by Aimee Triana, member of YAF at the George Washington University
As a first- generation American from a Cuban family, I have always been ignorant in assuming that everyone condemned the Castro regime, and that the general American public knew of the extreme poverty that plagues the Cuban people. When my sociology professor proudly told the class that she thought “communism was doing well in Cuba,” I immediately became aware of the reality that Americans do not truly know the extent of the suffering among the Cuban people, and most do not care to know. Many people even attempt to argue that life in Cuba has improved under Castro, like my professor did.
Americans do not truly know the extent of the suffering among the Cuban people, and most do not care to know.
Everyone’s first argument is always “education has vastly improved in Cuba under Castro!” Wrong. If one is fortunate enough to be able to attend school, a student’s area of study is ultimately determined by the government. A student can express a desired area of study, and the government decides if there is a need for workers in that field. If the government declines a student’s request, a subject will be picked for the student and that is what the student must proceed with. Getting an education is virtually counter-productive in Cuba, because there are very few jobs available.
Then comes the second argument, “but healthcare is free!” Wrong, again. While healthcare is said to be free, there are no healthcare resources available to locals who are sick. If a citizen needs to be hospitalized, he must bring his own supplies such as sheets, pillows, soap, medicine, and even syringes. The only service hospitals can provide is administering the medicine, and providing medical advice. Medicine is often sent to locals by family members in other countries, so the healthcare is useless unless one is able to obtain medicine from outside the country.
Tourists that go to Cuba will see a side of the country unavailable to the locals. Tourists will have access to everything they could need and want. Locals, like my family, are not allowed in areas designated for tourists. For locals, the only real way to obtain goods necessary to live is through bartering. The Cuban people have to exchange goods with each other just to have things like soap and rice, because the run-down bodegas do not honor the currency that is most easily accessible to locals. The best resource one can have as a local is to know someone who, by chance, works in the tourist areas, who is then able to bring items back to the towns.
One of my own family members is a doctor in Cuba, and only has access to the internet every two weeks for issues related to medicine.
The water in Cuba is infested with bacteria and will immediately make anyone who drinks it sick. Not only is the water unsafe, but it is not readily available for the people. The electricity is controlled by the government, and it is shut off throughout the day, literally leaving citizens in the dark, and without running water. The internet is also controlled by the government, and access is only available to doctors and government staff. One of my own family members is a doctor in Cuba, and only has access to the internet every two weeks for issues related to medicine. While many people use the internet for other reasons such as emailing family in other countries, risk extreme consequences if they are caught. All of the property in Cuba is owned by the government, including homes. Properties are not maintained, and have become nearly inhabitable, with many homes having dirt floors.
I am often asked, “will things in Cuba improve now that Fidel Castro is dead?” The answer is no, not for a very long time. His brother, Raul, is just as corrupt and evil as Fidel was, and will continue oppressing the Cuban people. It was a full year ago that my professor claimed that Communism was doing well in Cuba, and it still baffles me that Americans truly believe that so-called free healthcare and education can make up for some of the lowest living standards in the modern world.