The world is unaware of the magnitude of material and social misery facing the Cuban people. Myths created by the so-called Cuban Revolution conceal an unbearable reality marked by repression and lack of opportunities. From the outside, the Cuban dictatorship is judged by its symbols and promises, not by its outcomes.
To comprehend how a simulated country, made of cardboard and propaganda, has replaced the real Cuba, let’s analyze some of these myths.
MYTH 1: THE CUBAN REVOLUTION
The youngest person who participated in the last free elections is 88 years old in 2023. Cuba has not had free elections in over 60 years. During this time, the government has been in the hands of the same individuals whom the people never voted for. They imposed communism in all state institutions and banned private enterprise. The military elite, holding political power, controls all aspects of people’s lives, from the price of sugar to the media and children’s education. The country is in a permanent crisis.
The July 26th Movement, led by Fidel Castro, seized power by force in Cuba on January 1, 1959. At that time, they promised to restore the constitutional order that Batista’s dictatorship had broken in 1952. However, Castro was lying. The world saw images of the square filled with Cubans supposedly supporting the revolution. But the reality is that even in that moment of glory, their leaders did not believe the people would vote for them. The Castros never called for the free elections they had promised. Instead, they imposed the communist system. Censorship and mass executions of opponents condemned the country to economic dependence, first on the Soviet Union and in recent years on Venezuela, contributing to its destruction.
From the beginning, the regime proscribed all media except those owned by the communist state for internal indoctrination and foreign promotion. This distorted facts, rewrote history with lies, and nullified the experience of democratic and liberal thinking. The lie was so well-constructed that while there were tens of thousands of political prisoners in Cuban jails, and young people were sent to forced labor camps for listening to rock, holding religious beliefs, being homosexuals, or simply for not being communists, they called Cuba the island of freedom. The revolution was a lie.
MYTH 2: MEDICAL POWERHOUSE
Propaganda states that healthcare is free in Cuba, but in reality, medicines are expensive, and scarcity causes prices to multiply on the black market, making them inaccessible for many.
The regime boasts of having the best healthcare system in the world, but the quality of care and access to medications for the average Cuban are not guaranteed. According to the official narrative, we are all equal, but only the ruling class and tourists receive care in optimal hospital centers. The rest have to go to ruinous hospitals with poor hygiene and a shortage of supplies. Patients must bring their own food, sheets, and even water. Conditions are so bad that they endanger patients. For example, in 2010, in a single night, dozens of inmates in a psychiatric hospital in Havana died from cold.
The irony is that in communist Cuba, there is a paid healthcare service. It is of better quality but exclusively for foreigners. These specialized centers deny care to Cubans, even if they can pay.
Health professionals are exploited and poorly paid to the point that they prefer to go abroad under semi-slavery conditions for medical missions in other countries like Venezuela. These missions are disguised with the myth of proletarian internationalism when, in reality, they are commercial agreements in which the regime keeps more than 75% of the doctors’ salaries. These missions are also used for espionage and ideological penetration. For example, out of 702 supposed Cuban doctors in Bolivia, 497 were not even graduated in medicine.
MYTH 3: EDUCATION IN CUBA
The vast majority of Cuban children can go to school, but the education system is entirely politicized and serves as a means of indoctrination and control. Children, especially those of dissidents and religious individuals, are victims of bullying by students and teachers. Young people critical of the system are expelled from university. Teachers are poorly paid, and the quality of instruction is deficient and outdated. Without the resources to train 21st-century professionals, the state graduates teachers without proper preparation in express programs and calls them emergency teachers.
Another part of the myth is the supposed free education, but the reality is that the salaries of all Cuban professionals are much below the real value of their work. While it is true that students do not pay for tuition, after completing their studies, they must perform several years of social service for an even lower salary and in a location determined by the state. With this system of semi-forced labor, the state recoups the expenses on education. Education in Cuba is not free.
MYTH 4: HUNGER IN CUBA
One of the most terrible humiliations imposed by the totalitarian state on Cuban families is the scarcity of food and the difficulties in obtaining it. Through the rationing system, those who can afford it have access to buying some low-quality food that barely covers basic needs for about a week. Obtaining food for the rest of the month occupies a significant portion of the time, energy, and entirety of the salaries of most Cubans. Cuba imports 80% of the food it consumes, but it does not meet the nutritional needs of the population.
