by Bil Aulenbach

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A Peek at Cuba

I wrote this blog post at the airport in Havana, Cuba, while Annie and I waited for our flight home. We were in Cuba for only three days, so I realize that my viewpoint is rather limited.

From the moment Annie and I stepped off the plane until we stepped back on, we felt like we had gone back in time to the 1950s. The myriad of old cars, especially convertibles, seemed endless. Most were beautifully maintained by very proud owners.

However, so many of the older buildings were not maintained and were deteriorating to the point of no return. Homes originally built as single-family houses held as many as six families despite very limited facilities. The consequent lack of privacy resulted in a high divorce rate in Cuba.

Cuba is the fifth Communist country Annie and I have visited in our fifty-seven years of travel, and they all have the same issues: the masses live in poverty and the leaders in luxury; the buildings and infrastructure are deteriorating; people are overeducated but can’t find work; vital supplies are limited and therefore always rationed; medical services are free, but medicine is expensive; serious sickness usually means death; most work is unfulfilling; political opposition is not tolerated; the people have difficulty accomplishing anything; military personnel are pampered; and one always has to be very careful of what one says for fear of ending up in prison.

However, when capitalistic practices are allowed, these Communist countries begin to prosper. They develop a mixed economy with elements of both socialism and capitalism, and their people become much more creative and industrious.

Annie’s and my tour guide in Cuba was a highly trained psychiatrist who couldn’t provide for his wife and two young children on $120 a month, so he took an additional job as a tour guide. His tips from escorting our small group for three days amounted to more than he made in a month as a doctor. Most professionals in Cuba work two or three jobs to make ends meet.

Annie and I stayed in Cuba’s version of a five-star hotel and ate in private homes that operated restaurants out of their bottom floors. The food was excellent but also made us feel guilty because it made us realize how the local folks lived. Our guide’s monthly rations consisted of five eggs, some sugar, some flour, half a liter of cooking oil, and a quarter of a chicken per family member—and maybe some soap if he was lucky. Anything additional had to be bought with his own hard-earned money. Yikes!

After seeing Communism in action all these years, I have no doubt about why it eventually fails. In theory, a communist society is a utopia. In reality, communism doesn’t work because it results in the rich few getting richer and the masses sinking into poverty!

However, my biggest beef is not with Communism, but with my own country. The US government’s stance toward Cuba over the last seventy years has been punitive. President Obama did offer a bit of hope when he opened doors to communication and trade with Cuba. But the present administration has fallen back into the game of sticking it to the Commies, which hurts everyone.

During my stay in Cuba, I often fantasized about the United States lifting all embargoes, allowing capitalism to flourish, helping the Cubans develop a great tourism business, and allowing the people to be all they can be. Why can’t the folks in D.C. realize that the best way to kill Communism is to allow democratic ideas to permeate Communist societies? Look no further than China, Vietnam, and Russia for proof.

While in Cuba, I was also very aware that one of the United States’s biggest embarrassments lies on one end of that little island: Guantánamo, where our country illegally holds and tortures people and allows great injustices to flourish in full view of the world. Why does our country insist on doing things that make so many others hate us? We seem to be very good at that.

Annie and I enjoyed our trip to Cuba—it made us appreciate our blessings and reminded us that as Followers of the Way, we should be agents of change through the medium of agape.

Wanna go to Cuba? I hope so!

 

Image courtesy of Pedro Szekely (CC BY-SA 2.0)

3 Responses to A Peek at Cuba

  • You asked: Why can’t the folks in D.C. realize that the best way to kill Communism is to allow democratic ideas to permeate?
    It is interesting that Cuba has much better per capita representation than the USA. with a 605 member ‘Parliament’ which means 1 member per 18,182 comrades.
    USA, as you know, has 435 in Congress: each member represents 758,621 citizens.
    I don’t know what this really means other than in Cuba the State owns the Oligarchs and in the USA the Oligarchs own the State.

    Which do you prefer?

  • I agree with Ashley. While I was attending church camp a couple of years ago, I met a man from Netherlands. He was an adviser to our church president. I asked him what he thought of America. He said capitalism should be considered a crime. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. He said in Netherlands, there are no rich and there are no poor. Everyone gets a nice middle class life.

    Taxes are high but much is provided by their system of government which is a socialistic democracy. If one gets old and needs to live in a assisted living home, those are free of charge. Medical care is also provided free of charge to the individual.

    I have a blind friend who is 97 years old. She has macular degeneration and uses four eye drops. Those eye drop bottles are very small but even with her insurance, they cost her $100. each.

    I had surgery last month and the hospital gave me a cream called Estradiol 0.01% to use. I inquired of my pharmacist what that 1.3 ounce tube would cost me if my doctor wanted to give me a prescription for it. He said it would be $300.

    I don’t have the prescription drug insurance because the only thing I take is a blood pressure pill that costs me $4.00. I can’t afford the prescription drug insurance.

    My supplement for Medicare costs me $291. a month. My rent is $500. a month and my electric bill in this all electric fourplex was $291. in February. And I am better off financially then the other three renters living here. And I can barely afford food and gasoline. Every time my car insurance comes due or my auto registration, I take it out of my meager savings.

    I moved out of my home several years ago because the taxes were eating up my savings.

    So, no, our system of capitalism is certainly not ideal. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

  • Wow, Bil. Go check out our slums, the senior centers, the homeless, the addicts; the US president is a great example of capitalism as is Putin. Socialism is, by far, more equitable, better than the two others mentioned.
    Check out Panama. I spent a month backpacking around. Slums galore, high crime rate, people struggling, while the former president ia probably going to jail for corruption. A capitalist democracy also in Latin America.
    I agree with Margy and Ashley.

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