When Oedipus, the tragic hero of Greek mythology, realized in agony and shame the calamity he had brought his city, he could not bear to see the results of his hubris. Overwhelmed with the knowledge of his wrongdoings, Oedipus stabbed his own eyes out, and went into exile.
In Cuba, Raul Castro, unwilling to change course, simply rewrites the history of the Revolution’s failure and seeks to dress his regime in designer clothing.
By any objective socio-economic measure, pre-Castro Cuba was a relatively advanced country. In the 1950’s Cuba’s infant mortality rate was the best in Latin America and the 13th lowest in the world. In the region Cuba ranked third in per capita food consumption, fourth in literacy, and first in television sets per capita.
Pre-Castro’s Cuba had 58 daily newspapers of different political hues and ranked eighth in the world in number of radio stations. In 1957, Cuba’s 128 physicians per 100,000 inhabitants ranked third in Latin America and ahead of the United Kingdom and Finland.
In 1958, Japan, with four cars per 1,000 inhabitants, was far behind Cuba’s 24 cars. Japan’s current rate is 453 passenger cars per 1,000 people and Cuba’s rate has dropped to 21. In 1957 Cuba’s average wage was higher than that of Belgium, Denmark, France, or Germany.
After 58 years of the reverse alchemy of central planning, Cuba has been transformed from one of the most prosperous countries in the Hemisphere to one of the most miserably poor. Raul Castro’s Cuba is a country anesthetized by fear and plunged into a culture of poverty with average yearly earnings below $250.
Moreover, according to the “Freedom in the World” report by Freedom House, Cuba remains the only country in the Americas deemed “Not Free” with scores in the worst-of-the-worst categories for political rights and civil liberties. Of the 47 countries in the world designated as “Not Free”, only 9 have scores slightly worst than Cuba (North Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Somalia).
Yet, the architects of this tragedy are not disgraced, but honored in Latin America.
Given the abject failure of Cuba’s socioeconomic model, the sycophancy of Latin American leaders towards the Cuban leadership is perhaps best explained as a petulant form of anti-Americanism. It is not that the Cuban revolution has accomplished much for the Cuban people; it has not. It is that the Castros have successfully confronted the goliath of the North. That seems to be what Latin American leaders’ value from the disastrous Cuban experiment.
In “Oedipus at Colonus”, the second play of Sophocles’ trilogy, the exiled king dies cursing his sons to kill each other in battle, and his grave is said to have become sacred to the gods. The Castros have condemned Cuban brothers on each side of the Florida Straits to battle each other, but when the true history of the Cuban tragedy is known, the Castros graves will not be sacred to anyone. History will not absolve them.
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This article was originally published in English in the Miami Herald and in Spanish in El Nuevo Herald.
José Azel, Ph.D.
José Azel left Cuba in 1961 as a 13 year-old political exile in what has been dubbed Operation Pedro Pan - the largest unaccompanied child refugee movement in the history of the Western Hemisphere.
He is currently dedicated to the in-depth analyses of Cuba's economic, social and political state, with a keen interest in post-Castro-Cuba strategies as a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS) at the University of Miami and has published extensively on Cuba related topics.
In 2012 and 2015, Dr. Azel testified in the U.S. Congress on U.S.-Cuba Policy, and U.S. National Security. He is a frequent speaker and commentator on these and related topics on local, national and international media. He holds undergraduate and masters degrees in business administration and a Ph.D. in International Affairs from the University of Miami.
José along with his wife Lily are avid skiers and adventure travelers. In recent years they have climbed Grand Teton in Wyoming, trekked Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Machu Pichu in Peru. They have also hiked in Tibet and in the Himalayas to Mt. Everest Base Camp.
They cycled St. James Way (El Camino de Santiago de Compostela) and cycled alongside the Danube from Germany to Hungary. They have scuba dived in the Bay Islands off the Honduran coast.
Their adventurers are normally dedicated to raise funds for causes that are dear to them.
In Reflections on Freedom, José Azel brings together a collection of his columns published in prestigious newspapers. Each article reveals his heartfelt and personal awareness of the importance of freedom in our lives. They are his reflections after nearly sixty years of living and learning as a Cuban outside Cuba. In what has become his stylistic trademark, Professor Azel brilliantly introduces complex topics in brief journalistic articles. Buy Now
En Reflexiones sobre la libertad José Azel reúne una colección de sus columnas publicadas en prestigiosos periódicos. Cada artículo revela su percepción sincera y personal de la importancia de la libertad en nuestras vidas. Son sus reflexiones después de casi sesenta años viviendo y aprendiendo como cubano fuera de Cuba. En lo que ha resultado ser característica distintiva de sus artículos, el Profesor Azel introduce con brillantez complejos temas en breves artículos de carácter periodístico. Compre Aqui
Mañana in Cuba is a comprehensive analysis of contemporary Cuba with an incisive perspective of the Cuban frame of mind and its relevancy for Cuba's future. Buy now
Pedazos y Vacíos is a collection of poems written in by Dr. Azel in his youth. Poems are in Spanish. Buy now
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