Hey can I ask you something and this is a thoroughly ignorant question but I'm Latina and I grew up learning that Castro killed his own people and that he just was a terrible dictator. I even have friends from around the region that support this and say that Castro and communism are responsible for the suffering of the Cuban people. Could you explain to me why this isn't the case? I just can't find any other reliable sources to inform myself. Thank you.
im sorry this is long, but read the whole thing, its all important information
First, Cuba isn’t a one-man or military dictatorship. A lot of people don’t know this, especially in countries allied with America, but Cuba is highly democratic, and even takes measures to stop corruption in politics. For example, elected representatives are paid workers’ wages, so there is no monetary incentive to run for office, all voting is by secret ballot, votes are counted in public, voting is voluntary, elected representatives can be recalled at any time, women make up 48.9% of the Cuban government (a hell of a lot more than the US which can’t even break 20% in its Congress), it is illegal to spend any money on political campaigns to advertise for particular candidates, and candidates’ biographies and their reasons for standing are posted on public notice boards so everyone has equal exposure.
The nomination and election of local candidates for office is done in public meetings, with return meetings happening every 6 months. There are limitations in higher levels of the government, where voters must choose to either accept or reject a single nominee, but as far as i know, the principles of recall and community nomination still hold true.
You can read more about Cuban democracy here:
As for the specific claim that Castro is a dictator, its on very shaky grounds (to say the least). Its true, of course, that Fidel and Raul have been the only presidents of Cuba since the revolution. However, the presidency isn’t chosen like it is in America, directly (well, its not even direct in America, but thats another topic). The presidency is chosen through the elected parliament (national assembly).
Delegates to the National Assembly are elected every 5 years, half nominated from municipalities and half nominated by mass organizations (like trade unions, women’s orgs, cultural orgs, etc.). Each nominee must receive at least 50% of the vote. All in all, there are 612 delegates, and 48.9% are women.
The National Assembly votes on who belongs to the Council of State, which appoints the ministers, Presidency, and Vice Presidency. And following a 2011 Congress of the Communist Party, senior elected officials can only serve two terms (10 years) in office. That means in 2018, Raul Castro will step down and a new President will be chosen.
We should also talk about what exactly “dictatorship” means. All societies are dictatorial for some and free for others, because all states are institutions of class rule. Cuba, while I don’t believe it has a socialist economy (and thus not a socialist government) has absolutely shown what can be done with the support of the mass power of the people, and drawn a line between it as a free and independent country and imperialists.
So how is Cuba in service of its people? It raised literacy from 60-70% to 96% in two years- today 100% of Cubans are literate. It has a massive amount of doctors per capita and has lower rates of infant mortality, HIV, and malnutrition than the US. They have state subsidized SRS and HRT, some of the best current LGBT rights in the Caribbean, despite their historical struggles with homophobia. They are the most sustainable country in the world, despite the embargo.
(The Embargo is absolutely devastating to the Cuban economy, too. Never let a discussion of Cuba’s economy go on without discussing the impact of the embargo)
Still, compare those achievements to Haiti. A country that has been and still is politically and economically crippled by US and French imperialism, which suffers under a neocolonial elite, which is paid starvation wages to make Levis and other commodities for the US, which receives little to no aid when natural disasters hit (which are exacerbated by the ecological devastation of the island).
What is really responsible for the suffering of the people, not just in Cuba, but in Haiti and all countries in the global south? Is it really the ideology of socialism that fights for greater rights and the accessibility to basic needs? Or is it capitalist-imperialism, which strangles Cuba with economic blockades, and parasitically leeches off of its neighbors?
