Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Health and education

There is a very readable article in the latest issue of Reason magazine by Michael C Moynihan tackling the way sections of media in the US and Britain reported the decision by Fidel Castro to step down as president of the Council of State.

And as you’d imagine, the report card is patchy at best.

As Mr Moynihan points out, most reporters and commentators have had a hard time describing Castro as a dictator and invariably, they have qualified the negatives of the 50-year-old regime by pointing to the “great achievements” of the regime.

You know, the way otherwise intelligent Westerners invariably apologise for the lack of even the most basic of political freedoms on the island by pointing out that well, at least Castro gave Cubans a world class health system and free education.

Mr Moynihan describes these, quite correctly, as canards.

“What all of these … pundits lazily presume is that if the state of Cuban health care and education have markedly improved on Castro's watch, surely the situation was dire during the final years of the Batista dictatorship,” he writes.

“Well, not exactly. In 1959 Cuba had 128.6 doctors and dentists per 100,000 inhabitants, placing it 22nd globally—that is, ahead of France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Finland. In infant mortality tables, Cuba ranked one of the best in the world, with 5.8 deaths per 100,000 babies, compared to 9.5 per 100,000 in the United States.

“In 1958,Cuba's adult literacy rate was 80 percent, higher than that of its colonial grandfather in Spain, and the country possessed one of the most highly-regarded university systems in the Western hemisphere.”

Now, this is not to say that there were no inequalities in Cuba prior to the arrival of Fidel Castro – far from it. And there is no doubt that by late 1958, a majority of Cubans were fed up with Batista and his corrupt and occasionally brutal regime.

But as Mr Moynihan concludes: “Punctual trains and spiffy highway networks hardly mitigate the horror of dictatorship.”

Except when you are Fidel Castro.

H/T Penultimos Dias


Blogger Agustin Farinas said...

The US media is not alone in not being able to call Castro a dictator.
In Argentina not one single TV station or newspaper calls Castro a dictator.
A few months ago, the Paraguay dictator Stroessner died and the TV station annoucer called him a dictator for 30 years who killed 1,200 people from the opposition. After a few minutes, the same TV announcer turned to the subject of Cuba and actually said:
"The President of Cuba Fidel Castro continues to be absent from the TV media although is suspected that his health has improved". Now how is that for a double standard? The one guy from Paraguay was in power for 30 years and Castro near 50, the one in Paraguay killed 1,200 people from the opposition, and Castro's numbers for people killed in Cuba are in the thousands. But yet, one is a dictator, while the other is "the President". You go figure this one out.

10:56 pm  

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