Castro's 'Accomplishments' in Cuba a Load of Nonsense

Cuba has a two-tier healthcare system like all communist countries, lags in other indicators, and lacks basic human rights.


Justin Trudeau sure as heck stepped in it, hasn't he? Of course, the Canadian prime minister was not alone in praising Fidel Castro's "significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation." Here is a compilation of the usual suspects (CNN, MSNBC, NBC, etc.) fawning over the dead dictator's "legacy." And, since fish stinks from the head down, let's not forget President Obama's lionization of the Castro brothers' "accomplishments" when he visited Havana earlier this year.

Sure, our 44th president acknowledged that Cubans are pathetically poor and lack basic human rights, but then he took the sting out of his condemnation of the Cuban dictatorship by saying that the Cuban government "should be congratulated" for giving each child basic education and every person access to healthcare. I wonder if our president would perform a similar rhetorical summersault when talking about General Augusto Pinochet, whose economic policies have turned the once backward Chile into Latin America's richest country in one generation.

Looking on the bright side, at least nobody has claimed that Cuban education and healthcare are of world-beating quality. That Cubans should be literate is to be expected. All communist dictatorships taught their people how to read and then they gave them all the reading material that the government propaganda ministries have managed to print.

When it comes to healthcare, let's get a few things straight. All socialist regimes have had a two tier healthcare system—one for the senior communist party members (with excellent and motivated doctors, and western drugs and medical equipment) and one for the hoi polloi (with apathetic medical staff and shortages of, well, everything). I know this because I grew up under socialism and spoke to Cubans, whose stories are very similar to my own.

And to drive my point about healthcare and socialism home, here is a New York Times story about Venezuela's socialist healthcare entitled, "Dying infants and no medicine: inside Venezuela's failing hospitals."

As I keep telling my progressive friends, all you need to know about a country is whether foreigners are trying to get in (viz. USA) or natives are trying to get out (viz. Cuba). Incidentally, while Justin Trudeau's Canada is a beautiful place, stories like this one, "Canadian Politician Comes to U.S. for Heart Surgery," do not inspire much confidence in Canada's government-run healthcare system.

But let's turn back to Cuba and note the ultimate, almost comical, irony of the Castros' rule. Everything good that has happened under communism would, almost certainly, happen under a different social and economic system. While verified data are difficult come by and need to be cleared from the fog of Cuban propaganda, the U.S. Department of State tried to do just that, by comparing improvements in human wellbeing in Cuba between the 1950s (i.e., the last decade of the hated Batista regime) and 2000.

To wit, literacy rate in Cuba rose by 26 percent between 1950-1953 and 2000. It rose by 37 percent in Paraguay, which was run by fascist dictator Alfredo Stroessner between 1953 and 1989. It rose by 346 percent in Haiti, which is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

The food consumption in Cuba actually declined by 12 percent between 1954-1957 and 1995-1997. In Chile, it rose by 19 percent and in Mexico by 28 percent. Between 1954-1957 and 1995-1997, car ownership in Cuba declined at an annual rate of 0.1 percent. It increased at an annual rate of 16 percent in Brazil, 25 percent in Ecuador and 26 percent in Columbia.

Let us conclude with data from Human Progress and look at child mortality and life expectancy. Once again, Cuba underwhelms. Between 1963 (the first year for which we have data) and 2015, infant mortality in Cuba declined by 90 percent. It declined by 94 percent in Chile (damn you, Pinochet!) and 86 percent Latin America and the Caribbean (not too shabby, you random assortment of Latin American dictators!).

Between 1960 and 2015, life expectancy in Chile rose by 42 percent and in Latin America and the Caribbean by 34 percent. It rose in Cuba by 25 percent. If this is success, I wonder what failure looks like.

NEXT: Brickbat: Disunited

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I’m trying to remember, what was the last Marian Tupy article that didn’t have multiple graphs in it? Is that just her quirk, like the Judge’s questions?

    1. It has been too long since we had to slog through one of the Judge’s lengthy interrogations. Bring back Napolitano!

      1. Why would you want more Napolitano? Do you think he has some unique point of view? Would the commentariat be amused? Inspired? Outraged? And who are you to tell Reason what to do? What difference, at this point, does it make? Can you hear me now? You want fries with that?

