The Razor's Edge
2014-01-12 12:02:36 UTC
Cuba: 55 Years of Ideas and Truth
by W.T. WHITNEY
On January 1, Cubans 2014 marked the 55th anniversary of their revolutions
victory. Fidel Castros words spoken May 1, 2000 cropped up in President
Raul Castros speech in Santiago de Cuba. Revolution, they said, is to
believe deeply theres no force in the world capable of crushing the force
of truth and ideas.
Commentator Ángel Guerra Cabrera recalls one idea: To understand the
conflict between Cuba and the United States its necessary to study Latin
American history. It shows the superpower has never tolerated our countries
developing internal or external politics separate from its dictates.
Raul Castro articulated another: [N]ew generations of leaders never will
be able to forget that this is the socialist Revolution of the humble, by
the humble, and for the humble. This is the essential premise and effective
antidote for not falling for the siren songs of the enemy.
Political talkers sometimes label ideas as utopian, among them that of
ending the anti-Cuban U.S. blockade now. Cuba [however] is still embracing
utopia in year 55 of the triumph of its revolution, affirms Guerra Cabrera.
U. S. defenders of Cuban independence could do with truth and ideas, or at
least new ones. On their watch, Cuba has suffered under the longest
blockade in history. Objective realities in the two countries may vary
enough for Cubas U. S. friends to accept what they see as truth as allowing
for small gains only, and waiting. By contrast, Cubans seem to take the
realities they live with as encouragement for keeping on. Indeed, there are
55 reasons for a new anniversary, says one observer. They would fit
within Fidel Castros notion of the truth. A listing follows:
Cubas infant mortality rate is at a new low: 4.2 babies died during 2013
out of every 1000 births. Average rates for the region remain at around 30.
Maternal mortality has dropped, and life expectancy at 77.9 years matches
that of industrialized nations. Physician density in Cuba is one physician
for 197 persons, one of the worlds top rates. That doesnt include 40,000
Cuban physicians serving abroad in 70 countries.
Universal education and health care are intact; 1,993,300 students from
preschool through university level will be enrolled in 2014, and eighty
million physician consultations are anticipated, plus 22 million visits to
dentists and 1.140.000 hospital admissions.
The United Nations Program in Human Development ranked Cuba 59th overall out
of 187 countries. UNESCOs 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report
had Cuba as 14th in the world. Health care expenses consumed 22 percent of
Cubas 2013 state budget, education 27 percent. Cubas 54 percent current
budgetary allowance for social services is among the worlds highest. Only
30 countries share Cubas below-five percent unemployment rate.
Cuba maintains its outsized role in international solidarity. Two thousand
teachers work abroad. Cubas Yo sí puedo literacy program has benefited
eight million learners in 29 countries. Operation Miracle has restored
sight for two million people worldwide. By 2011, the Latin American School
of Medicine had graduated 9,960 new doctors from 58 countries. Tens of
thousands of other medical students and graduate physicians study in Cuba.
Economic readjustment is proceeding. A new Labor Code became law following
discussions among almost three million workers. State businesses, newly
autonomous, are on track to increase exports and reduce imports. Mariel is
the site of a new Special Development Zone directed at promoting foreign
investment, exports, jobs, and fostering modern business technologies. New
patterns of land use and agricultural marketing prevail.
Some 400,000 Cubans are recently self-employed without loss of social
services. Over 250 new cooperatives are functioning. Cubas economy
maintains a three percent rate of growth. Russia recently agreed to forgive
90 percent of Cubas $29 billion debt incurred during the Soviet era.
Provision of electricity has improved through the use of new generator
Cuban diplomats joined the United Nations Council on Human Rights in 2013.
Cuba that year served as president pro tem of the Community of Latin
American and Caribbean States that includes all Western Hemisphere nations
save Canada and the United States. During 2013, Cuba hosted peace talks
between the Colombian government and the insurgent Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia.
These facts these truths suggest Cubas revolution is established and
continuing. In Santiago, President Raul Castro once more called for
respectful dialogue with the United States. We dont claim the United
States has to change its political and social system, [but] we have to learn
mutual respect for our differences, only that. [Otherwise] we are disposed
to endure another 55 years in the same situation.
Cubas real experiences and achievements demonstrate that big, utopian ideas
can materialize. New realities add substance and serve to motivate. Fidel
Castros must have presumed listeners on May 1, 2000 were ready to
challenge powerful forces dominating inside and outside boundaries of
society and the nation defend values in which we believe at the price of
That kind of commitment exercised within U.S. society could help convert
utopian longings into existing facts. One would be the unrealized dream of
U.S. acceptance of Cuba as a regular nation. Actually to fight to change
existing U. S. realities would move that dream along, and others too.
W. T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living
This essay originally appeared in Peoples World.