In this article, Mariza Smajlaj outlines the reality of what life is like under the socialist Cuban regime.
In Western countries like the United States and United Kingdom, Socialism has popularized amongst self-proclaimed Democratic Socialists, like Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the United States and fanatical followers of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. As an immigrant from Albania who experienced socialism in action and whose family suffered under its Communist then “Socialist” regime, I take pity on the people praising this false utopian idea. How can supporters of this failing ideology point to countries like Cuba to praise its governmental system but turn a blind eye to Venezuela, the failed ideology’s latest victim? It is time to set the record straight on the injustices of socialism in the Cuban state: abusing the governmental oversight of agriculture, wealth distribution, healthcare, and education.
First things first: the Cuban “government” is not a government; it is a dictatorship. It is a regime that claimed power after the revolution and was ruled by the Castro’s for nearly 60 years. Recently, Cuba “elected” Miguel Días-Canel as their president, in an election where only members of the Communist Party were permitted to run. Ruling President Miguel Días-Canel is a member of the Cuban Communist Party and served as the Castro’s security detail. Días-Canel was singlehandedly chosen by Raúl Castro as the puppeteer in the effort of continuing his legacy.
Tourists who visit Cuba admire the simplistic life lived on the island. Visitors are driven around in 1950’s cars enjoying the warm tropical air. They pull into restaurants where they enjoy a traditional Cuban beef dish such as ropa vieja. A few feet away from their magic fairytale is a country stuck in the past lacking infrastructure and advanced technologies. The beef enjoyed by tourists is referred to as “oro rojo” or “red gold.” It is a delicacy amongst Cubans where a kilo of steak costs $25, while the average Cuban citizen’s wage is $20 a month. Beef is not a delicacy because of shortages—there are over 4 million livestock on the island—it is because the government regulates another portion of the everyday lives of its citizens: their cattle. Cubans are not permitted to buy, sell, or kill cattle without government permission.
Cuba’s government regulations do not stop at agriculture. They also touch on one of the left’s main party platforms: universal healthcare or “Medicare For All.” Eleven percent of Cuba’s GDP goes to government healthcare, lower than the 17 percent in the United States. Cuba proudly touts its large number of doctors and the affordability of medical care. However, doctors make approximately $40 a month and patients are required to bring their own sheets, light bulbs and other basic medical equipment when seeing a doctor. Cuba’s socialized medicine remains in the past with 1950’s technologies. For example, Cuba’s prenatal care is nearly non-existent, and women with high-risk pregnancies are encouraged to abort their child instead of risking a surgery. This results in Cuba having one of the highest abortion rates in the world.
Cuba does have a high literacy rate with approximately 99% of children being able to read and write. However permitted reading material is heavily steeped in propaganda and focuses on the “successes” of the Castro regime and Marxist ideology materialized by Che Guevara. The government-run free education system upward to the university level has removed any and all competition within the country; the ability to think freely is stifled. Students enjoying such access to education must partake in promoting government outside the classroom. Those who voice disagreements against the regime are imprisoned, beaten, or exiled.
The reality of Socialism in action is that it has never prevailed nor will it ever. Socialism goes against a person’s God-given right of freedom of choice, making socialism deeply unnatural. Hopefully, those who are spewing this toxic ideology remove their rose tinted glasses when looking to socialism. The one thing certain about socialism that remains true is that in its process of making everyone equal, it makes everyone equally poorer.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author.
Mariza Smajlaj is a communications professional with extensive knowledge on communist regimes. A child of Albanian immigrants who fled persecution, Mariza is now based in Washington DC. Mariza, who has a keen interest in European politics, graduated from The Catholic University of America with B.A. in Political Science and a double major in Global Migration Studies and Philosophy.