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Fidel Castro: 'History will absolve me.' What 'social triumphs' can Cubans claim 70 years on?

To defend his actions, Castro pointed to the 'terrible tragedy' that Cuba was suffering in six areas: land, industrialization, housing, unemployment, education and public health.

La Habana
Ilustration. Diario de Cuba

In his justification of his actions that went down in history for his statement that "History will absolve me," during the trial against him for his failed attacks on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes barracks, on 26 July, 1953, Fidel Castro cited the "terrible tragedy" that Cuba was experiencing, identifying six key problems: land, industrialization, housing, unemployment, education and public health.

Seven decades later, the regime has not been able to provide a lasting solution to any of them, and the country's current reality is triggering an unprecedented migration crisis, which, in turn, gives rise to other problems, like a waning and aging population.

One of Castro's promises was to put land in the hands of those who worked it. After his two agrarian reform laws, however, most of it ended up in the hands of the State. The subsequent handover of land in usufruct has not resulted in true autonomy for farmers and ranchers. The regime remains the main owner and, whenever it deems fit, expropriates lands and maintains control over their production.

The result is that the fields do not produce, and crops rot while Cubans go hungry, despite legislation like the Food Sovereignty Law.

Last May Cuba's Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Alejandro Gil Fernandez acknowledged a drop in available food levels: vegetables eggs, milk, rice, and beans, among others.

In the same month, the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI) published figures indicating that between January and March of this year, despite the regime investing in Agriculture somewhat more than in the same period in 2022, this outlay item only received 2.9% of total investments, compared to the 23% allotted to Business and Real Estate and Rental Services, which includes buildings for tourism.

Cuba does have a national Agri-Food Program, but the regime's investment scheme, in addition to its control over the land and producers, prevents compliance with it.

Industry, cited by Fidel Castro 70 years ago as among those issues that had to be resolved in Cuba, today exhibits remarkable inefficiency, forcing recourse to foreign investment and the private sector, once demonized by the late dictator.

In April Economy Minister Alejandro Gil asked: "what is our (industrial) potential, and how can we exploit it? "We cannot have Cuban industry idle with the high rates of unsatisfied demand that exist in the country," he said.

Gil asked for "an inventory of industry, one defining its potential" and admitted the failure of the State's control policies: "In the face of what we cannot do at the State level, that for which financing is not arriving, (we must seek) productive ties to other forms of economic management on the island," he suggested.

He insisted on "the need to link up with micro, small and medium enterprises, as these are important investors that, through cooperative production agreements, can help revitalize national industry."

In April analyst Rafaela Cruz pointed out in DIARIO DE CUBA that "from 2018 to 2021 the remuneration of workers in the sector plunged by 25%, which may be behind the fact that the industrial percentage within the country's total labor force fell, with the production of intermediate goods dropping by 20%, and that of final goods by 16%."

"Although there is no data yet for 2022, taking into account the linear relationship between industrial production and electricity consumption, the historic (in their intensity) blackouts that occurred last year certainly had an impact on industrial production's steady suicidal trend."

Housing is one of the most chronic problems in Cuba. On July 19, a week before the 70th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada Barracks, the National Assembly of Popular Power reported the existence of almost 60,000 houses with dirt floors detected in Cuba, and 9,000 tenements, while also announcing that the housing construction plan would not be implemented in 2023 either.

Moreover, the question of employment cannot be considered solved in Cuba after six decades of  "Revolution" and seven after Castro’s famous "History will absolve me."

The results of the 2022 National Employment Survey conducted by the Government indicate that employment was down by almost a quarter of a million people compared to 2020.

According to the survey's official report, "employment in 2022 was at 4,680,928. With respect to 2020, it was down 4.71%, which represents a decrease of 231,364 employees."

The main problem with employment in Cuba, however, is that workers cannot meet their basic needs with their wages, and many, despite having formal jobs, have to engage in illegal activities to survive.

Meanwhile, the high employment figures that Cuba has posted with respect to other countries have been achieved thanks to inflated staffs and the threat of "pre-criminal dangerousness" charges, which, before being struck from the current Criminal Procedure Law, was used to send hundreds of unemployed Cubans to prison.

For a long time Education and Health were the crown jewels of the dictatorship, which used them to justify, from their point of view, the lack of political freedoms on the island.

In the case of Education, indoctrination was portrayed as a fair price to pay in exchange for receiving quality education, free of charge.

Today, not only has it been proven that Cubans pay for education, but that it ceased to be of high quality a long time ago.
The lack of teachers, which the regime has struggled to resolve for years with stopgap solutions like such as trainee teachers, the training of comprehensive, general teachers, and televised classes, has resulted in a progressive loss of quality in classes and graduates' educations.

The humanitarian crisis that Cuba is enduring, prompting requests for help to obtain basic medicines and treatments abroad, and the lack of medical resources and personnel, expose the current situation as regards health, portrayed as free by the regime's propaganda with the aim of turning Cubans into eternal debtors of the Revolution.

The sad state of each of the problems cited by Fidel Castro to defend himself in 1953 forces us to ask what exactly Cubans were celebrating on July 26, and what they will celebrate when the country marks 70 years since "History will absolve me" and 65 since the "Revolution."

What social triumphs are left for Cuba to uphold?

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It’s been a long, long time. Cuban citizens need an external communications plan. An external communications plan sets the stage for a full campaign on current Cuban issues an events.