1959 saw the final victory for the rebels in the Cuban revolution. Led by revolutionaries Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, the group worked and fought endlessly to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista, who executed a coup d’etat to remain in charge of Cuba for a second term. Some argue against the actions of the Cuban revolutionary armed forces, however it cannot be argued that the revolution has drastically improved many aspects of the tiny island. Now, Cuba punches far above its weights, out-performing itself politically and economically on a world stage.
Before 1959, Cuba was essentially a third world country. 75% of rural dwellings were huts made from palm trees, of which more than 50% had no toilets of any kind. 85% had no running water and 91% had no electricity. The education system was failing and around 1 million people in a population of 5.5 million were illiterate. Incomes were low, corruption and hunger were rampant. Che Guevara, as well as other revolutionaries, was angered by the injustice in society and by the repressive dictatorship of Batista. He expressed a love for humankind and an anger towards oppression and injustice.
The true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality. – Che Guevara
Nowadays, Cuba benefits greatly from the revolution. Technological advancements in the small country soar past expectations and they are ahead of dominating powers such as the USA and UK in terms of medical treatment. Several drugs developed in Cuba are being used to treat cancers and tumours, however due to a 54 year trade embargo, the US cannot yet benefit from these advances. Healthcare is also free and readily available to Cuban citizens.
Education is another area which has benefitted. Cuba has a highly educated population, including large numbers of people with graduate degrees. Education is free all the way through graduate school. The literacy rate has increased drastically and is now effectively 100% according to UNESCO. Transformation this extreme could only be achieve by a revolution.The average youth (age 15-24) illiteracy rate in Latin America and the Caribbean stands at 7%.
What is perhaps most surprising is that despite Cuba is a relatively small country which has previously poor and poverty stricken, there a homelessness rate of 0%. Home ownership stands at 85%, higher than in UK and USA. I have witnessed homelessness in every city I have been to, including big and rich places such as London, New York and Rome. However in a small island with a low GDP, homelessness is non-existent.
The USA is quick to spread propaganda against Cuba, because of fears surrounding the revolutionary and socialist ideologies in the country. However it could be argued Cuba is a lot more successful than the large, capitalist and unequal USA. Cuba does not have an issue of systematic racism, with black people routinely being killed by policemen. Cuba does not have millions of people who can’t afford basic medical care, or an epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Perhaps most importantly, Cuba does not have a finance sector that crashed the global economy, causing loss of homes, and many life changing issues.
Recently, true socialist values have come under threat in Cuba as recently appointed leader and ex-revolutionary Raul Castro has looked to improve relations with the USA. Some may argue that this is need as Cuba has struggled to recover from natural disasters quickly, and increased trade may be able to help this. However, there is a danger of western imperialism and capitalism creeping into the society. Fidel Castro did well during his time in charge to squash any sort of opposition, including stalinist bureaucracy in years following the revolution. I hope the country will continue to honour the Cuban revolutionary armed forces including the deceased Che Guevara, by maintaining a stable and fair socialist regime.