Now that Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has cemented himself as the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic Party nomination, the mainstream media are waking up and almost doing their job. MSNBC, CNN, and major newspapers are unearthing comments from the socialist senator that have been in the public realm for years. One stance the press has taken Sanders to task for is his defense of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro since the 1980s and the communist leader’s literacy blitzkrieg following the 1959 revolution. It is ostensibly amateur hour in broadcast newsrooms as Chris Cuomo, Anderson Cooper, and other talking heads failed to expose the reality of Castro’s efforts to help people read and write.
Fidel Castro: The Benevolent Dictator?
On 60 Minutes and in a CNN town hall, Sanders doubled down on his Castro fandom, stating, “I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing.” He then intimated that authoritarian governments have improved conditions for their people, alluding to China having “taken more people out of extreme poverty than any country in history.” While he noted that “truth is truth,” he gets both issues wrong. On Beijing, the country adopted markets 30 years ago and adapted to the global economy to become a powerhouse. On Havana, Sanders provides a quarter of the real story.
When Castro ousted the military dictatorship of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista, the revolutionary did introduce a national literacy initiative. But Sanders would have you believe that nobody on the island could read or write. In fact, the literacy rate before the rise of Castro was close to 80% by 1950, comparable to a handful of other non-Marxist Latin American nations, including Chile and Costa Rica.
But why did Castro initiate a nationwide literacy program? It was part of an overall strategy to indoctrinate the population with Marxist propaganda. Students were taught every element of the iniquitous ideology at all educational levels, reciting communist slogans. The texts concentrated on the history of the revolution and consisted of political messaging against the opposition.
This eventually served as a blueprint for neighboring socialists of that era. Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista National Liberation Front introduced similar indoctrination efforts in Nicaragua’s education system, though the results were less than favorable: 57% in 1970 to 66% in 1995.
It is estimated that Cuba enjoys a 99.7% literacy rate today. While most citizens are literate, Cubans are prohibited from reading books, magazines, and newspapers unless they have been approved or published by the government. Residents are forbidden from accepting publications from foreign markets or tourists. Press freedom is nonexistent, journalists are imprisoned, and Internet access is minimal.
In the end, Sanders would have you believe that Cubans communicated only in grunts until the communists rescued citizens from ignorance. Cuomo and Cooper get only passing grades in their attempted takedown of the socialist frontrunner.
In Socialism We Trust
It is hard to believe anything coming out of the island nation since the government is notorious for manipulating data. Ditto for any authoritarian regime around the world.
In a 2018 Health Policy and Planning article, authors assessed how Havana manipulated the statistics to make its health care look better than it is. Michael Moore and his leftist comrades regularly allude to Cuba’s low infant mortality rates and higher life expectancy, for example. However, doctors “reclassify early neonatal deaths as late fetal deaths” and perform abortions without explicit consent of the mother when ultrasounds reveal abnormalities “to meet government targets for infant mortality.”
Socialists and communists are famous for their five-year plans and hitting arbitrary goals outlined by the state. Since punishments for failing to meet these targets are cruel and extreme, the data can be unreliable and abused. The Soviet Union banned scientific fields that were labeled ideologically suspect. Mao Zedong suppressed Chinese economic data that led to misdistribution of output and the misallocation of resources. The Nazis and the Soviets classified murders committed in the concentration camps and gulags as suicides.
Cuba: A Love Story
The left romanticizes Cuba, a socialist oasis with vintage automobiles, classic hotels, and Afro-Cuban musical delights. It is a time capsule for those who wish to flee the concrete jungle of affluent societies. But while it may seem like a paradise to tourists, Cuba is far from a heavenly place for residents who toil in the nation every day. An oppressive regime, food shortages, and a paucity of freedom are the mainstays of this communist island that is only 90 miles away from the wealthiest nation on the planet. Since the government would welcome an injection of capital from progressive and prosperous Americans, how come prominent leftists have yet to defect to Cuba to enjoy its fabulous health care and teach their children at its marvelous schools?
Read more from Andrew Moran.