Home > Politics > >Go to Cuban paradise. Return from Cuban hell.

>Go to Cuban paradise. Return from Cuban hell.

>What do Sean Penn, Danny Glover, Jesse Jackson, Oliver Stone, George McGovern, Ted Turner, Steven Spielberg and Katie Couric all have in common?

They love Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

So did British socialist Neil Clark who went to Cuba seeking paradise but found a country where the average person lives in abject poverty and without enough food each month to make ends meet.

Neil Clark says that he went to Havana in search of a left-wing Utopia and discovered instead an island fortress of poverty, corruption and currency apartheid.

It’s a country where the vast majority live in poverty, while a tiny, corrupt elite live in luxury. It’s a place where, 14 years after South Africa abolished apartheid, a form of it still operates. And it’s a country where you can be threatened with prison not just for criticising the country’s leadership, but also for querying a medical bill.

Welcome to Cuba, the ‘socialist’ paradise built by that great egalitarian Fidel Castro, who after 49 years at the helm has finally decided to hand over power — in the manner of a true democrat — to his brother Raúl.

My wife and I, as unreconstructed paleo-lefties who support Clause Four, free school meals and NHS dental provision, had long wanted to visit Castro’s Cuba. All the people whose views we respect had said that the Caribbean island was a progressive model whose policies on education and healthcare ought to be copied throughout the world. We went there last April desperately wanting to like the place — after all, if George W. Bush and other right-wing nasties hated Cuba so much, then the country must be on the right tracks.

But we returned home terribly disillusioned. Neither of us had been to a country which was so utterly decrepit.

Stay on the officially approved tourist trail round the newly renovated streets of ‘Old Havana’ and you’d get the impression that Cuba was a tropical version of Switzerland. There are smart restaurants, designer shops and modern hotels. Wander a few streets away, however, and you’ll witness scenes of incredible dereliction. Dilapidated buildings with wires hanging out, streets that haven’t been resurfaced for more than 50 years, balconies that look like they’re going to fall down at any minute. In my travels in the Middle East and Asia, I’ve certainly witnessed squalor, but nothing prepared me for the back streets of Havana.

The average wage in Cuba is a pitiful $17 a month. The monthly ration which includes 283g of fish, 226g of chicken, ten eggs and 1.8kg of potatoes is barely enough for a fortnight, meaning most Cubans need to work the black market to stay alive. Things that we in Britain take totally for granted — such as toilet paper, toothpaste and pens — are luxury goods in Cuba. I’ll never forget the look of joy from an old lady when I handed her a couple of old marker pens and a coloured pencil.

For Fidel’s chums, life is somewhat easier. Despite its calls for further belt-tightening, the Cuban government last year ordered Series 1, 3 and 5 BMWs for all its ambassadors and a Series 5 model for Raúl Castro, who had taken charge of the country after his brother’s hospitalisation.

The heartbreaking consequences of Cuba’s currency apartheid were bought home to my wife and I on a Saturday afternoon visit to Havana’s Coppelia ‘Ice Cream’ park. To the right of the park gates was a long queue of Cubans who had only Cuban pesos. They have to wait on average two hours every weekend to get their weekly scoop of ice cream. On the left, there was walk-in access to tourists and the lucky locals who had convertible pesos. Fifty years on, the Cuban revolution has turned full circle in a truly Orwellian fashion. Once again the locals find themselves excluded from the best beaches in their country, as they were under Batista. And prostitution, so rife in pre-revolutionary days, is back — the jineteras being the only group of Cubans allowed to enter the new purpose-built resorts.

US sanctions are routinely blamed by Cuba’s defenders for the country’s plight. But while sanctions are harsh and morally indefensible, there’s little doubt that they have been used by the regime as a smokescreen to cover up inefficiencies and corruption. Four years ago the head of the country’s largest tourism company, Cubanacan, was fired after millions of dollars went missing — the loss only coming to light after all state enterprises were ordered to transfer their US dollars into convertible pesos.

The totalitarian nature of Castro’s Cuba is no right-wing myth, but a reality. And you don’t have to be a political agitator to fall foul of the authorities, as my wife and I discovered. We had been told by our holiday rep that the hotel’s resident nurse would administer free basic medical care, but if we required the call-out services of a local doctor, we’d have to pay. After a day’s snorkelling I had a touch of ear-ache, so I popped along to the nurse’s office to ask if she had any medication. The nurse was a man, who after the most cursory examination of my ear pronounced that I had an infection which required antibiotics. How much would the antibiotics cost, I asked. About £60, he replied. As we were returning home later that day, I told him that I’d leave it till I got back. ‘Yes, but you still have to pay me £30 for this consultation,’ he replied. ‘But the services of the nurse are free,’ I said. ‘I’m a doctor,’ he replied.

