Commentary  Viva la Revolución?

The rise of capitalism in Cuba

In December of 1956, Fidel Castro and his band of revolutionaries descended upon Fulgencio Batista’s oppressive regime from the Sierra Maestra. The guerrilla fighters eventually succeeded in ousting Batista, and a new government arose under the leadership of Fidel. Now, in 2012,  Cuba continues to survive under the leadership of the Castro family, despite the challenges it faces from the capitalist world.

On November 10,  new legislation was enacted that  threatens the foundation upon which Fidel’s government was built. This law allows Cuban citizens and permanent residents to buy and sell real estate; a major break from the socialist housing prevalent since the early days of the revolution. A previous Cuban director of urbanism and agriculture, Mario Coyula, claimed that “wide-scale buying and selling would lead to a “huge rearrangement” in Havana and other cities, as the wealthy move to better areas.” Coyula claims that this rearrangement will “exacerbate class conflict,” while other critics state it will increase homelessness. Despite these concerns,  figures in the Western world, such as Diane Ablonczy, the Canadian minister for Latin America, have applauded the implementation of this new law as a start, or another step, down the road to capitalism.

If travelling down this road is congratulated because it is perceived to be in the interests of the Cuban people, than the applause of the Western world is misled. Cuba’s trek down the capitalist road will be accompanied by social regression and American dominance; as such, a prompt u-turn needs to take place. While Cuba has never been a perfect state, some of the achievements under Fidel’s leadership should act as incentives for a more socialist economic system. For example, Cuba was ranked as the world’s greatest overachiever in a Human Development Report published by the United Nations Development Programme in 2008. This implies that Cuba has achieved tremendously high levels of social development in relation to its income ratings, spurred by its socialist policies. “Social development” in this case refers to such things as health care, life expectancy, and education.

In terms of healthcare, Cuba has the best doctor-patient ratio in the world, with one doctor for every 156 patients. In comparison, the United States has one doctor to serve every 370 patients. Also, the efficiency of the healthcare in Cuba has allowed it to maintain a life expectancy at birth of 79 years, the same level as the US.

In terms of education, the literacy rate within Cuba is 99.9 per cent, and the student teacher ratio is approximately 12 to 1. All education in Cuba is also free. While all of these facts are impressive, they become even more remarkable when one considers that they were achieved despite the US embargo upon Cuba that has been in place since 1962. The embargo is essentially economic warfare against Cuba, as it has cost Cuba an estimated 89 billion in American since its implementation. The injustice of the embargo has been recognized internationally: the UN has overwhelmingly condemned it for the last 20 years, with the most recent vote seeing 186 nations condemning the embargo, and only the US and Israel supporting it.

As such, those who have recognized the failures of the capitalist system should not abandon Cuba as an alternative. The left has a tendency of criticizing everything outside of the ivory tower it safely nests in, and while Cuba does deserve criticism, in this case, the good should not be an enemy to the perfect. Cuba has been a strong check against US imperialism, and its role in providing a framework for the pink tide, a wave of progressive governments coming to power in Latin America which has begun to sweep over Latin America is vital. Though specific aspects of the Cuban government certainly do require liberalization, these flaws can be worked out while moving towards a pure socialist state, and do not require Cuba to regress into becoming the puppet the Western world has always wanted it to be.

Balaclava Discourse is a column written by Davide Mastracci on the structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in society. It appears every other Monday in commentary. You can email him at