The Cuban revolution turned 50 years old last week, and its founder and undertaker was still around to celebrate the anniversary, though not in the best of health or spirits. This makes it a good opportunity to summarize what the revolution has brought to Cuba and what is has meant for Latin America.
There is only one indisputable success the Castro regime can claim for the country. Cuba was the last large territory in Latin America to achieve independence from Spain (in 1898), and that freedom was diluted almost immediately, when in 1905 Cuba became a virtual American protectorate under the Platt amendment. This neocolonial status lasted until 1959, creating an enduring challenge to national identity. Castro and the revolution addressed that problem by giving the Cuban people a sense of statehood and pride. One can rightly wonder whether, after 30 years of dependence on the Soviet Union and nearly another decade of reliance on Venezuelan aid, this great national dignity is justified. But there's no doubting the strength of the sentiment.
As for the other, oft-touted successes of the regime, these tend to deteriorate under inspection. Take education. Yes, the country made huge gains during the first two or three decades of communist rule. But it started from a relatively high Latin American standard, and has barely treaded water ever since, producing tens of thousands of graduates in "historical materialism" and "culturology." Lacking most modern tools such as computers, Web access and current textbooks and a connection with the real economy, Cuba's supposedly excellent education system would probably compare much less well to those of other Latin American countries in a survey that didn't depend on the government's own statistics. Cuba would probably turn out to suffer the same ills as the rest of the region: formal universal education up to junior high or high school, but terribly mediocre quality and a total disconnect from the country's needs.
Hoy es día del Guerrillero Heróico - Imagen realizada por el equipo de medios de la Misión Negra Hipólita, en honor al Guerrillero Heróico, inmortal Che Guevara.
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