Fidel has finally snuffed it, and the reactions have been predictably mixed.
He led the overthrow of a corrupt and repressive regime in Cuba, and replaced it with a brutal hard-line communist dictatorship. It was perhaps second in brutality only to the Soviet Union and its outpost North Korea, although this may be purely due to it being slightly preferable to be a political prisoner in a tropical climate than in a sub-zero Siberian gulag.
Cuba has always been romanticised by foreigners. Who doesn’t enjoy a mojito or some delightful salsa music? And how about the rustic charm of those colourful, yet dilapidated colonial buildings and pre-revolutionary cars? I’ve never been there, but I think it must be a wonderful tourist destination.
But to live there must be hell.
There is virtually no private property ownership, with homes being leased from the state at nominal prices. Food is rationed, consisting mainly of rice and potatoes, with meat being a luxury. Until 2013, Cubans needed an exit permit to leave the country, although the cost of now obtaining a passport is around $300, which is about 15 months’ worth of the average salary. Struggling ally Venezuela has been unreliable in supplying subsidised oil, leading to fuel shortages on the island. Cuba can be described as ‘North Korea by the sea’.
A friend of my dad’s once told me the following story: He went to Cuba once, and as he was sitting in the hotel lobby, there was a young lady playing the piano. He enjoyed the music, and offered her $10 as a tip. She immediately burst into tears, and her manager came and prohibited her from accepting the tip, saying this was more than she earned in a month.
Misery is mandatory under communism.
– Toasters are banned, since they are considered a symbol of western decadence
– HIV+ individuals are placed in concentration camps to prevent the spread of the disease
– Cuba is one of largest consumers of rice per capita, with meat rations being rare
– The average wage in Cuba is around $17 per month
– The Cuban population estimated to be living in the US alone is around 1.1m; it is uncertain how many Americans are living in Cuba
– Cuba has more unpaved roads than paved roads
Thanks to an abundance of Che t-shirts, and the naïve impressionability of the youth, I have personally been ridiculed for calling Cuba a ‘poor’ country. But Cuba stands as a monument to the suffering and misery communism brings, for all to see.