by all accounts, Cuban health and literacy levels are high for the region and high given Cuba’s poverty. However, it is also the case that Castro runs a communist dictatorship. He has jailed and killed dissidents. He has presided over the economic ruin of Cuba. There are no free elections and there is no free press.

The health indicators, according to the Wikipedia article Healthcare in Cuba, are impressive and compare favourably to the first world.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the chance of a Cuban child dying at five years of age or younger is 7 per 1000 live births in Cuba, while it's 8 per 1000 in the US. WHO reports that Cuban males have a life expectancy at birth of 75 years and females 79 years. In comparison, the US life expectancy at birth is 75 and 80 years for males and females, respectively. Cuba's infant mortality rate is better than the US with 5 deaths per thousand in Cuba versus 7 per thousand in the US. Cuba has nearly twice as many physicians as the U.S. -- 5.91 doctors per thousand people compared to 2.56 doctors per thousand.

Cuba has been able to reach such high standards despite its lack of wealth by using a preventative model of healthcare – in fact by seemingly not distinguishing between proactive and reactive healthcare – and by placing a lot of emphasis on community care, as described in a UK Select Committee report. All this has been accomplished despite annual per capita health spending being a meagre $260. America spends 25 times that amount.

Castro’s education system has also had some positive outcomes. Literacy levels are around 100%. Education is free, and compulsory.

As I see it, the influence of a variety of different factors determines these results. They do not simply represent Castro’s benevolence, the efficiency of his pet projects or the ignored triumphs of Marxism-Leninism. (Permit me as well some cynicism regarding figures provided by official Cuban bodies). Unfortunately, the press has generally stuck to its romantic view of Cuba and the revolution and uncritically accepted the Castro regime’s claims. Michael Moynihan at reason.com has an invaluable round up of pro-Castro pieces in recent mainstream publications. The conventional wisdom is that the Communists are “not so good on free speech, but oh-so-enviable on health care and education.”

In some ways, Cuban healthcare is a function of its economic weakness. As The Guardian notes, “millions of Cubans are forced to exercise because cars and public transport are so scarce”. In addition to the involuntary effects of weak transport capability, the scarcity and lack of resources forced the Cuban government to innovate and develop its preventative system. The Guardian states that, “Cuba is admired by public health experts in Britain and around the world for putting the horse before the cart. Unable to afford too many hi-tech operating theatres, it focuses its efforts on keeping its people well and picking up illness early - when it's easier and cheaper to treat.”

The ideological concerns of the original revolutionary movement drive healthcare and education policies, and the regime uses them to legitimise its rule. An even less laudable cause of Cuba’s impressive policies is the other half of their revolutionary origin: the political institutions and culture that the revolution created. Cuban healthcare and education are universal. They are also coercive. A BBC article states that, “According to the doctor we met, there is also one particularly important thing: your annual house-call will probably take you by surprise.” The Guardian reports that, “Everyone is supposed to be visited at home at least once a year, often without warning, so the GP can scrutinise a patient's lifestyle.” The UK Select Committee had “concern regarding freedom of choice both for patient and doctor.” School is a vehicle for indoctrination. The state uses the so-called “Cumulative School File” to measure the ideological integration of students. Literacy levels may be high, but there are heavy restrictions on what Cubans can read. A tightly controlled surveillance society like Castro’s Cuba is well suited to the enforcement of good social policies, as long as those good social policies represent the best interests of the holders of political power.

Finally, present day healthcare outcomes also reflect a long history of Western medical practice, dating back to the 19th century. Cuba led first world states on many health indicators before Castro took power. In the 1950s, Cuba had more doctors per head than Britain, France and Holland. Cuba had the lowest infant mortality rates in the region, and was ranked 13th lowest in the world, ahead of a various first world states who would nevertheless come to outrank Cuba during the current regime’s existence. Similarly high levels of literacy were also present before Castro took power.

