The brutal dictator of Cuba, Fidel Castro, died yesterday at the age of 90. Earlier, we debunked pro-Castro myths that some left-leaning politicians have peddled about Castro — including President Obama. Onan Coca describes some of Castro’s killings and repression at this link.
Castro made life much more miserable and primitive for the average Cuban. He took a country that was once a beacon of hope and prosperity in Latin America and made it much more impoverished. People who claim Cuba was backward when Castro seized power in 1959 are either ignorant, or trying to excuse Castro’s role in making it as backward as it is today.
As the liberal economist Brad DeLong notes, unlike the backward, underdeveloped Cuba of today:
“Cuba in 1957–was a developed country. Cuba in 1957 had lower infant mortality than France, Belgium, West Germany, Israel, Japan, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Cuba in 1957 had doctors and nurses: as many doctors and nurses per capita as the Netherlands, and more than Britain or Finland. Cuba in 1957 had as many vehicles per capita as Uruguay, Italy, or Portugal. Cuba in 1957 had 45 TVs per 1000 people–fifth highest in the world … Today? Today the UN puts Cuba’s HDI [Human Development indicators] in the range of … Mexico … Thus I don’t understand lefties who talk about the achievements of the Cuban Revolution: “… to have better health care, housing, education.”
As Reason Magazine notes, Cuba in the late 1950’s was quite advanced by world standards:
“In 1959 Cuba had 128.6 doctors and dentists per 100,000 inhabitants, placing it 22nd globally—that is, ahead of France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Finland. In infant mortality tables, Cuba ranked one of the best in the world, with 5.8 deaths per 100,000 babies, compared to 9.5 per 100,000 in the United States. In 1958 Cuba’s adult literacy rate was 80 percent, higher than that of its colonial grandfather in Spain, and the country possessed one of the most highly-regarded university systems in the Western hemisphere.”
Washington Post editorial board member Charles Lane debunks some pro-Castro claims by his fellow journalists here and here, noting that Cuba is more economically and socially backward than they realize (a backwardness confirmed by World Bank data and statistics from international organizations).