Furious at being taken for a ride, my wife and I refused to pay and headed back to our room. But on trying to check out of the hotel later that morning, we were astonished to be told by the receptionist that if we did not settle the medical bill, she would ‘call state security’ and we would be arrested. We would not be allowed out of the country — ‘state security’ would apprehend us at the airport. The ‘doctor’ then reappeared to say that the rate — which had been set in stone — was after all negotiable, and that he’d accept £25. Forced into the corner and threatened with a night (at least) in a Cuban jail, we reluctantly paid up. ‘It’s nothing more than theft,’ I said to the ‘doctor’ as I handed over the money. ‘It doesn’t go to me,’ was his response. ‘It goes to the state.’

If the money from such scams really did go to the state — and towards improving the lot of the Cuban people — I wouldn’t have been so upset. But I strongly suspect that a share of my £25 will go towards the next fleet of BMWs for Castro’s cronies.

After the stress of our final day in Cuba, my wife and I were hugely relieved to leave the country. And when we were safely airborne, we both reflected that if any country was in need of a revolution, it was Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

And this is the place that Michael Moore holds up as a bastion of utopian health care.

The term Useful Idiots certainly applies not only to Cuba-lovers but also to those who support Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and, unfortunately, a bunch of other totalitarian regimes.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Politics
  1. February 28, 2008 at 7:13 am

    >Wow, this is great, I must link to it. And I will add my bits to all of Castro’s useful idiots:LOL! Propaganda is something you disagree with, right? Or is it just something you don’t want to hear? Of course Castro and his useful idiots would call anything anti-Cuba to be propaganda.Great Health Care in Cuba? That’s a laugh, look at the facts, their health care system for the AVERAGE Cuban is a total scam, it is absolutely shameful. Their education may be good but at what price? The kids even as young as 7 or 8 have to show up for protests and rallies and get a card signed to prove to their teachers that they were there. If not, it goes on their record forever. They are taught how to use huge military weapons. They are taught and told to turn their parents in for speaking against the state in their homes.There are so many Castro apologists out there it’s just amazing. It’s scary actually. They should but probably never will check the facts; he murdered thousands of his fellow citizens. Even if he had created a ‘perfect’ society, would executing and imprisoning and torturing thousands be acceptable? Of course not. And on top of that the health care of the regular people is ship shod at best.Rarely is there any medicine, and if so it’s usually expired drugs from Canada, not even aspirin is easy to come by. And also, you can only get aspirin by prescription, and they put the aspirin into little paper bags instead of little plastic bottles. Don’t blame the Embargo, there are plenty of other countries that can sell them drugs. The hospitals for regular people are filthy, roach infested hell-holes with feces and rusting equipment all over. Rich foreigners and Cuba’s leaders get the nice hospitals. 97% of the people work for the government, the average wage is $19 a month. Yes. Even for the doctors. Many of whom work like slaves working on rich foreigners who pay less than they would in the USA to make BIG $$$ for Cuba Inc. Look at the pictures you can find all over the place, like at http://www.therealcuba.comThere are shortages of everything. LOOK AT THE PICTURES of stores for tourists and the ones for regular Cubans. Communism doesn’t work, period. It does for ants and maybe robots but not people. A commune can work, but not communism.Castro is total garbage who has killed, imprisoned and tortured (and we’re not talking about just pouring water on people either) thousands of innocent Cubans in his failed pursuit of an unattainable communist paradise.Btw, here’s an article that you will really hate:Breaking News: Psychiatrist finds that liberals are crazy!http://wizbangblog.com/content/2008/02/25/breaking-news-psychiatrist-finds-that-liberals-are-crazy.phpBut we still love you moon bats, we won’t give up on you. Please get well soon!*HUGS* .absurd thought -God of the Universe sayspolitics is religionfeeling is most importantthinking is not required.absurd thought -God of the Universe saysclaim to care for peoplecall yourself progressiveyour policies hurt poor folk.absurd thought -God of the Universe saysgo ahead be dictatorjust make sure to do it rightlet your people make money.absurd thought -God of the Universe thinkskeep trying communismyou can never KILL too muchpursuing Utopia….http://authoritarianism.blogspot.com/http://www.therealcuba.com/:).

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