By Joe Gahan (ESFL Local Coordinator, Maynooth University)
“I have learned with great sadness of the death of Fidel Castro, founder of modern Cuba, and its Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976, as well as its President from 1976 to 2008.” So began an t-Uachtarán’s (President of Ireland) statement upon the recent death of Fidel Castro. It was to my own great disappointment to learn that my 75-year-old head of state had not outgrown his Che shirt phase.
Glossing over the many murderous achievements of the late, great Comandante, my president chose instead to focus on his “political and social change to his country”, Cuba’s “Unique development path”, and how remarkable it was that an undemocratic dictator for life “became one of the longest serving Heads of State in the world”. In a field with such competition, one must marvel at the feat.
Despite promises of a democratic government after the Cuban revolution, Castro declared his Cuba a Marxist-Leninist state in 1961. His own sister, Juana, had the following to say about her brother’s regime:
“The communist regime has forced on the Cuban people the lowest standard of living ever observed in Cuba. Fidel never tired of lying to the Cuban peasants, to the Cuban workers, by making false promises to them. He promised the moon to everyone and he did not keep any of the promises he had made.”
Perhaps the “unique development path” Cuba took was into an economic, civil and social gutter?
The harsh reality of the state of Cuba’s health care and economy
Higgins goes on to praise the “Health system that is one the most admired in the world”. Certain paraded figures would seem to support this, with Cuba having 6 deaths under age 5 per 1,000 live births compared to 8 in the USA, according to the World health organisation. Quite unsurprising in a country where it is common practice for doctors to pressure women with foetal abnormalities into abortion. Being ranked 31st in the world for least child mortality is certainly commendable, but not so much in the context of being 13th in 1954.
Higgins comes from a party that prides itself on being pro-choice.
His belief at face-value that “Cuba achieved 100% literacy many years ago”, while much paraded by sympathizers of the Cuban Revolution, are similarly dubious.
Figures coming from the World Bank indicate that Cuba, with a GDP Per Capita of 6,790 USD, beats 14 Caribbean and South American countries and is beaten by 19 others of those who report data. Regarding GDP Growth since 1961, Cuba clocks in at an average 3.187% per year, beating 13 nations and being beaten by 20 others.
Compared to Chile, which was victim of a similarly violent and undemocratic coup under the free-market leaning General Pinochet in 1973, claims of Cuba’s growth pale, with Chile having a GDP Per Capita of 15,765 USD, and an average economic growth rate per year of 4.257%. An T-uachtarain’s comments on Cuba’s “similar” growth rates are simply wrong, and his words on inequality and poverty are laughable in a country with an economy so badly functioning that a taxi driver earns over 30 times more than a doctor, the state-mandated wages are inadequate to live on and the dictator’s funeral car breaks down during the procession.
Progressive sympathy for a late dictator
Higgins mentions in a brief sentence that some of the social, political and economic reforms of Cuba came “At the price of a restriction of civil society” which is a grave understatement. The “Price” he mentions includes detaining LGBT Cubans in Labour Camps where prisoners underwent beating, dietary experiments, and were forced to survive in unsanitary conditions. All non-state media is banned and the rest heavily censored, with outside media remaining illegal. Most ironically, non state-mandated trade unions are banned, and Castro still, without fail, receives the highest praises of those who champion the trade union movement. The Cuba Archive Project estimates that around 100,000 people have died as a direct result of Castro’s regime, including forced labour and extrajudicial killings. It’s little wonder that over a million Cubans have fled since Castro came to power.
Higgins comments come in a wave of sympathy for the late dictator from progressive leaders around the world. It’s a telling sign of the state of politics that praising brutality is statesmanship, and most of all, it indicates a need for the western world to elect leaders who focus less on protecting their dying posterchild and more on taking human life and freedom seriously.
Joe Gahan is an ESFL Local Coordinator from Wexford, Ireland. He studies Economics and Business at Maynooth University.
Original Source – http://esfliberty.org/blog/2016/12/18/president-higgins-castro-statement-democratic-lefts-adoration-dictator/