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Fidel Castro’s ideological coup d’état on the movement to oust the authoritarian regime of Fulgencio Batista ushered in Cuban communism. From its prenatal state in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, his rhetoric was founded and nurtured upon lies. A complicit American media facilitated the proliferation of all the falsehoods of the closet tropical Marxists. Herbert Matthews— a New York Times reporter who first interviewed Castro in the Oriente province mountains in 1957—lied to the world about the number of “guerrillas” present, their activities, and the socialist inclinations of the Castro brothers. The deceit on the media’s part continues to this day. Axios published on October 5 a pamphleteered piece on Castro’s crooked education claims.
Russell Contreras penned “Hispanic Heritage: Cuba’s Literacy Legacy”. The short note is craftily deceitful and begs the ignorance of the reader to transmit any seriousness. Aside from the fact that the Axios article reaps with the author’s ideological submission to the Castro regime’s propaganda, its untruthful premise is even contradicted by its own citing. To attribute a commendable “legacy” to Castro-Communism (even if it is false), in none other than the October Hispanic Heritage celebration when Latin America has bled and continues to suffer from Havana’s sixty-two-year-old dictatorship’s subversion and imperial control, is a callous insult to Hispanics.
The Axios skewed-article echoes one of the Castro regime’s longtime fabricated themes (the other is health care) which has served it well for disinformation purposes. Contreras seeks to sell, overall, the notion that Cuba’s education indicators reveal a success story that is attributable to the 1959 communist revolution. Cuba has had a successful historical record in fomenting literacy among its citizens. However, this has not been the working of Cuban communism, as the achievements predate it.
In 1957, Cuba had a literacy rate of close to 80%. That was only bettered in Latin America by Argentina, Chile, and Costa Rica. Interestingly, Republican Cuba had in the 1957-1958 higher education school year, 13.5 students per 1,000 inhabitants. On a per-capita basis, this placed the Island ahead of West Germany, France, Japan, Italy, and England. The Cuban female population in the 1950s faired even better, statistically. Cuba had a higher percentage of its student body represented by women than Finland, the United Kingdom, United States, France, Canada, and Denmark.
Axios’ dismal article concedes that pre-communist Cuba had a literacy rate of approximately 80% of its population. It is specifically, however, the Castro regime’s 1961 labeled “literacy campaign”, that Contreras credits the communist dictatorship for having constructed a worthy education “legacy”. In that mentioned “literacy campaign”, the socialist government claimed that it had reached, in less than one year, a 99-100% literacy rate. While the greater point of the author is clearly to exalt communist Cuba as an education powerhouse, it uses this highly publicized endeavor as an admirable feat. Is it really?
Most of the 1961 “literacy campaign” was carried out by “teachers” the Castro regime called “brigadistas” (members of a brigade). Most of them varied in ages between ten and sixteen (italics added). These “teachers” were responsible for supposedly raising the literacy rate of 80% to 99-100% in less than one year. In addition to qualitative qualms about the depth and seriousness of literacy reduction by this politicized scheme of “teachers” not apt to teach, the standards for a nation’s ability to functionally be able to read and write in this timeframe is truly doubtful. Even if the added 20% or 700,000 Cubans who arguably “benefited” from this program were true, this does not make the socialist government a successful basket case. Much less, a tyrannical regime that has a constant and consistent record of committing gross human rights violations and other crimes against humanity, as per the Rome Statutes.
The Axios article shamelessly and, apparently without much investigation or verification of the facts, states that Marxist Cuba’s literacy scheme “has been a model for many other countries”. Consequently, it cites UNESCO’s 2006 recognition of communist Cuba for its pro-literacy influence in “fifteen countries including, Venezuela and Ecuador”. Adding insult to injury, it adds, “Before the campaign, literacy rates in Latin American countries ranged from 44% in Bolivia to 70% in Colombia.”
The Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University coincidently cited by Contreras, affirms that Castro’s 1961 project “was modeled on previous literacy campaigns in Argentina, Brazil, and other parts of Latin America”. Nothing original in communist Cuba’s prototype. The assertion that illiteracy rates were dwindled down across Latin America thanks to Castro-Communism is baseless.
In the 1950s, Ecuador had a literacy rate of 56%. By 1995, it had improved to 90%. This was well before any Cuban communist “educator” got there. The Dominican Republic had a 43% literacy rate in the 1950s decade which increased to 82% by the mid-1990s. Peru had more than half its population unable to read and write in 1950. Yet today, 95% of Peruvians are literate. No Castroite “teacher” here either. These are all United Nations and other official comparative sources.
It has been a long-standing myth that Cuban communism is an education giant. The evidence contradicts this propaganda ploy. It is a shame that media outlets such as Axios play the role of stooges and misinform. The only “legacy” that Castro’s revolution and subsequent dictatorship has left is that of Marxist subversive brigades that invaded every single country in Latin America since 1959 and today is the imperial power that effectively controls Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and holds the reign over subversive movements such as Colombia’s FARC, ELN, Brazil’s Workers Party, Argentina’s Kirchner-Peronism, and others. That infamous legacy is the one that a free press should combat.
Julio M Shiling, political scientist, writer, director of Patria de Martí and The Cuban American Voice, lecturer and media commentator. A native of Cuba, he currently lives in the United States. Twitter: @JulioMShiling // Julio es politólogo, escritor, director de Patria de Martí y The Cuban American Voice. Conferenciante y comentarista en los medios. Natural de Cuba, vive actualmente en EE UU.