        1. Also, fried chicken?

    2. Part of the problem is using percentage of change exclusively, rather than putting it in the context of overall numbers. If, for example, a country went from one homicide per 100,000 to 2 homicides per 100,000 and another country went from 250 homicides per 100,000 to 251 homicides per 100,000, using change percentage as the measure, you’d think that the first country has a sudden epidemic of murder and ignore the high murder rate of the second country.

      1. Um, aside from “what does that have to do with my random tangent”, if we look at the axes on the graphs used, we have Per Capita GDP (usless value because GDP is a useless value), Infant mortality per 1000 live births, and life expectancy at birth in years. If we go to the articles, the only part where percentage change is referenced is Literacy, food consumption and automobile ownership. On the latter two, Cuba showed a decline against an increase from other benchmark nations. Since we know that pre-catro cuba was not an outlier of obesity, the decline in food intake indicates a significant problem. The only area where the percentage change metric needs more data to cease being pointless is in Literacy, as we don’t have the baseline rates to compare to, and those are essential.

        1. Don’t forget these gems:

          Between 1960 and 2015, life expectancy in Chile rose by 42 percent and in Latin America and the Caribbean by 34 percent. It rose in Cuba by 25 percent.

          Between 1963 (the first year for which we have data) and 2015, infant mortality in Cuba declined by 90 percent. It declined by 94 percent in Chile (damn you, Pinochet!) and 86 percent Latin America and the Caribbean (not too shabby, you random assortment of Latin American dictators!).

          And of course there’s the issue of how the numbers are counted and unaccounted variables, but don’t the graphs and numbers look all science-y and shit?

          1. Those are items for which the numbers are provided, not just the percent change.

            I’m usually the first to harangue Marian for the useless datasets presented to ‘demonstrate’ a point. In this case she’s made a marked improvement over earlier articles.

            1. Marian is a man.

              1. really? Unfortunate name then.

                1. Marian Hossa would disagree.

                2. How dare he have a Czech name!

                3. Nice hate crime. I hope you don’t live in Canada

            2. What is interesting is that pre-Castro Cuba was in very good shape compared to most of Latin America, and even Europe.

              Post-Castro, not so much. The rest of the world progressed at one rate, and Cuba at a much retarded rate.

              1. Cubans are retards under Castro…what a great headline!

      2. The real problem is that the Liberal Progressives absolutely CANNOT admit that their wet dream of a society when’re they get to tell everybody what to do is just not gonna come true in any important respect. They won’t admit that every revolution’s first act is to liquidate the Intellectual Class. They won’t admit that the Welfare State is pretty much a ‘full employment for government service parasites’ program, which never delivers on its promises. They are as delusional as the Old Aristocracy ever was. Confront them with the facts and they simply ignore them.

        1. Not ALL of the intellectual class. They can hope that they will
          be among the survivors that get to feast on the spoils.

      3. That was my immediate thought. Percentages don’t really tell you much without the baseline numbers to go off of. What are the statistics for the U.S. during that same time frame? To be fair, the comparisons are to other countries presumably similar to Cuba. It would still be good to know what the baseline numbers are, though.

        1. Most of the numbers you need are on the Y-axis of the graphs.

          This is why s/he included the graphs.

    3. I don’t mind the graphs. At least they provide some actual data. Makes it harder for commie apologists to just dismiss the article as “just, like, your opinion, man.”

      1. agreed. every news story that relies on data shouldd provide that data on the web. there is no longer any reason not to, and the reasons for citing sources are obvious, particularly when so many news stories manipulate/misconstrue/otherwise abuse statistics, research & primary sources. plus citations allow news stories to be used more effectively as reliable datasets for research on their own. reason does a much better job of this than say, the old grey crone, who employs a team of data vis.people but only uses them for high visibility award grabbing web projects.

  2. As I keep telling my progressive friends, all you need to know about a country is whether foreigners are trying to get in (viz. USA) or natives are trying to get out (viz. Cuba).

    That’s more an indication of the number of fake news stories than about the actual quality of life under socialism.

    1. and still we can’t get Rosie O’Donnell to leave…

  3. I have an acquaintance who has been to Cuba. I asked him about Cuban healthcare. This is what he told me: In most places it is considered unpleasant but acceptable to cough, sneeze, or blow your nose in public but you are expected to cover your mouth and nose and turn away from people. Use some kind of handkerchief if you have one, your arm if you don’t. In Cuba it is unacceptable. People scatter and shun you if you do that.

    Let that sink in.

