So… Fidel Castro died this past week. The Cuban dictator has ruled the island nation of Cuba with his brother since 1959, when he overthrew the capitalist government of Batista. His governing style ranged from central planning to executions of those who disagreed with the government, and is considered by some to be one of the last remaining nations that was true to Communism. Even that has faded as Fidel began to lose his grip on life. Just this year, Cuba has reopened relations with the West, opened trade with America, and allowed American tourism to flourish once again in Havana and other population centers.Some have rejoiced at his death, while other have been somber and sulk about over this loss. Personally, I am excited to see how this breaking of power in Cuba will affect the way Cuba is run, and whether Cubans become more or less free in how they choose to run their lives.
In order to understand the magnitude of this event, one must understand how Cuba is run and what occurs in Cuba. First, they have a dual currency system, as I like to call it. There is one type of money that is strictly used by the Cuban people, while foreigners are given a different style of money that has much more purchasing power. This had lead to great disparities in the foreign versus native populations to the island. There also is no distinction in payment between jobs. A doctor and dentist are paid the same as the neighborhood baker and construction worker. This seems like it is all well and good, but there are some major drawbacks to this type of system. There is less incentive to become a more specialized professional, and more incentive to choose to be a worker that takes up miscellaneous jobs. There is also a great deal of political persecution. Political prisoners are still held to this day for disagreeing with the way Cuba is run. It seems like this island should have run itself into the ground years ago, but somehow it has managed to stay afloat.
Cuba has managed to stay afloat by two means. The first method is by oppressing its people into silence. As has been made quite obvious over the past several decades, political dissidents are not welcome under the Castro regime, with many still being imprisoned today as i mentioned. There are hundreds of thousands, however, who managed to flee with their families to Florida on rafts and boats that were miraculously able to survive the ninety mile journey to the Florida Keys. Many were turned away by federal immigration patrolmen, and sent back to Cuba. One such incident convinced the city of Key West to take to court the case for several migrants that had reached the shores of America, turning them into refugees and thusly making it impossible to legally return them to Cuba, who were then, contrary to what I just said, were shipped back to Cuba. You can read more about the incident here. The second way they managed to stay afloat was their massive social welfare programs. As of current, the average Cuban citizen (officially) makes approximately $25 per month. Normally, this would seem well below the international poverty line of two dollar per day. However, these low salaries are offset by the massive social welfare programs that the nation of Cuba participates in. The have fully subsidized housing, prepaid healthcare, prepaid education, and so on and so forth. This means that this low salary does not have to go towards many items in the nation.
My thoughts are, now that Castro is dead, the mostly communist government of Cuba will fall soon enough. I am willing to bet that, as I write this, there are several different fringe groups in Cuba that are working around the clock to organize into some sort of revolutionary group to take down the now disheartened Cuban government. These groups, however, will most likely not be necessary, and will only become handy if another radical communist comes to power in the country. I believe that there will be a general trend towards freedom that will start to develop in Cuba. With the culmination of free trade with America, free travel, and the death of a tyrant, I believe that a perfect storm has been created that will serve to better the lives of the Cuban people.