[Marxism] Why Cubans haven't overthrown Castro

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Feb 2 05:38:49 MST 2004

(Though completely unsympathetic to the Revolution
in Cuba, and ignorant of such obvious factors that
would make anyone a little defensive, as the four-
decades long US blockade of the island, this article
shows the reader quite well why this Revolution is
not about to collapse when its Commander-in-Chief
passes from this life: substantial accomplishments.

(Precisely because it's unsympathetic, It's what
would be helpful to pass on and have posted to as
many lists as possible, and to try to get into as
many newspapers as possible. You should pass it on
in particular to all of your friends and acquaint-
ances who think you're a little weird because you
look at Cuba favorably. No need to attack anything
wrong in it. Just get everyone you know to read it.
A very valuable addition to the literature.)

The Straight Times
FEB 2, 2004
Why Cubans haven't overthrown Castro
The Straights Times - Asia


IN A rehearsal studio, a young Cuban ballet dancer turns
through the air, pivoting as though some invisible power
has unfurled him in an arc. Then, without pause, he leaps
once, twice, and I gasp at the height of his grandes jetes
and then gasp again because his pointed toe is heading
right for a barre.

Welcome to Cuba, a country that dazzles and disappoints,
where one finds miracles and monsters, but no easy answers.

Cubans recognise the contradictions as readily as any
outsider. Yet even as inflation rises and the 77-year-old
dictator tightens Internet access and closes the economic
openings that encouraged self-employment in the mid-1990s,
it is unlikely that Cubans will turn Mr Fidel Castro out
before he dies.

The rabidly anti-Castro Cuban exiles clustered in Miami
argue that it is fear that holds Cubans back, but that's
not true. A visitor in Cuba finds many ready to complain,
but the palpable fear and visceral hatred rampant in El
Salvador and Chile in the 1980s is absent in today's Cuba.
Instead there is a kind of paralysis - born of a mix of
loyalty, fear and indoctrination - as they grudgingly wait
for Mr Castro to expire.

Unlike in many of Latin America's freely elected
governments, Mr Castro has actually provided his
constituents with public services - and without earning a
reputation for corruption.

'All the free education and health care gives a certain
balance,' said a prominent writer. 'Their work is less
valuable,' he said, referring to the pesos Cubans earn in
an economy sustained by dollar remittances from the foreign
diaspora. But 'it's not a total disaster because people
have this balance'.

So, unlike the East Europeans who overthrew their corrupt
political leaders in 1989, and some Latin Americans who did
so more recently in Bolivia, Argentina and Ecuador, Cubans
have failed to rally against Mr Castro. Yes, he jailed 75
independent journalists and others in an April sweep - that
is the monster in him. But other dissidents remain free.
That is the contradiction.

Moreover, unlike other luxury-loving Latin American
leaders, Cuban officials do not flaunt lavish lifestyles.
Among Latin American countries, only Chile and Uruguay rate
better than Cuba in Transparency International's corruption
index. But this could change as dollars become hard to
resist and Cubans use them to cut through ridiculous
bureaucratic hurdles. Already, the dollar has created a
divide in living standards between those who have
greenbacks and those who don't.

Despite a moribund economy, Mr Castro still delivers what
the majority of Latin American residents fail to get - free
health care and education and a relatively drug- and
crime-free environment. With more than 40 per cent of Latin
America's population living in poverty, Cuba stands out as
an example of a country where being poor does not mean a
life of squalor. Even World Bank president James Wolfensohn
acknowledged in 2001 that Cuba had done a 'great job' on
education and health care.

More recently, in discussing the Bank's report this year,
Making Services Work for Poor People, officials put Cuba
among countries like Sri Lanka, Costa Rica and China that
'managed to achieve a level of outcomes in health and
education that are extremely favourable'.

This winter, the Cuban government re-invested some of its
income from tourism in upgrading schools that deteriorated
in the years following the loss of Soviet aid. 'Cubans are
still endeared by that,' said one Western diplomat.

Amazingly, many Latin American leaders fail to make the
connection between reducing poverty and their own
popularity. Compare Mr Castro's campaign to improve schools
to a poverty reduction programme waged by Mexico's
Institutional Revolutionary Party during a six-year period
in the 1990s.

Mexico spent 1.2 per cent of gross domestic product per
year to provide basic services to communities in Mexico.
According to Mr Santa Deverajan, the director of the World
Bank's World Development Report this year, some studies
showed that the programme could have reduced poverty by as
much as 64 per cent. Instead, the money was doled out to
municipalities based on political loyalty, so poverty fell
by only 3 per cent. 'If they had just given it out equally
to the entire Mexican population,' Mr Deverajan said, 'it
would have reduced poverty by 13 per cent.'

Such examples abound in Latin America, but it is a mistake
for Mr Castro to think that Latin America is the
competition. Cubans don't think it is. Their touchstones
are Madrid, Paris and New York.

An educated professional with a wife and two children takes
a breath when he recalls a trip to Spain. 'It's hard to
explain how I felt when I went there. It wasn't like
another world or another planet; it was like another
galaxy.' With family in Spain, he could immigrate, but he
doesn't consider that option seriously. 'This is where I
want to live, but 5 per cent of the way things are run has
got to change. They blame everything on the embargo. We
have a self-imposed embargo. We limit ourselves.'

More precisely, Mr Castro limits Cubans. They want to
breathe, but life with a patriarchal tyrant can be
suffocating. Younger Cubans often sound like well-educated
teenagers with parents who are too strict. They want to
travel, publish what they want, dance when and where they
want, and experience the world as Mr Castro experienced it.

'It's not my fight,' says one 28-year-old Cuban, referring
to the political battle of communism versus capitalism that
keeps him trapped on the island. 'I'm a new generation. I
want to see as they had the chance to see.'

The writer, a professor at the University of California at
Berkeley, is now editing a book about Cuba. Copyright:
Project Syndicate

Copyright @ 2003 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights


More information about the Marxism mailing list