Keir's found coverage of Fidel Castro's comments funny but infuriating.
Castro was merely commenting that the Cuban model doesn't work anymore. Now, to me, that screams progressive; always looking to the future, not sticking to things that worked in the past. To the Western media, it's saying socialism doesn't work. Not that difficult to read through the bias.
The Western world has always been inhumanely unfair to Cuba and uses opportunities like this to do all it can to make Fidel out to be some sort of mad man. Fact is, despite having been under sanctions and blockades throughout it's 50-year existence, Castro's Cuba has given us in the West plenty more to be embarrassed about other than just our imperialist treatment of her.
Fidel was talking about the economic model, but the reaction in our media has been suggesting that he was admitting that the Revolution has failed. So let's take a look at some wide-ranging areas of data. Cuba's under-5 mortality rate in 2008 was just 6. The UK: 6. USA: 8. Socialism didn't fail the young then. Cuba also has 99% immunisation against measles for 1-year-olds while the UK languishes with only 86% immunised. HIV prevalence is 0.1% in Cuba, 0.2% in UK and 0.6% in USA. Not bad healthcare then. As our NHS begins to be picked apart by a bunch of right-wing economic lunatics, we can only look enviously at the incredible system Cuba has created. Life expectancy in the 3 countries also shows Cuba has much to be proud of. In Cuba it is 79; it is the same in the USA and UK.
My favourite is the literacy rate. Cuba: 100%. The UK: 99%. USA: 99%. Primary school enrolment is 6% higher in Cuba than it is in the US.
So some good evidence that, despite 50 years of inhuman blockades and sanctions, Cuba has kept up if not bettered the UK and US in many areas of social development.
But Fidel was talking about the economic model, so I should address that too. In the past, when I have argued the case for Cuba amongst friends and colleagues, they have always pointed to the economy as proof that socialism doesn't work, that Fidel is a mad man and that Cuba is just an island full of starving poor people. Those who read more than Western newspapers will know that's not the case. But I had a wry smile to myself when our economies began crumbling in the West whilst Cuba managed to sustain growth. It's even more fun when you use the CIA's World Factbook to highlight the point; the same CIA that tried with all it's might to bring down the Revolution in it's early days. Cuba achieved 7.3% growth in 2007 and that then shrunk to 4.1% in 2008 and 1.4% in 2009 as the recession bit. During the same time, our economies in the West went into meltdown. The UK went from 2.7% to -0.1% to -4.9% and the US went from 1.9% to 0% to -2.6%.
So, in the face of global recession and continuing isolation at the hands of the West, Cuba has sustained economic growth. I'd like to think it is the legacy of the first Finance Minister and President of National Bank. I digress.
The reaction to Fidel's comments is therefore pretty ironic. What has failed? Socialism or unregulated capitalism? Which "model" really doesn't work? Cuba's that sustains growth during recession and achieves 100% literacy rate? Or the West's? The model where people watched as their governments let the markets and banks run wild. And where we now allow right-wing millionaires to lead us to double-dip?
"History will absolve me" said the bearded hero in '53.
Independence from imperialism, 100% literacy, extraordinary healthcare and economic growth despite sanctions, blockades and global recession?