As for the claim that Castro killed “his own people”… the phrasing of this (and of course this isn’t your fault, anti-communists always phrase stuff like this) makes it seem like its better if politicians kill others in imperialist war. Killing “your own people” is somehow far worse than killing the people of countries you want to invade or control. Castro and Che did kill people, yes Cubans. But again, we have to look at the class forces involved. Who were those fleeing? Who were being killed? Historical records show most were rich, white Cuban plantation owners or otherwise of the middle and upper classes, who backed the former military dictator Batista:
All weekend a Cuban exile contingent of right-wing ‘gusanos’ have been gathered on Calle Ocho street in Miami’s “Little Havana” to celebrate the death of Fidel Castro. However the hatred was always mutual; as Fidel characterized the first 1960’s waves of wealthy white parasitic former land owners who were part of the Batista dictatorship he overthrew as “gusanos” (worms), based on their reactionary politics, intransigent support for the blockade, and desire to team up with the CIA to carry out terrorist attacks all across post-revolutionary Cuba. (Note, not all exiles fall into this category, especially more recent arrivals).
The zenith of gusano interference was the 1961 U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion, which Cuba’s government defeated, and afterwards Fidel pointed out the wealth of many of the 1,100 exile soldiers that his troops captured (and later released back to the U.S. in exchange for baby formula). Within those 1,100 soldiers were: 100 plantation owners, 67 landlords of apartment buildings, 35 factory owners, 112 businessmen, 179 living off inheritances, and 194 ex-soldiers of Batista.
Over the decades since that time, the aging gusano contingent in South Florida has proven to be perhaps the most corrupt group (on a per-capita basis) in American politics—which is saying something. In their dying off ranks you can find Batista’s old BRAC secret police goons, ex Cuban mafia, CIA contract killers, and former oligarchs of vast latifundias. As essentially Miami is still controlled by the remnants of Batista’s dictatorship and their off-spring, a regime which killed 20,000 Cubans and tortured tens of thousands more.
Almost all (and i only say almost because i don’t know of any who were not) of those executed were members of Batista’s army, informants, rich landowners who backed Batista, etc. And, contrary to the idea that these were executions against the people, they were actually popularly sanctioned:
Serving in the post as commander of La Cabaña, Guevara reviewed the appeals of those convicted during the revolutionary tribunal process. The tribunals were conducted by 2–3 army officers, an assessor, and a respected local citizen. On some occasions the penalty delivered by the tribunal was death by firing squad. Raúl Gómez Treto, senior legal advisor to the Cuban Ministry of Justice, has argued that the death penalty was justified in order to prevent citizens themselves from taking justice into their own hands, as happened twenty years earlier in the anti-Machado rebellion. Biographers note that in January 1959, the Cuban public was in a “lynching mood”, and point to a survey at the time showing 93% public approval for the tribunal process.Moreover, a January 22, 1959, Universal Newsreel broadcast in the United States and narrated by Ed Herlihy, featured Fidel Castro asking an estimated one million Cubans whether they approved of the executions, and was met with a roaring “¡Si!” (yes). With thousands of Cubans estimated to have been killed at the hands of Batista’s collaborators, and many of the war criminals sentenced to death accused of torture and physical atrocities, the newly empowered government carried out executions, punctuated by cries from the crowds of “¡paredón!” ([to the] wall!),
thats from wikipedia, no less
Always remember- all states are the power of one class over another. Whether that class is the working class by itself (or in alliance with a progressive and anti-imperialist bourgeoisie as in Cuba), or whether it is a reactionary or imperialist bourgeoisie armed against the working class of the world (as in the US)- states are not just democracies or dictatorships- but institutions of class power. Its interesting how we call Cuba a dictatorship when the rich landowners flee or face persecution or god-forbid *gasp* their land is redistributed to campesinos! But the United States, which has the largest (mostly black and brown) prison population in the world (both by number and per capita), which is established on stolen land, and which regularly exercises its power to interfere in and mess with other countries independence, is seen as “free.”
Here are some more resources on Cuba:
[Documentary] Cuba: Defending Socialism, Resisting Imperialism // 20 Reasons to Support Cuba // Cuba: A Revolution in Motion // Cuba and its Neighbors: Democracy in Motion // Work and Democracy in Socialist Cuba // The Sugarmill: The Socio Economic Complex of Sugar in Cuba 1760-1860 // Cuba and the US Empire: A Chronological History // A Hidden History of the Cuban Revolution // Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War // The World Economic and Social Crisis // The Economic War Against Cuba // Race in Cuba //