Dr. Fidel Castro, born August 13, 1926, has ruled Cuba since 1959. He turned Cuba into the first communist country in the Western Hemisphere. Castro’s regime has created the most repressive police apparatus and refused to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. His Committees for the Defense of the Revolution operated throughout the country spying and reporting on neighbors. Talking to foreigners was not encouraged; large numbers of citizens were incarcerated for political crimes; the economy was underdeveloped; the health system did not work; public transportation was difficult. Castro was a dictator who managed to form the nation, however, failed to ensure the protection of fundamental human rights.
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Castro was a totalitarian political leader. He was self-centered and violent; he used people as resources. However, there was no other leader capable of neutralizing the United Nations human rights commissions (Planas 88). Notably, Castro was not a public person. When he appeared in public, he always had his military fatigues. In addition, Castro was famous for his detailed speeches lasting several hours and containing numerous historical references. Castro was proud of being a Cuban and he strived to create the Cuban identity. The nation feared and adored Castro at the same time. Castro, on the contrary, did not care about the wellbeing of his people and failed to maintain stable economic development.
Castro nationalized industry and collectivized agriculture claiming that it would benefit the nation. The regime imposed by Castro forced many Cubans to leave the country with the hope of better life. Moreover, Castro failed to build economic relations with the United States. At the same time, Cuba maintained free trading relations with all other nations. Today Cuba is the second tourist destination in the Caribbean: tourism provides the needed foreign currency. Castro tried to support the Cuban economy with the investment in biotechnology. He aimed at finding substitutes for the imports of medical supplies. Despite all efforts, the Cuban economy benefited only from the export of technology and tourism. Castro failed to develop a strong economy. In addition, Cubans were not provided with professional health care.
Castro made health care available to all citizens, however, the majority of the hospital’s patients must wait for an appointment (Cangemi 105). In the cases of emergencies, the patient must wait as well. Running water was not available and hygiene was poor. In addition, there was a lack of medicine analgesics and even anesthesia. Medical labs were closed because of the lack of medical supplies. Patients were not provided with a balanced diet because mild, juice, and fruits were not readily available. In most cases, patients needed to pay for services and all medications. Low salaries forced about 20,000 doctors to leave Cuba. In 1959, Cuba had more than 300 hospitals while in 1989 their number decreased to approximately 250 (Cangemi 105).
Transportation and Food
Castro maintained low public transportation costs, however, there were not so many buses in Cuba. On the contrary, there were long lines of people waiting for busses. Taxes were available but were not affordable by the majority of Cubans. People had to walk to their destination. Castro introduced the policy of stopping busses and trucks for the random examination of passengers. The situation with food was even worse: the government failed to provide enough food for its citizens. The food sold in stores included coffee, rice, beans, salt, and sugar (Cangemi 105). Meat and eggs were available only for children. At the times of Castro, soap and toilet paper were rare. Castro was a follower of communism and believed that all people should have been equal and similar to each other. Castro’s communism resulted in empty shelves and poverty.
One of the few achievements of Castro was the availability of free education. In September 1960, Castro declared that every Cuban child had the right to free education. As the result, in 2000 illiteracy rate in Cuba was less than 5% (Worthman 648). In addition to entertainment, Cuban television broadcasted college courses for adults. The literacy campaign focused on the rural and poor areas. All people who completed the courses were offered to send a letter to Castro as a test of newly gained writing skills. However, Castro strived to educate his nation to spread the ideology of communism.
Relations with USSR
Historically, Cuba received significant financial support from the USSR. It was estimated that economic subsidies from the Soviet Union amounted to $5 billion annually (Vann 1). In addition, the Soviet Union purchased Cuban sugar at above-market prices and sold petroleum at below-market prices. As the result, Cuba resold oil on the world market to obtain currency. Soviet bloc exported manufactured consumer goods, machinery, and food. The dissolution of the USSR resulted in economic catastrophe for Cuba. Castro decided to promote foreign investment and allowed some social stratification within Cuba, however, these initiatives failed to benefit the nation.
Relations with the US
Castro opposed any cooperation with the United States of America because he saw the U.S. as a threat to Cuban communism. In other words, the United States was a democracy, while Cuba was a totalitarian state. Castro failed to realize that the United States could prevent the Cuban economic crisis. Moreover, Castro blamed all economic problems on the U.S. embargo. Castro did not resolve any of the historical problems of Cuban society (Vann 1). He ruled through the political dictatorship resting on the military force. All state institutions were run by the armed forces. Castro was mentioned in the Cuban constitution as the president for life. Thus, it was unconstitutional to oppose him. He was the head of the state and the head of the government; he was the commander in chief of the military and the first secretary of the Communist Party. There was no place for democracy and citizens were expected to obey, not to decide on national matters.
Castro was reluctant to introduce any social policies aimed at improving the lives of his people. For example, the response to the global AIDS crisis included mandatory testing and forced incarceration for anyone who tested positive (“Castro’s crimes against Humanity” 1). In addition, homosexuals were seen as undesirable; their imprisonment was based on rumor and suspicion. Prisoners with AIDS received very poor food and no medical attention. Castro’s regime turned Cubans into a poor nation without any rights. Cuba is an isolated island and Castro deprived his people of sources of information. Independent librarians were persecuted and private internet use was not allowed (Faria 1). Castro deprived Cubans of the rights to life, liberty, and property.
Castro was accused of numerous human rights abuses including imprisonment, torture, and unfair trials. Under his rule, several thousand people were killed only because of suspicion of political disobedience. Castro has been criticized by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for the lack of free press freedom and civil rights, for the lack of democratic elections, and outlawing of political opposition unions. To justify his actions, Castro claimed that he acted in response to the United States’ engagement against Cuba. Castro believed that there were numerous American spies, human rights activists, and agents in Cuba. Notably, the repeated U.S. efforts to overthrow Castro’s regime failed due to the support for Castro among the Cuban people.
Castro established a centralized economy that did not work. The only institution that functioned in Cuba efficiently was the secret police (Daniels 1). Historians cite health and education systems among Castro’s achievements; however, research revealed that the health care system was available to all citizens while the quality of it was very low. Education, on the other side, was obligatory and did contribute to a very low illiteracy rate. Castro was a totalitarian ruler who failed to protect the fundamental rights of his nation. Cubans were deprived of all rights and freedoms. Before the collapse of the USSR, Castro gained significant financial assistance from the Soviets. At the same time, Castro failed to establish cooperative relationships with the United States and international organizations. The totalitarian system forced Cubans to flee the country with the hope of better life. In summary, Castro’s ruling was disastrous for Cuba because he treated his people as the source of labor, not as human beings with rights, needs, and wants.
Cangemi, Joseph. “What Castro’s Revolution Has Done to the Majority of the Cuban People.” Journal of Education 116.1 (1995): 105.
“Castro’s crimes against Humanity. Free Cuba from What?” 2008. Web.
Daniels, Anthony. “Farewell Fidel: The man who nearly started World War III.” The Daily Mail. 2008. Web.
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Faria, Miguel. “The Fall of Fidel Castro: Death of the Maximum Leader.” The News Max. 2001. Web.
Planas, Richard. “Why Does Castro Survive?” Journal of World Affairs 154.3 (1992): 87-95.
Worthman, Christopher. “Literacy Education and Dialogical Exchange: Impressions of Cuban Education in One Classroom.” The Reading Teacher 54.7 (2001): 648.
Vann, Bill. “Castroism.” World Socialist Web Site. 1998. Web.