|En defensa del neoliberalismo|
What was Cuba like before the Revolution?
By the end of the War of Independence in 1898, Cuba had been in ruins. As a consequence of the war some 400,000 persons had died, about one-fifth of the population. The country had lost two-thirds of its wealth. Railroads, bridges and telegraph lines had been destroyed. Sanitary conditions were deplorable and the country was gripped by mortal endemic sicknesses like yellow fever.
"Once upon a time there was a Republic. It had its constitution, its laws, its civil rights, its President, a Congress, and law courts. Everyone could assemble, associate, speak and write with complete freedom. There existed a public opinion both respected and heeded."
Fidel Castro, "History Will Absolve Me" (1953)
* In 1953, almost 57 per cent of the population was urban. More than 1/2 of the population lived in cities of more than 25,000 inhabitants, 1/3 lived in 4 cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants. One-sixth of the population lived in Havana, third-largest capital of the world in relation to the total number of the nation's inhabitants after London and Vienna.
(Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom, Hugh Thomas
* In the 1950s Cuba had a large middle class: about a third of the population. Twenty-three per cent of the working class was classified as skilled.
* The middle class was NOT flanked by powerful landowners or by an upper class. And there was much social mobility.
* Cuba had the third-highest per capita income in Latin America, exceeded only by Argentina and Venezuela-between $350 and $550 a year, probably nearer the higher figure.
*According to a U.S. Department of Commerce analysis (1956), Cuba was "the most heavily capitalized country in Latin America" and its "network of railways and highways blanket the country." The country also had numerous well- equipped ports.
*Per capita consumption of meat was about 65 lbs to 70 lbs a year; of sugar 50 kilos, exceeded only by England, Australia and Denmark, and higher than that of the U.S.
* Life expectancy was 58.8 years, while the average for South America was 56 years.
* Death rate was 6.4 per 1,000 persons and infant mortality 37.6 per 1,000. These figures were among the most favorable in Latin America. As in Argentina and Chile, two of the top three causes of death were decidedly "modern": cardiovascular diseases and malignant tumors. Citizens of most other Latin American nations succumbed to diseases of poverty such as digestive-system complications, infancy-related illnesses and respiratory disorders.
"Cuba is one of the countries [of Latin America] where the standard of living of the masses was particularly high."
Anibal Escalante, leader of the Cuban Communist Party until 1962.
* During the 1950's, Cuban literacy rates were the fourth-highest in Latin America after Argentina, Chile and Costa Rica.
* Cuba had between sixty and seventy newspapers, eighteen in Havana alone. The twenty-eight main newspapers claimed a circulation of 580,000. Magazines were important. Bohemia, with a circulation of 250,000, was the most prominent weekly of hispanic America.
* Cuba had more telephones per capita than any Latin American country except Argentina and Uruguay; more TV sets per capita than any other Latin American country, and more than Italy; more cars per capita than any Latin American country except Venezuela.
* The dollar and the peso circulated jointly and were interchangeable.
Was Cuba before the revolution a country without serious problems?
Of course not.
Cuba was a poor country, though not in the same category of poverty as India, Mexico, Bolivia or Haiti. There was a wide gap between living standards in the cities (especially Havana) and the countryside. Only seven per cent of rural houses had electricity. Cuba had a large class of permanently or partially unemployed, perhaps as much as a third of the labor force in some months of the year, since Cuba's main crop, sugar, was seasonal. In 1958 Cuba's economy was not so much underdevelopd as it was stagnant. And it was stagnant due to lack of entrepreneurial incentives.
Was Cuba in the 40s, 50s and even during the six years of Batista's dictatorship a feudal, reactionary, anti-labor country?
"From the late 1930s, labor was a major force. Successive governments sought to placate labor with a series of advanced laws-providing an eight hour day; a forty-four hour week (with pay for forty-eight hours); a months's paid holiday, four further official holidays with pay; nine days' sick leave with pay; women workers to have six weeks' holiday before and after childbirth; some wages to be tied to the cost of living and employers to be unable to move factories without government permission. Employees could only be dismissed with proof of cause.
"It seemed indeed that the government always intervened on the side of labor. By the 1950s in fact labor had almost a stranglehold over the government and it would not be an exaggeration to say that Batista, during his second period of power, ran Cuba by means of an alliance with organized labor. In return for the support of labor, Batista underwrote the vast number of restrictive practices, the limitation on mechanization and the bans on dismissals, that were such a characteristic of the Cuban labor scene."
Hugh Thomas, "Cuba, The Pursuit of Freedom" (p. 1173)
"The primary objective of the post-1933 union movement was to safeguard employment. Union efforts generally proved effective. Although unemployment and underemployment were never significantly alleviated, job security for those employed was virtually guaranteed. One law provided that all labor disputes had to be discussed under the auspices of the Ministry of Labor if the majority of workers in the firm so desired. Throughout the 1940s, organized labor prevented the modification of a dismissals decree whereby workers could be fired only after cumbersome procedures. During the 1940s, courts decided in favor of labor in three out of five dismissal cases, and the executive regularly decreed wage increases. Militant unions succeded in maintaining the position of unionized workers and, consequently, made it difficult for capital to improve efficency."