In their delirious speeches, Fidel Castro even promised that Cuba would produce so much milk that the bay of Havana could be filled with it. However, the regime destroyed the country’s productive capacity and still persecutes independent production. In 1959, there were more heads of cattle than Cuban citizens, but in 2021, beef is so scarce that it is exclusively reserved for foreigners. Killing a cow to eat without the state’s permission is prohibited and is a crime punished with years of imprisonment. The situation is so extreme that some resort to consuming domestic animals like cats. Six decades after the revolution and communism, Cubans live in hunger.
MYTH 5: THE REVOLUTION OF THE POOR
In addition to hunger, in socialist Cuba, more than two million people directly suffer from a housing shortage. More houses collapse than are built. According to conservative sources, one out of every seven buildings is at risk of collapse. Three generations live in the same house, with the consequent family conflicts imposed by overcrowding. Eight out of every hundred homes lack continuous electrical service. Almost seven out of every hundred Cubans do not have a permanent water supply. In 2020 alone, dozens of fatal collapses were reported, including children and the elderly. Those who survived have to keep living there. Today, Cubans live in ruins.
MYTH 6: ARE CUBANS HAPPY?
Material poverty is compounded by political oppression and the impossibility of expressing and developing independent initiatives or alternatives to the official line. Many seek to leave the country as the only immediate solution. In fact, around two million Cubans have taken the path of exile despite restrictions imposed to leave the island.
Separated families and massive exoduses are part of Cuba’s recent history. Almost all orchestrated by the authorities to ease internal tensions and also as blackmail to the international community, especially the United States administrations. It happened in the Mariel exodus, when in 1980, 125,000 Cubans managed to leave the country on boats sent by their relatives from Florida. The regime allowed it on the condition of filling the boats with common criminals taken from prisons and inmates from psychiatric hospitals. It also happened in 1994 with the rafter crisis. Castro withdrew the coast guard in response to massive protests against the system taking place in Havana. Between August and September of that year, more than 32,000 Cubans were intercepted. The exact death toll is not known, but Cuban-American organizations that worked rescuing rafters in those years estimate that out of every four boats leaving the island, only one arrived. Thousands disappeared forever in the sea.
Despite the deaths, dangers, and uncertainty, Cubans continue to try to escape. It has been decades since free elections were held in Cuba, but this permanent exodus of Cubans is the people’s vote against the communist system and the most eloquent symbol of the revolutionary failure.
MYTH 7: PROTESTS IN CUBA
Resistance to Castroism began from the beginning and has not stopped to this day, despite repression. A segment of the Cuban people has never ceased to rebel against totalitarian power, opposition with popular support despite the fear instilled by the authorities. During these years, the dictatorship went so far as to punish entire populations. During the 60s and early 70s, for example, thousands of families were removed from their homes and relocated hundreds of kilometers away to concentration camps, which became captive towns. According to recovered Stasi archives, there were up to 65,000 political prisoners serving sentences in Cuban jails simultaneously.
Today, those convicted for political reasons outnumber them, not counting the thousands of innocent young people that the regime keeps in prison preventively under the invented charge of pre-delinquent dangerousness. Nowadays, those who express their discontent are harassed, detained, and threatened by the political police or State Security. The repressive methods employed by the regime’s forces can range from social isolation, expulsion from workplaces or study centers, physical violence, and imprisonment to murder, as they did with opposition leader Oswaldo Payá and young Harold Cepero in the 2012 attack. However, Cubans continue to fight with increasing strength. Young activists aim to take to the streets.
Many of us demand a change in the system. Organized and spontaneous public protests are multiplying nationwide. Opposition voices and the Cuban people’s will for change can no longer be ignored. The call for freedom continues to spread irreversibly. The myths created by Castroism have lost their effect on the people. Cubans are tired of the lie.
Cuba Decide is an initiative for citizen and international mobilization to change the system towards democracy and the rule of law. It seeks to subject the regime to the sovereign will of the people at the ballot box and pave the way for change. Now you also know the reality and the proposal. You can be part of the change and support the right to decide for the Cuban people. Change is in your hands. Join us.