Newsweek magazine just hailed Cuba among “the best Countries in the world,” quality-of-life-wise. “Cuba outdoes its fellow middle-income countries in quality of life,” explained the 1993 “National Magazine Award for General Excellence” winner that recently fetched one dollar on the auction bloc.
Some perspective: Between two and three hundred people (out of an average population of 18 million over the decades) died trying to breach the Berlin Wall or otherwise escape East Germany — no runner-up for the “quality-of-life” award, even by Newsweek standards.
In contrast, between sixty-five and eighty thousand people (out of an average population of 8 million over the decades) have died trying to escape Castro’s Cuba, Newsweek’s “quality-of-life” winner.
German Stalinism is now happily asunder and mourned nowhere. Cuban Stalinism is alive and kicking and lavished with economic succor by many of the same governments who celebrated the collapse of the Iron Curtain. Castro’s fiefdom is also glorified by everyone from PBS to the Congressional Black Caucus to Michael Moore to Newsweek.
“A simple way to take measure of a country is to look at how many want in… And how many want out,” famously quipped Tony Blair. Prior to Castro’s Stalinist coup in 1959, Cuba took in more immigrants (primarily from Europe) as a percentage of population than did the U.S., including the Ellis Island years. In the 1950s, when Cubans were perfectly free to emigrate with all their property and U.S. visas were issued to them for the asking, fewer Cubans lived in the U.S. than Americans lived in Cuba.
“I can see that Cuba is much more impoverished than Haiti,” observed Gelsy Lavéque, a recent Haitian visitor to Cuba. “People here in Cuba are all sad. I watch on Cuban TV how they say Haitians are all poor. But in reality we’re less poor than Cubans. Yes, my family is poor but we have a car. We’re never hungry and were free and generally happy. Cubans, come to Haiti, we have a country much better and happier than yours.”
Fidel Castro converted a nation with a higher per capita income than half of Europe, the lowest inflation rate in the Western hemisphere, a larger middle class than Switzerland, a huge influx of immigrants, and workers who enjoyed the 8th highest industrial wages in the world into one that repels Haitians. And this after being lavished with Soviet subsidies that totaled almost ten Marshall Plans (into a nation of 7 million) — an economic feat that defies not only the laws of economics, but seemingly the very laws of physics.
Most tragically, I daresay that many of the Cuban freedom-seekers died more horrifically than the German freedom-seekers. He’d be loath to admit it, being a Che T-shirt-wearer and all, but Eric Burdon of the Animals wrote a song that resounds with many Cubans: “We gotta get outta this place — if it’s the last thing we ever do!”