Castro's revolutionary claims may seem hollow to many Cubans and outsiders, but in a world riven by great inequities Cuba has shown that socioeconomic equality and improved lives can happen simultaneously. Indeed Cubans appear healthy and adequately nourished.
The State still provides milk to children under five and liberal maternity leave. In mathematics and language achievement many Cuban elementary students scored higher than their counterparts in the US, Europe and Japan. Unfortunately many political analysts dismiss Cuba as a model for the Majority World. They point to the human-rights record of the regime and see one-party rule as an indication that 'socialist planning' leads inevitably to totalitarianism.
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It is true that the Castro administration has countenanced injustices in the name of the Revolution. But the country's political evolution since is not an unambiguous march toward a government of absolute power. People across the island - in every hamlet and city - have benefited from the changes that the Cuban Revolution made possible. In addition Cuba's social progress represents a concrete counterweight to 'terrorism'.
Socioeconomic progress, pursued as equitably as Cuba has since , is the only basis on which democracy and civil liberties in the developing world can be achieved. Freedom from hunger and poverty are the essential human rights on which all civil liberties are built - democracy means very little when infant mortality is high, disease rampant and poverty endemic. While an end to the US embargo is the sine qua non of Cuban economic recovery, it is equally clear that 'free trade' and market economics do not have enough safeguards to protect the interests of the poor.
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Without vigilant regulation of private corporations, Cubans would suffer in the way that poor farmers in Chiapas, Mexico, did when the North American Free Trade Agreement allowed cheaper US corn to displace the livelihoods of whole Mexican communities. For example, Old Havana with its colonial architecture and beautiful, historic plazas is one of the most densely populated areas of the city.
Its balconied facades lead into overcrowded rooms and flats where there is often not enough water or electricity.
But limited as these amenities may be, they would be far beyond the reach of the majority of Old Havana's residents if, as has recently happened throughout Latin America, an infusion of foreign capital led to the privatization of services. As Cuba reintegrates more fully into the global economy, it must not follow the prescribed route of the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, whose privatization schemes have undermined living standards of the poor throughout the world.
If the American embargo is completely breached by the US business community, as it appears that it may be in the next few years, Cuba will need to articulate carefully the massive direct-investment potential that would become available to it. At that point it is to be hoped that the Cuban Government will use its partnership with private sources of capital to shore up the important gains in healthcare and education - the very model of development needed by more than half of the world's people.
This article is from the March issue of New Internationalist. You can access the entire archive of over issues with a digital subscription. Patreon is a platform that enables us to offer more to our readership. New Internationalist is a lifeline for activists, campaigners and readers who value independent journalism. It is free to read online — please support us so we can keep it that way. About us Ethical shop. Revolution vs globalization. The achievements of the Cuban revolution continue to be eroded by the relentless US economic embargo and the loss of Russian aid.
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