I find this article on Cuba fascinating. The disruption to the Cuban economy from the United States embargo is obvious and the stories of how they have kept pre-embargo cars running are legion. But here are some amazing observations:
Despite its longevity and severity, the embargo was not particularly effective in achieving its objectives, as summarized by Lester D. Mallory. Cuban Socialism still managed to be lauded for a number of notable achievements, including attaining full employment, providing universal health care services and universal access to free education, and achieving higher life expectancy, lower child mortality, lower child malnutrition, and lower poverty rates compared to any other Latin American country (Navarro, 2014, Vandepitte, 2011). In fact, a 2014 study published by the World Bank confirmed that Cuba’s education system is comparable to those of Canada, Finland, and Singapore14. In the past, the World Bank also recognized that Cuba’s international “success in the fields of education and health, with social services that exceeds those of most developing countries and, in certain sectors, are comparable to those of the developed nations”15. Furthermore, based on estimates from the United Nations Development Program, Cuba is ranked third in Latin America in terms of the Human Development Index (HDI)16. More precisely, according to the United Nations Human Development Report 2014, “Cuba’s HDI value for 2013 is 0.815— which is in the very high human development category—positioning the country at 44 out of 187 countries and territories17”.
In addition to its success in areas of human development, Cuba has also been active in providing practical foreign aid in the form of sending highly-trained specialists, such as teachers, doctors, and engineers, to developing countries where they are needed. Since 1959, Cuba has been sending doctors to countries in Latin American and Africa that are unable to meet the health care needs of their citizens on their own; this is a practice for which the island is particularly well-regarded. Currently, “around 50,000 Cuban health professionals work in 66 countries worldwide18”. Recent examples of such assistance include sending Cuban doctors to West African countries during the recent Ebola outbreak and to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 where they were largely credited with ending a cholera outbreak19. Additionally, Cuba also helps combat doctor shortages by providing free medical school to students from various developing countries. Havana’s Latin American Medical School20 is “the largest medical school in the world”21; since 2005, this institution has produced approximately 23,000 doctors and another 10,000 graduates are expected in the near future22.
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For me, amongst many other things, including the health levels of the people, this exposes the fees now charged to tertiary students for what they are: a mechanism to begin the students’ financial enslavement at an earlier point than was so 50 years ago. Also, I suspect the high Human Development Index reflects an education system that seeks to uplift the student rather than dumb them down, and they probably don’t have compulsory vaccination programmes for their children. Castro was very astute regarding the games of the elite. I remember years ago how he brought his own chickens with him on a visit to the United States. I now realise he understood that there were those who would try and poison or otherwise try to destroy his health. He warned other South American leaders of this risk, not all of whom apparently took his advice.