By Nicolai Brown | Iowa State Daily Columnist | [url=http://www.granma.cu]http://www.granma.cu[/url]
It’s another election year and once again, the current U.S. president has proposed a plan for Cuba. President Bush’s claim is that if we can hurt the Cuban people just a little bit more, it will somehow helep topple Fidel Castro’s government. Specifically, Bush wants to limit family visitations to every three years and decrease the amount of money Cuban Americans can send to their relatives.
History has shown time and time again that driving the Cuban people deeper into poverty won’t make them violently “rise up” against Fidel Castro. U.S. policy on Cuba has taken business and cultural opportunities away from both nations, stoked world animosity toward the United States, and most unfortunately, made life very difficult for Cubans. The Cuban people have been subjected to economic warfare by the world’s largest economy for more than 40 years. The effects cannot be underestimated.
The war began with the hysteria-driven Cold War politics of McCarthyism. In March 1960, President Eisenhower approved a plan to end Cuban sugar purchases, halt oil deliveries to the island, and organize an invasion.
Castro’s government was unaffected by the economic measures, and the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, while quite expensive for Cuba, was an unmitigated failure for the United States.
In February 1962, President Kennedy extended Eisenhower’s trade restrictions to include everything other than non-subsidized food and medicine. A month later, he included in the embargo all goods made with or containing Cuban materials—even those produced outside Cuba. The result? The Cuban economy, and thus its people, suffered. Castro remained in power. The next year, travel to Cuba was banned and financial transactions with the country were outlawed. Can you guess the result? Economic migrants left Cuba in waves, but the Cuban government remained in power. There were no serious “uprisings.”
Seeing that its policies were doing more harm than good, the United States stopped extending its economic war on the Cuban people. Tension decreased during the 1970s, and portions of the embargo were relaxed. Legislation was introduced to end the blockade, but it failed.
A few notable hostile actions did occur though. One major incident was the October 1976 terrorist bombing of a Cuban plane by CIA-backed Luis Posada Carrilles. All 73 people aboard died. The other nastiness came when the CIA released African swine fever to the Cuban pig population. Half of a million pigs had to be destroyed, which hurt the economy and deprived Cubans of food. There was no anti-Castro revolution. He remained in power.
President Reagan tightened the embargo in the 1980s. It led to no revolt, no uprising, only further economic misery for the Cuban people. Do you see a pattern? The 1990s, predictably, saw more of the same. The old logic of “starve the Cuban people… profit!” was used over and over again, and each case ended with the same results.
There comes a time when people have to recognize the hole they’re in and just stop digging. Shoveling deeper only makes things worse.
The reason behind Castro’s steady rule, despite the crippling economic war waged by the United States, is his commitment to the Cuban people. Under what other dictatorship are the people actually considered? The national literacy campaign began Jan. 1, 1961. Cuban illiteracy dropped from 20 percent to four percent. It’s literacy rate is now equal to ours. Cuban radio even carries in-house literacy programs to other poverty-stricken nations. Cuban television beams local educational programs supplementing the schools and universities. Castro’s government gives university scholarships to poor students from all over Latin America and the Caribbean. Some American students participate as well. Women make up about half of Cuba’s university and medical school students. Does this sound like the rule of Saddam Hussein?
Cuba’s infant mortality rate is equal to our low rate of only seven per 1,000 live births. It’s rate of HIV/AIDS is less than one-sixth of ours, and Cuba sends doctors all over the world in genuine solidarity. Cuba’s life-expectancy at birth is equal to ours at 77 years. Former U.S. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders toured Cuban medical facilities in 2001 and concluded that “Cuba’s health care system is better at keeping people healthy than the U.S. system.” Is this the work of an Adolf Hitler?
Cubans are poor, but they will never “rise up” against Fidel Castro.