    1. sounds like China in that regard, except it’s ok to shit, spit and piss in public there…

  4. OT: Florida man…..nton-beach

    1. Drive around them and people complain, run them over and people complain louder. Florida Man just can’t win.

    2. Good grief. Most of that story is bullshit. It doesnt sound like he was especially interested in children as he approached a male adult. They just threw that in for extra outrage. ‘Officer took him down’ is also nonsense. Look at his face; they beat the shit out of him.

      Having said that, the guy is a menace. Good riddance.

  5. My progressive friends would simply say that car ownership is a bad thing; as is excessive food consumption, obesity and factory farms being icky.

    1. They are free to give up those things themselves.

      They are not free to make others give them up.

      1. Ah, but like their spiritual ancestors, the Aristocracy, They Know Best.

        Which suggests a solution. Guillotine.

    2. No shit. They’d probably take those two data points as “proof” of what a paradise on Earth Cuba is.

    3. My thoughts exactly.

  6. How the echelons of naivety have burgeoned.

    Vast networks blasting unparalleled informational access to even the most misty lonely corner of the earth has only ever so slightly turned back the rolling pitch of dimwitted shallow Cognitions armying up and storming the precipices of sagacity, ratiocination, and corner-turning erudition.

    The battle for survival on this goddamn globe isn’t only about the fucking shelter, food, and water- the war to exist successfully requires the continual trudging of freedom-seekers through narrow passes lined with swarming imbeciles with leaky brains swinging pointed chains roiling with oppressive mores and societal plagues unleashed from political virus labs.

    Fuck systems topped with thrones of any kind.

    The labels nailed onto these ultra-controlling collectives magnetize our urges and traditions but take a fucking second to peel back the damn logos and nothing remains but eerie lizards in crowns shitting themselves with the cum of despotic desire drip-dropping darkly into the deeps of domination.

    1. “Fuck systems topped with thrones of any kind.”

      Mocking the Emperor of Mankind sounds like a sure-fire way to attract the attention of the Inquisition’s Ordo Hereticus. We love you and value your contributions Agile; please don’t get purged.

      1. We tried to use Agile as psyker fuel for the Astronomican, but the Emperor’s corpse just started screaming “UNPLUG HIM, UNPLUG HIM!”

        1. Oh, so that’s what woke me up.

        2. And this is exactly why Hit & Run is the best place on the intertoobz. Full disclosure – I’m the old fellow at the game store who still complains about the lack of Squats, Zoats, Genestealer Cults, Beastmen in the IG, and Rhinos 3-in-a-box for $9.99.

          1. The Genestealer cults are back.

            But not for $9.99

            1. Sigh… yeah, I am a frequent browser at Forgeworld and I am in awe of their prices. I got into the wrong line of work.

              1. To be fair, as the $ approaches parity with the ?, Forgeworld becomes much more afford. Though, I do suggest you check out the you hammer subreddit.

                Just saying.

                1. Yoyhammer subreddit. Stupid autocorrect.

            2. Are you accounting for inflation?

          2. Beastmen in the IG

            That reminds me – I did some kitbashing… and

            1. And now I’m in love. Great job.

          3. Time to get some epoxy and sculpting tools and get to work l0b0t.

              1. .
                … I can’t get results half that good.

                1. I suggest you end it all. It’s the manly thing to do!

    2. “Fuck systems topped with thrones…”

      “peel back the damn logos and nothing remains but eerie lizards in crowns”

      “…despotic desire drip-dropping darkly into the deeps of domination.”


      *Hands Agile commenting trophy*

    3. Find out what this man has been smoking, and have an ounce of it sent to my rooms.

  7. “While verified data are difficult come by and need to be cleared from the fog of Cuban propaganda,”

    More emphasis needed. Just because Cuba ‘showed’ something doesnt mean it actually happened. In fact, a good rule of thumb is to look at what leftists say and believe the opposite.

    1. I’ve encountered a lot of hapless progs that trot out Cuba’s allegedly low infant mortality rate to bolster their arguments. Whenever this comes up I point out that Cuba doesn’t count babies born prematurely as viable and that all babies aren’t added to the live birth tally until a full day after delivery. This inevitably leads to a lot of hand waving and but-but-but-but-but-but-but stammering.

    2. Then you are a betting man and likely to do well.

    3. Also doctors are pretty much encouraged(in ways that only totalitarian governments can) to terminate any pregnancy that has even the slightest chance of having complications.