In fact, Cuba in the 1960s was, in terms of development, comparable to southern European states like Italy or Portugal, or Latin American states like Northern Mexico, Puerto Rico, or Costa Rica. Measured by this indicator, Castro’s regime has been an abject failure. He turned one of the most prosperous countries in the region into one of the poorest, and he did this himself, without the say-so of the Cuban people, for the glory of the Communist revolution. Havana was once a prosperous modern city, as its ruins now attest. Castro murdered thousands – he brought poverty and decay. According to Kirby Smith and Hugo Llorens, in their paper “Renaissance and Decay: A Comparison Of Socioeconomic Indicators in Pre-Castro And Current-Day Cuba”,
An enduring myth is that Cuba in the 1950s was a socially and economically backward country whose development, especially in the areas of health and education, was made possible by the socialist nature of the Castro government. Despite the widespread acceptance of this view, readily available data show that Cuba was already a relatively well-advanced country in 1958, certainly by Latin American standards, and in some cases by world standards. The data show that Cuba has at best maintained what were already high levels of development in health and education, but that in other areas, Cubans have borne extraordinary costs as a result of Castro-style totalitarianism and misguided economic policies. Indeed, with the possible exception of health and education, Cuba’s relative position among Latin American countries is lower today than in it was in 1958 for virtually every socioeconomic measure for which reliable data are available.​
The effects of the trade embargo are less obvious. It is true that the trade embargo will inevitably have had some impact on the quality of life in Cuba. Trade matters. The unintended irony of the “Stop the Blockade” campaign is that the anti-capitalists argue that the trade barriers should come down in one of the few instances where they are in power. “Stop the blockade” indeed. Stop all the blockades. It is also true that the blockade will not improve the amount or quality of medical capital available to the government for purchase. But the effects are often overstated. In the BBC article linked to already in this post, the embargo looms large as the prime cause of Cuba’s ruin. It states that, “Thanks chiefly to the American economic blockade, but partly also to the web of strange rules and regulations that constrict Cuban life, the economy is in a terrible mess.” According to the BBC, then, Cuba’s highly regulated economic life is clearly not as important a factor in determining its poverty as the American trade embargo. We know differently: Castro’s disastrous economic policies keep Cuba poor, not the embargo, and the “Stop the Blockade” campaign is a tacit acknowledgement of that fact. Castro’s government wants to trade goods for its own personal profit and be given lines of credit and do all the things that it forbids its own subjects from doing. Prof Brad DeLong sums it up perfectly,

You know, there is something very wrong with an argument that goes (a) Leninist centrally-planned communism is necessary because market exchange is inherently exploitative an destructive, and (b) it's not Castro's fault Cuba's economy is in the toilet--America won't trade with it. That simply does not compute.

[Continued below...]
 
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vimothy

yurp
To understand the real effects of the trade embargo, consider the effects of removing it. Not being Cuba isn’t everywhere helping other developing nations climb out of poverty. There is a lot of disagreement about what causes growth, but it’s surely more complicated than merely not being the subject of a US trade embargo. To capture the real benefits of trade and to disperse those benefits throughout the population, the regime would have to open Cuba to the global economy. As it stands, the limits on which Cubans can trade and what those Cubans have to offer in trade would massively lesson the positive effects of trade. Obviously at present Cuban industry is limited and Cuban spending is undertaken mostly by the government. The person with the dollars in Cuba trying to buy medical equipment would be the government, and the person who sold the goods to acquire the dollars would be the government. This means that the government would be capturing the chief benefits of trade, because the government is the only Cuban entity involved in the exchange. This fact dictates US policy. I personally think that the embargo aids the Castro regime by helping to keep Cuba a closed society, but I can admit that the principal benefactor of increased international trade will be the group that controls it and decides how to divide the profits.

To conclude, and trying still to extend every courtesy to Castro’s 46-year reign, yes, he has achieved some limited success with healthcare and education policies. However, Cuba already had high levels of health and literacy before Castro took power. The Communist Party’s ability to enforce its social policies represents the extent of its control over the population: In a totalitarian state, the government does what it likes, and the people have to like what it does. More damningly, Castro has wrecked Cuba’s development. He did this (with Soviet subsidies, it must be added) through his terrible economic policies. The opportunity cost of the revolution has been to exchange the potential of a Latin American Spain or Portugal for a country on a similar level of development to Bolivia or the Dominican Republic. Cuba’s poverty is not a function of the US trade embargo, because the US trade embargo stops trade with the regime. No trade with Cubans is possible. Castro, then, has murdered thousands, wrecked Cuba’s economy, destroyed its cities, brainwashed and oppressed its people, and completely derailed its development. Crow all you want about his incremental improvements to Cuba’s health and literacy levels, but I think that this is his real legacy.
 
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