When we helped free Angola, the army of South Africa attacked and wiped out over 500,000 innocent men, women and children, while laying millions of antipersonnel land mines throughout the country. But 40,000 Cuban soldiers joined the Angolan army and pushed the invasion back until peace could be reached and South Africa was forced to sign an armistice whereby they promised to stop attacking the innocent people of that country.
Over three thousand Cuban holistic general practitioners are in more than 18 third world nations saving hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Cuba has developed a technique for using the radio to teach people to read and write. This system is now in five languages, Creole, Portuguese, French, English and Spanish. And Cuba has just created a system to get similar results with the TV. And all these systems are offered to everyone around the world free of charge. Cuba has never charged anyone one thin dime for any of these services that it has created and built. These methods could reduce the illiteracy rate of the 800 million illiterate people around the world by as much as 80% with minimal cost. Much more could have been accomplished in a Cuba free of an immoral economic embargo.
And throughout the years President Fidel Castro has become known as "el crÃtico nÃºmero uno," or number one critic of the revolution. After every public event, surveys are immediately taken to assess how the common person saw the event. All negative critics must be published so that others can see what may have been done incorrectly and needed to be improved upon. While President Castro refuses to read any critics praising him or his government, he does read passionately those critics that point to flaws in the system. Through these honest assessments of public happenings, improvements can be championed and President Castro has become the biggest proponent of all positive changes in public life.
But the economic blockade along with the special period after the collapse of the Soviet Union has created an inequality in the country that is both legal and stressful for the whole country. Citizens who have family in foreign countries, such as the United States, can and do receive foreign currency from them. This free money gives them a decided advantage over the rest of the population and many use this advantage towards ill-gotten gains in privilege and services. While it is okay to exchange the money normally and use the proceeds to purchase goods and services as a result, it is not okay to exchange the money on the black market for up to 10 times the amount.
But theft and pilferage, especially with regard to rationed items such as petrol and other goods and services, are still rampant across the country. Human nature to take personal advantage of scarcities doesn't end at the shorelines of Cuba. Hidden petrol stations and illegal government vehicle usages exist everywhere. Yet at the same time, there is a new generation that has stepped up to the plate to combat these crimes and put an end to these illegal practices.
This new group of social workers is showing a will and a desire to improve the quality of life that has been missing among the older generations. One group of a few thousand of these young enthusiasts who started monitoring petrol stations in Havana discovered unreported sales which doubled the total amount. The fervor and eagerness of this new generation will bode well for the post-Fidel Cuba of the future.
And even if the political structure of a one-party system has often been criticized by other nations, it must be said that the one party in Cuba neither nominates nor elects government officials who run in the general elections. The candidates are nominated by the general public and voted on by them, not the party.
While it's a financial farce in the US to believe that anyone can become president, in Cuba literally anyone can be elected to office. All it takes is the will of the people and enough votes. There is no multi-billion dollar campaign required or unwritten promises to corporate hierarchies necessary. While abuse of power exists in any governmental system, in Cuba there has been relatively little of it and most of it has been uncovered quickly and dealt with accordingly.
President Fidel Castro's salary is $30 per month. Along with other party members, he pays his party dues, rent (which is a standard 10% of a person's salary, regardless of how much the person makes), and uses the rest for food and other services. The salary has not changed over the years. Of course, he can't sleep in the same room two days in a row as a matter of course, or he'd be dead, but the routine has become commonplace for him.
The gifts he receives from visiting dignitaries, over 17,000 at last count, are turned over to the country museum curator for storage and display. Some were donated to others. President Castro owns no personal bank account, no secret offshore fund, no hidden safe full of treasure. He doesn't carry money when he goes anywhere. Although he's been offered millions for his personal memoirs, he has staunchly refused them all, and has publicly stated that he will accept such an offer only if the monies provide financial aid to the schools of Cuba.
His life has been dedicated to the liberation and amelioration of the individual life of the average Cuban and he will go to his grave with that same conviction. He harbors no hatred, no vengeance, and no desire for injustice towards others. He feels that all true revolutionaries, including El Che, feel like that.
It has been the destiny of Cuba to promote Socialism and the basic welfare as a right of all people. On May 20, 2002, American President Bush demanded that Cuba renounce Socialism and adopt Capitalism similar to that of the US. In response, massive demonstrations were held across the country for two months and within four days over 8 million citizens, over half of the voting population, signed a petition denouncing Bush and his request.
The future of Cuba will be the same as it has been for the past 50 years. Cuba has struggled mightily against the immoral economic blockade and has proven itself worthy of heroic stature in many ways. Just one example, the ability of eliminating illiteracy through the use of a common radio, demonstrates how Cubans have been more than equal to the challenges the world has given them.
The role that President Fidel Castro plays in today's Cuba is largely symbolic. He holds no executive power per se, and has but one vote in the Council meetings. But more than a single replacement of him when the time comes, it is better to look at his successor as being an entire generation of Cubans who have grown up understanding the goals of Socialism, the right to personal dignity, general health, welfare, social and economic worth, and the right to a dignified life in society, and they will be the ones to carry on the revolution beyond Fidel.
The revolution in Cuba has always been based on ideas not cult of personality. Regardless of who is considered at the top, the ideology of the revolution has always been the overriding factor and still is today. Even though any society can self-destruct, implode, or crumble, the revolution in Cuba has as good a chance as any at keeping its original goals of liberty, equality and justice for all, with or without Fidel.
[ed note: none of these articles could have been possible without the dedicated effort of OpEdNews to allow such a prolonged and determined review of the book, Fidel Castro, My Life. I am humbled that they would allow an unknown author such as myself to create this series and give it the light of day on the internet. A second thanks must go to my good friend Pancho who sent me the book to review and who has been constant and constructive in his critique of my work].
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