      1. France is the same way i saw a documentary where this french doctor was trying to convince the family to abort due to a possible anomoly, why would the doctor be so pro abortion because in France according to the documentary the doctor can be sued for up to 45 years later for problems

  8. Look at that massive decline in GDP around 1990. What could have caused that? It’s almost like the Cuban economy was being artificially held up by some foreign entity or something.

    1. One that was artificially being held up itself. I don’t understand it. That seems like a model that would ensure success.

    2. Also, the upturn that started around 2004 had nothing to do with Hugo Chavez giving Cuba 100000 b/d of crude oil.


    Wortha a read – so amsoc/tony/shriek will avoid.

    1. Thanks for that.

  10. Whenever I hear that crap about literacy rates in Cuba I know the person babbling has no – I mean zero – knowledge of the Spanish language. Spanish is pronounced exactly as it is written. There are no spelling bees held in Spanish speaking countries because if you speak the language but somehow have not learned to read it takes a week or so at the most to teach you to read.

    Spanish speakers who are illiterate simply have not been in a job or situation where they needed to read or write. You almost have to work at being illiterate to continue being so.

    1. English is unique in having spelling bees. In other languages, people have grammar contests where they must have perfect grammar (French, Dutch), dictionary contests where they race to find words in dictionaries (Chinese), or logographic contests where people demonstrate how many logographs they know (Japanese).

      But even in Spanish, you can tell if someone is well-educated or not based on their spelling. There are pairs of letters that can be confused, like ll and y, b and v, and q and c. Spanish speakers go so far as calling b and v terms like “be larga/alta” and “ve corta/peque?a” respectively to distinguish them.

  11. I would be glad to hear a new interview of Fidel Castro, now that he is no longer spewing lies and propaganda.

  12. I know this because I grew up under socialism and spoke to Cubans, whose stories are very similar to my own.

    But our resident Commie apologist, Am Soc, “ran the blockade” and assures us all that Cuba is a land of milk of honey, so who are we supposed to believe? Someone who actually grew up under socialism and experienced it firsthand, or someone who visited Cuba once and went around telling the Cubans all about how much better off they were there under Castro? /sarc

  13. Teaching basic literacy to anybody with an IQ over 85 is easy if the student is motivated. Students are highly motivated to learn to read if their parents face a future of chopping sugar cane on a prison farm for their failure to properly raise their children. Nothing is so important to a totalitarian state as its ability to indoctrinate children and to impart propaganda to the population at large. Basic literacy is essential for that purpose in the modern totalitarian state.

    This brings to mind an NPR story about the awesome educational advances of Sandinista revolutionaries in Nicaraguan villages back in the early 1980s. The NPR reporter was recording from a hut where the Sandindistas had started the first school ever in a particular village. The reporter first interviewed the Sandis about how wonderful the revolution was for the peasant class. Then they recorded the children reading out loud. For those who understood Spanish, it was obvious that the children were just reciting revolutionary slogans that had been written down. It was pathetic journalism that would properly be characterized as fake news.

    1. Today it would be celebrated as one of the many successes of “Common Core”……

  14. Is any of this data confirmed by anything other than Cuban gov’t claims?
    If not, why are we assuming it has any more validity than a Chicago vote count?

    1. cause theyz da Dems…

    2. This comment kinda reminds me of all my Lib-Prog friends who were SURE that the drop in Russia’s economic figures after the collapse of the USSR proved that capitalism was horrible.

      Until I asked them why they would trust the figures out of the USSR. Then I would get a bunch of “Hominahiminahmina”

  15. Oh, and:
    “the hoi polloi”
    Tsk, tsk…

    1. You said “this data,” so glass houses.

  16. Maybe I’m missing something here, but what good is a 100% literacy rate with zero upward mobility?

    As an aside, I knew a Venezuelan woman while in grad school in the mid 90’s who said that when the World Bank set a fiscal target, they simply made up data to meet the target.

  17. Again, the difference between Castro’s Cuba and most other countries in the world is largely a matter of degree and quantity, not quality. All those world leaders praise Castro because they would have done the same thing he did if they could have gotten away with it.
    Living in a “relatively” free country like the U.S. only makes things relatively better. It doesn’t change the faults or problems of government regulations and controls. But hey, with some more legislation like ObamaCare, we can quickly turn the U.S. into another 3rd world country like Cuba or Venezuela!