Marifeli Perez Stable, Marxist historian ("The Cuban Revolution," 1993)
Can it truthfully be said that Cuba before Castro was a society without hope and in need of a radical revolution?
HOW DID FIDEL CASTRO HIMSELF CONSIDERED THE REPUBLIC?
Excerpt from Fidel Castro’s “History Will Absolve Me”
“Let me tell you a story: Once upon a time there was a Republic. It
had its Constitution, its laws, its freedoms, a President, a Congress
and Courts of Law. Everyone could assemble, associate, speak and write
with complete freedom. The people were not satisfied with the government
officials at that time, but they had the power to elect new officials
and only a few days remained before they would do so. Public opinion was
respected and heeded and all problems of common interest were freely
discussed.There were political parties, radio and television debates and
forums and public meetings. The whole nation pulsated with enthusiasm.
This people had suffered greatly and although it was unhappy, it longed
to be happy and had a right to be happy. It had been deceived many times
and it looked upon the past with real horror. This country innocently
believed that such a past could not return; the people were proud of
their love of freedom and they carried their heads high in the
conviction that liberty would be respected as a sacred right. They felt
confident that no one would dare commit the crime of violating their
democratic institutions. They wanted a change for the better, aspired to
progress; and they saw all this at hand. All their hope was in the
WHY THEN THE REVOLUTION?
Today, all around the globe, socialists are embracing capitalism. Governments are selling off companies they had previously nationalized, and countries are seeking to re-attract multinational corporations that they had expelled decades earlier. Marxism and state control are being jettisoned in favor of private enterprise. Yet, through most of the century, particularly after the 30s, the state has been on the rise, extending its domain further and further into what was considered the territory of the market. These practices were
propelled by revolution, two world wars, the Great Depression and the ambition of politicians who wanted to become The Great Distributors of wealth.
In many parts of the developing world, during the 50s, a prevailing model was that of the "mixed economy" in which government played a strong or dominant role without completely stifling market mechanisms. The Cuban Constitution of 1940 was social-democratic. In the 50s Cuba was among the most socialistic countries in the Western Hemisphere. Fidel Castro only carried further those very ideas by altogether suppressing market factors and private property, replacing them with central authority and state ownership. Cuba's revolutionaries enforced these policies because they believed that by doing so they would get tenure for life. In this, indeed, they were right.
Batista's unfortunate coup d'etat in 1952 broke constitutional rule and the democratic process. Castro capitalized on Batista's unpopularity, heading an armed struggle against him, always emphasizing he himself was not a communist. The regular army could not prevail against guerrilla warfare and when Batista fled the army was disbanded. The revolutionaries organized a new army and put in place a military dictatorship inspired by the most popular, and extremist, ideas of their time.
Fidel Castro was a young man of no consequence in Cuba's traditional politics but he organized and led the armed struggle that toppled Batista and that made him the nation's leader. He showed remarkable capacities as a public speaker and as a shrewd politician able to play one group against the other. He chose Communism because, at the time, many people thought it was the wave of the future-and because he knew it could mean life-long dictatorship.
What has Castro accomplished in the nearly forty years since American companies and Cuban entepreneurs were chased out of the country and their properties seized by the revolutionaries?
Forbes magazine ranks Fidel Castro as one of the world's richest men; and the is the world's longest-standing dictator. So personally he has succeeded.
He has received plenty of help. Added to the considerable Cuban financial resources, public and private, which he commandeered in 1959, Castro and his regime got an estimated $100 to $150 billion in Soviet and Eastern European aid for three decades, as well as $1.2 billion or more a year in military assistance-more aid then the U.S.. provided to the whole European continent through the Marshall Plan after World War II.
The Cuban people haven't fared so well. From being one the richest, Cuba has now become one of the poorest countries in Latin America-even though Castro himself can buy whatever he wants from any country in the world except the U.S.A.
Since 1962, and without exception, the Cuban people have been forced to endure life under a system of shortages and of rationing which covers nearly every basic necessity, from food to soap. Now however there is practically nothing to cover.
Today the Cuban worker's average monthly salary is 203 Cuban pesos-around $9.25. That means an average hourly wage of five cents. A Cuban worker has to toil twenty-six hours for a can of evaporated milk ($1.30); seven hours for an ounce of coffee ($0.33); forty-four hours for a tube of toothpaste ($2.20); two hundred hours for a ten-dollar pair of trousers; one hundred sixty hours for an eight-dollar shirt; sixty hours for a three-dollar pair of panties and fifty hours for a $2.50 bra.
The above statistics are from the Cuban Institute of Independent Union Studies (Instituto Cubano de Estudios Sindicales Independientes, or ICESI).
