There can be no danger if we do what Cubans want, if we provide
social justice and solve the substantial social problems of all Cubans in a
climate of liberty, of respect for individual rights, of freedom of the
press and thought, of democracy, of liberty to elect their own Government.
The revolution that we are making offers to the Cuban people things that
no other social regime can offer in the world today. Do you understand?
The ideology of the Twenty-sixth of July Movement, which is the ideology of social justice within the limits of the most ample democracy, liberty and human rights, is the most beautiful thing that can be promised to a man. Why should we be frightened?
You go to the towns and they ask you for schools, a hospital, sewers,
street paving, trucks to use in cleaning the streets, parks, markets, city
waterworks of all kinds. For example, they ask you for water-purification
March 16, 1959, Castro’s interview with US News and World (excerpts)
Mr. Castro had won the trust of many Cubans by promising, in his 1956 “five laws” statement, to restore the democratic rights that had existed before 1952, make the already-great medical system free and universal, end legal race discrimination, restore land-ownership rights to Cubans and invite foreign investment.
This was sold as a liberal revolution, not a socialist revolution. Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, a middle-class, Jesuit-educated child of Spanish immigrants, had promised the Cuban people that the revolution he led was intended to bring liberal-democratic multi-party government, and an open economy with less foreign ownership and more economic equality, to the island.
Cubans had every reason to expect this: Their country had long been a success, with a strong economy, a progressive constitution that guaranteed rights and democracy, and one of the best medical systems in the world. Its living standards were better than any country in what was then known as the Third World; its levels of literacy, infant mortality and life expectancy in the 1950s were closer to those of Canada than those of Latin America, according to historian Richard Gott, and its health system was better than those of Britain, France, the Netherlands and Japan.
Doug Saunders 11/2016
Since Trump’s win in 2016, the subsequent hostility, attacks, and desires to remove him from office orchestrated not only by politicians of the opposition but with vitriol by the mainstream media, memories from my youth in Cuba have come to mind. I was 15 years old when Batista took power illegally, and 24 when leaving Cuba post-Castro.
It has been sixty-one years of the Castro regime, and 59 of them I was in the U.S. Comparisons then are difficult to ascertain, but the politics, and rhetoric are eerie similar. My personal experience during Batista’s governing goes against popular belief. It is true that his coup d’ etat disrupted the upcoming elections and our short history of democracy.
What was also a fact was that there were no popular moves against it, and that the military willing to fight against the anti-constitutional move were discouraged by the civil government at the highest posts. Batista ruled 6 plus years, during which he conducted 2 elections, compounding his initial mistake by running as a candidate in the first. His active and armed opposition started at the University of Habana that I was attending at the time. Mixed with many patriotic youth were many ill reputed gangster wannabe’s like Fidel Castro.
Contrary to legend he was not popular at the time, asked for general strikes several times with no public response, started a rebellion in the mountains accompanied by hundred’s, not thousands of followers, and did not take over via fighting but by the regular army surrendering when the US refused armaments and our Dpt. of State became ardent supporters of him.
He was not desired by the lower classes, but mainly by our elite, academics and the free press. At that time we had a buoyant economy, freedom of speech, media, travel, and gathering as demanded in our progressive 1940 Constitution. When the opposition became violent, so did the government. I can attest that the idea of thousands murdered did not happen.
As a young man that spoke openly in public against the dictatorship, I was never imprisoned or threatened. In fact, many friends that did participate in the “revolution” and were caught only were punished by being deported. After Castro took power his popularity increased, fueled by more myth than reality, and his ideas were sold as “social justice” needed in a non functioning society.
This, of course, was false but gave him and his thugs an excuse to kill, imprison, and stop any talk that went against his regime. I fear that at present, as I hear the same promises, words, radicalism, and an increasing move towards a total dismantling of our political system, culture, and ethics, we are being told the same false promises that made me leave my country and that were not an attempt to improve, but to take total control of our lives. Time will tell, but my fears are real!
Fernando J. Milanes, MD