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On the contrary, Castro destroyed a thriving society and imposed
penury, either out of Marxist dogma or out of resentment that his
out-of-wedlock birth had left him with a stigma among Cuba’s middle
Cuba had problems in 1958, as many societies do. But on a number of
fronts, it was the lead country in Latin America, or among the very top.
Its social indicators were not just ahead of Asia and Africa, but also
ahead of many European countries.
Many Europeans, including half of all my great-grandparents,
immigrated to Cuba in the 20th century—barely a century ago—seeking to
improve their lives economically. They did, and their granddaughter, my
mother, went to law school.
After 57 years of communism it is risible to think of a single
European immigrating to Cuba to improve his fortunes. Risible in a dark,
That’s anecdotal, but the numbers back up what 2 million
Cuban-Americans today (i.e., Cuban-born people who can speak freely)
know to be true.
A study by
the State Department’s Hugo Llorens and Kirby Smith shows, for example,
that in infant mortality, literacy rates, per capita food consumption,
passenger cars per capita, number of telephones, radios, televisions,
and many other indicators, Cuba led when Castro took over on New Year’s
The United Nations statistics leave no doubt. In infant mortality,
Cuba’s 32 deaths per 1,000 live births was well ahead of Japan, West
Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain (40, 36, 39, 33, 34,
50, and 53 respectively), and many others.
In food consumption, in terms of calories per day, Cuba was ahead of
all of Latin America except cattle-rich Argentina and Uruguay. In
automobiles per 1,000 inhabitants, Cuba’s 24 was ahead over everyone in
Latin America expect oil-producing Venezuela (27).
As for literacy rates, Cuba’s 76 percent in the late 1950s put it
closely behind only Argentina, Chile, and Costa Rica. Giant Brazil’s
percentage, by comparison, was 49 percent.
And Cuba’s gross domestic product per capita in 1959 was higher than
those of Ireland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, most of Latin America,
Asia, and Africa, again according to U.N. statistics.
In most vital statistics, therefore, Cuba was on a par with Mediterranean countries and southern U.S. states.
And today? Castro’s communism has not just left Cubans economically
pauperized, but politically bereft, a situation that Obama’s unilateral
concessions to Castro’s little brother, the 85-year-old Raul, Cuba’s
present leader, has only made worse.
According to the Cuban Committee for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation, which is recognized by Amnesty International and Freedom
House, so far this year there have already been over 8,505 political
arrests during the first eight months. This represents the highest rate
of political arrests in decades.
Meanwhile, we are in the midst of a new Cuban migration crisis. The
United States is faced with the largest migration of Cuban nationals
since the rafters of 1994. The number of Cubans fleeing to the United
States in 2015 was nearly twice that of 2014.
Some 51,000 Cubans last year entered the United States, and this
year’s figures will easily surpass that. The numbers of Cuban nationals
fleeing Cuba have now quintupled since Obama took office, when it was
less than 7,000 annually.
President-elect Donald Trump has promised he will reverse Obama’s
opening unless Raul Castro opens up Cuba politically. This Castro won’t
do and there were reports today that dissidents are being rounded up and
And so far, Trump’s statement
on the “brutal dictator” Castro has been the moral one and the one
closest to the mark: “Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads,
theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental
Today, therefore, will be a day for clarity. What world leaders say
about the departed tyrant will reveal whether they have an inner moral
compass or not.