  18. RE: Castro’s ‘Accomplishments’ in Cuba a Load of Nonsense
    Cuba has a two-tier healthcare system like all communist countries, lags in other indicators, and lacks basic human rights.

    Refugees who have escaped from the island gulag of Cuba have told people the Cuban hospitals do not even have aspirin in their hospitals, and their healthcare has been virtually non-existent since the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, you can bet your life that the Castro brothers (and their cronies) have had nothing but the best of healthcare as witnessed by Fidel’s open heart surgery performed in Spain a number of years ago. As far as human rights go, that concept left Cuba before 1960.

    1. … and the visitors who come, see the 1st rate “everything” and race back to their home countries eager to spread the word about how Cuban Communism works. Yes, I am speaking to you, Michael Moore.

  19. “Viz.”? Holy crap! I haven’t seen that since I was reading some documents from the 1800’s back when I was a teenager. I had to ask my high school English teacher what it meant and she had never seen. It took some digging on the (pre-internet days) library to find its meaning. Thanks Reason for this blast from the past.

  20. I don’t mean to whine about your nice article, but 750,000 people a year from the USA go abroad for medical tourism (according to the CDC ) . So pointing out that a single Canadian politician decided to come here for a heart surgery eight years ago seems logically weak.

    1. Uh, did you read the link?
      “Canadian Politician Comes to U.S. for Heart Surgery
      ?The top politician in Canada’s easternmost province has set off fireworks by deciding to go to the U.S. for heart surgery.”

      This isn’t some shmuck looking for a cheap hip replacement; this is the guy who can demand and get Canada’s best. And it wasn’t good enough.

      1. I hear you that they were talking about an elite power broker in Canada. I was talking about 750,000 individual humans (per year) that supposedly live in the most wonderful healthcare system in the world, choosing to travel to a different country to get health care? The probability that all of those 750,000 people are not very privileged is nearly zero. Somebody in that list is going to be as capable of getting the best that the United States has to offer as your Canadian power broker. The fact that one Canadian elite decided to come here for a heart surgery eight years ago IS fundamentally irrelevant to the quality of the entire US healthcare system. Right now, If I wanted to get a vaccine for lung cancer, I would travel to Cuba, which, as you know, does NOT have an elite healthcare system. Understand that my perspective is that although I consider myself to have some of the best non-elite coverage in the US, I feel unsatisfied with the system, and the pressures that limit my time at my doctor. My perspective is that this system is broken, and I’ve seriously considered medical tourism, even if it isn’t covered under my plan, just to get away from a system that doesn’t seem to be capable of healing me. And I don’t really have anything serious wrong with me.

        1. You also have to see what they are getting done. Sometimes these people go elsewhere cause they are getting treatments they can’t get in the US due to the FDA. Also sometimes it is just that people want the surgery and a vacation. Some of that medical tourism is people getting something done then recouping at a 5 star resort in the tropics. I do know that Medical Tourism is business in Canada and people pay to get treatments here.

  21. “I know this because I grew up under socialism and spoke to Cubans, whose stories are very similar to my own.”

    This reminds me of an experience I had while on an ex-pat assignment in Munich. A young Czech man was staying at the same gasthaus and when we determined we worked for the same company (it had bought a large part of the state telecom company in Prague), we started spending some time together. One week, his wife came from Prague to visit, so I took them out for dinner. When we finished the entrees, I suggested that we have dessert, but not at that restaurant. I suggested we go to another that specialized in desserts. The idea that we would leave one restaurant and go to another for dessert was a wondrous thing to them – even a year or two after the fall, they were so used to the old ways of their country that this seemed wildly exotic. We left the first restaurant, went to the second, and they insisted on paying. When the check came, after paying, he carefully folded the receipt and said in a proud tone, “souvenir!”

    I tell that to progs every time one of them tries to convince me about how great socialism (communism) is. They have no idea.

  22. Facebook gives you a great opportunity to earn 98652$ at your home.If you are some intelligent you makemany more Dollars.I am also earning many more, my relatives wondered to see how i settle my Life in few days thank GOD to you for this…You can also make cash i never tell alie you should check this I am sure you shocked to see this amazing offer…I’m Loving it!!!!

  23. I like the charts, but the infant mortality chart works against your argument. If infant mortality was significantly lower to start with and ended significantly lower, saying the percent decrease was low magnitude is unconvincing… There’s just less room for improvement.

    There’s lots of reasons that might be the case, but you don’t cover those…

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.