CUBA: AN ECOLOGICAL DISASTER
During the last forty years the Cuban government, as virtually absolute owner of the island's economy, has dumped all kinds of waste and hazardous material into Cuba's rivers, lakes and bays-a practice that reflects a complete lack of concern for the country's ecology and environment. These violations have altered the course of rivers as well as the flow of coastal currents. The government has been experimenting with biotechnology, thus creating a potential for biological and chemical disasters. It has also been involved in the construction of a nuclear power plant with serious risks for Cuba as for neighboring countries.
IS FIDEL CASTRO POPULAR?
In the first years of the revolution, he was. Now he is as popular as Ceaucescu, Brezhnev and Honecker, who also regularly won their one-party elections.
Think about it: If Castro really believed in his popularity, why wouldn't he allowed a national plebiscite, like Pinochet, or free elections like the Sandinistas?
The answer should be obvious.
Remember that in 1980, when Castro removed his police guards from the Peruvian Embassy, nearly eleven thousand Cubans crowded the diplomatic mission within seventy-two hours! begging for political asylum. In a few months more, some one hundred twenty thousand Cubans had fled to the United States during the Mariel boatlift. Castro had to close the doors tight again.
From 1959 through 1994, more than a million cubans have left their country legally and some other fifty-seven thousand managed to escape, mostly in small boats and fragile rafts. Others have fled by way of the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo, which is encircled on the Cuban side by barbed-wired fences and heavily mined fields, much like those between the former East and West Germany. It is estimated that only one of every three or four Cubans who have attempted to escape has been successful. Thousands have died in their attempt to leave this anti-U.S. imperialist workers's paradise, or have been captured and imprisoned.
Castro has not mellowed. In 1994 the Cuban Government deliberately sank the tugboat "Trece de Marzo" with seventy-two persons on board who were trying to escape. Forty-one people, including twenty-three children, died. In 1996 Cuban MIGs shot down two unarmed planes over international waters in the Florida Straits while those planes were on a mission to rescue Cubans at sea. Four young Cuban Americans died when the planes went down.
What sense would it make for Americans to extend any kind of helping hand to Castro?
After all, Castro himself has acknowledged that he urged Nikita Khruschev to deliver a nuclear attack on the United States during the Missile Crisis of 1962. Castro has trained and provided support to thousands of international terrorists and has been perhaps the most important nerve center in the world terrorist network, funneling men, resources and information to groups ranging from the Basque ETA to radical Arab groups.
And there are serious evidences that Cuba has played a role in the international drug smuggling to the USA. While Castro reamins a communist, he remains at war (a class war) with the United States. He has not changed and tactical manoeuvres should not be taken for more that than what they really are.
WHY HAVE THE CUBAN PEOPLE NOT SENT CASTRO AND HIS REVOLUTION TO THE DUSTBIN OF HISTORY?
How could they?
"... In other words, the current Cuban regime persists in employing various methods--control of information, science, culture and education, jailing of dissidents, massive migrations abroad, etc.--to restrict and eliminate opposition.
"The main restriction is the Constitution itself, which provides at Article 62 that none of the freedoms recognized in the Constitution can be exercised 'against the existence and aims of the socialist state.' The significance of this provisio lies in the fact that it regulates, at the highest level, the practical exercise of the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Cuban citizens. The provisions of this article can be considered to permeate all
political, economic, social, and cultural life in Cuba.
"... the subordination of all social affairs in Cuba to political power; the political practice of the regime and the juridical order on which that practice is based; the exclusion of any different political concept and the absence of effective guarantees that allow individuals to claim their rights from the State--all of these factors together allow the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to consider that this is a totalitarian political system."
(From a report of the Organization of the American States, 1996)
It is very difficult to overthrow a totalitarian dictatorship. Nobody has ever done it. Cubans have fought. Thousand have died in front of the firing squads and hundreds of thousands have languished in the Cuban gulag for resisting Castro's regime. Mario Chanes de Armas, Fidel Castro's companion in the assault on the Moncada Barracks, became the longest-standing political prisioner in the world, at thirty years in jail, for opposing Castro's dictatorship.
Today there are hundreds of dissidents who struggle within the country despite being fired from work, jailed, beaten and constantly harassed. There are independent journalists, teachers, doctors, lawyers, architects, librarians, and even political parties. You can ask for their names, their addresses.
They exist each of the new 12 provinces, in each of their municipalities. There are hundreds of political prisioners like Martha Beatriz Roque, Vladimiro Roca, Felix Bonne Carcaces and Rene Gomez Manzano, the authors of "The Homeland Belongs to All," who languish in prison because they believe in democracy. Castro uses them as bargaining chips, setting some free on demand from foreign politicians while imprisoning others. But they are not felons, they are patriots. Dissidents in Cuba show the way of the future. All of them should be released inmediately and unconditionally. While Castro and its communist dictatorship remains in power, there is no hope for real change.
Outside Cuba, the Cuban Exile Community has not forgotten its homeland and simply melted with the population of the greatest country in the world, the United States of America. Though that would be a natural option and though probably very few will ever return to Cuba, it would also mean to turn its back on their homeland and its noble people. That will never happen. They need us. One day, Cuba will be free. Communism has already lost. The future belongs to democracy.