Upon reading the two articles of March 17 and 18 in which members of the Venceremos Brigade describe their personal feelings and experiences while in Cuba, one cannot help but to notice the lack of any factual information to support their feelings. It seems that the members of the Brigade have done no research into Cuba's past. The reader cannot but conclude, according to their interpretation, that in 1959 Castro took a poor, underdeveloped, semi-feudal state and by the power of his personality and by the overwhelming support of the Cuban people turned Cuba into a model society for the world to admire.
It is our aim to present the shocking reality of the present Cuban situation without defending any past regimes. Facts available from international sources describe Cuba today as a regimental society lacking freedom and lacking respect for the basic rights of man under government.
Do the majority of Cubans favor Castro? The only way of knowing would be through free elections. Cuba has not had any such elections since 1948. The criminal and corrupt dictatorship of Batista could not afford the risk of allowing free elections. Although Castro's revolutionary July Manifesto from Sierra Maestra formally outlined free elections to take place after one year. Castro's dictatorship (like Batista's) has not been able to afford the risk of allowing free elections.
The large number of Cubans with varied economic and educational backgrounds seeking political refuge in countries throughout the world gives a clue to the real feelings of the Cuban people. Total emigration from Cuba since 1959 has been estimated at 1.250,000 persons of which 850.000 are in the United States. From December 1965 to this very day, two planeloads of Cubans leave their country every day for the United States. A similar exodus occurs on a smaller scale to Mexico and Spain (the only other countries that fly to Cuba). There are long lists of people waiting to leave. Desperation has forced many to brave the Florida straits in fragile crafts. More than 15.000 Cubans have reached the U.S. coast in this way. The case of a young soldiers who fled Cuba in the nose wheel landing compartment of a Spanish airliner certainly is memorable.
The figures mentioned above are easily verified through the U.S. Department of Immigration, the Mexican Embassy, and the Spanish Embassy. The Cuban government forbids anybody under military obligation (15 to 2? years of age) to leave the country. Many families there fore have remained in Cuba because they will not leave their young sons behind. There are no military deferments of any kind in Cuba. It is interesting to note those who visited Cuba recently and oppose the draft in their own country readily accept Cuban militarism. It is also interesting to remember Castro's statement that "no man should be forced to bear arms" made in his first public speech in 1959.
Cuba's past underdevelopment is a myth. Dependence on agriculture is one of the signs of underdevelopment in a nation. A 1953 census revealed that only 30.5 per cent of the Cuban population labored in agriculture compared to the average of 55 per cent for the rest of South America (from the book Underdeveloped Countries by Ives Lacoste. Buenos Aires, 1962). A national income of 2.200 million dollars ranked Cuba 40th out of 91 countries studied in the "Atlas of Economic Development" by Professor Morton Ginzberg, Chicago University Press. 1961. It ranked fifth in Latin America. Studies by H. T. Oshima of Stanford University, California showed per-capita income in Cuba to have risen to ?520 in 1956-1957, thus placing it third in Latin America and 31st in the world.
Anibai Escalante, one of Cuba's Communist leaders, admitted ( Verde Oliro. July 30- 1961) that Cuba had one of the highest standards of living in the Western hemisphere prior to the Revolution. The 1953 census showed that Cuba had 55?.780 units of housing, or one for every 12.9 inhabitants: that 23.9 per cent of the Cuban labor force worked in the industrial sector. A total of 2,340 industries existed in 1953. Their production annually amounted to half the national product. Only half this amount was obtained from sugar production.
The level of Cuban education was very high as acknowledged by UNESCO in 1960. Cuba had fifty thousand university-trained teachers. Public elementary schools had an enrollment of 200.000. There were six universities on the island, of them three private and three public with no tuition. Cuban texts were used in several other Latin American countries. About 80 per cent of the population could read and write. The U. N. statistical yearbook of 1?5? shows Cuba having 3.8 university students per 1000 ??????, well above the 2.6 average for Latin America. ( Sta???? Annual of the U. N., 1959 )
The Cuban economy has been described as an ominous c????? Che ????? said in an article for Verde Olivo Magazine of April 9, 1961 (quoted from the book Che
Guevara Speaks, Merit Publishers, N.Y., p. 27): "We the underdeveloped are also those with monoculture, with the single product, with the market. A single product whose uncertain sale depends on a single market that imposes and fixes conditions that is the great formula for imperialist economic domination." Castro nevertheless continued to concentrate on producing 10 million tons of single crop sugar. The imperialist market is monopolized by the U. S. S. R. Export of previously thriving tobacco is almost nonexistent. In 1958 Cuba exported cattle to South America: but in 1967, 1968, and 1969 cattle had to be imported from Canada (from figures by the Canadian Trade Commission). There is a great scarcity of consumer goods, as witnessed by numerous photographs which have appeared in the news media.
In his July 1957 Manifesto, in addition to outlining free elections. Castro gave an absolute guarantee of freedom of information and a guarantee to uphold all individual and political rights of the 1940 Constitution. All of these inalienable rights are considered mortal sins if mentioned today in Cuba. In an interview which appeared in Playboy in 1967. Castro himself declared that "only what the government wants is published." In a panel discussion held at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Wellesley on February 27, 1970. Rev. Russell Johnson, who visited Cuba recently, agreed that Cuba now has a totalitarian regime. In a speech given December 2, 1961. Castro himself declared to have been a Communist for much of his life. He said that he had found it necessary to conceal this fact prior to the Revolution and also to conceal the real nature of his movement in order to gain power. Thus deceitfully he acquired power with the help of the majority of the Cuban people. The Communist Party numbered only 30.000 members in 1952. Castro has broken his word many times. It is difficult to understand how some people who complain about the credibility gap of their own government can ignore Castro's flagrant breaches of truth.
Cuba has turned into an armed camp. Estimates are that there are 210.000 serving in the various branches of the armed forces. The secret police numbers about 10.000 strong ( U.S. News and World Report. March). Regimentation is constantly focused on the young. In 1967, Marino di Medici. correspondent for Rome's I? Tempo, wrote of Cuba: "More than 100.000 young people with government scholarships are studying under strict vigilance. Parents who refuse to send their sons to the government schools run the risk of losing their rationing cards with which they obtain food." Medici writes further: "The sight of young people dressed in light uniforms, marching and practicing gymnastics, left me with a violent impression. They reminded me of the years of Fascist Italy, when I too as a young boy, was forced to march with the others in my youth group."
Members of the Venceremos Brigade claimed in a panel discussion in the Old West Church that they saw empty cells in what was once used as Batista's political prisons. Marino di Medici writes of his visit to Cuba; "The spectre of forced labor camps is gathering over millions of Cubans. These camps were established in late 1965 and now have some 80.000 persons . . . in addition to these, some 50.000 political prisoners lie in jails such as the ignominious Le Cabana fortress (dungeons from Spanish colonial times in Havana). The International Red Cross has been denied time and time again access to these political prisons." Di Medici continues: "George Orwell's 1984 with its fantasy about Big Brother is a reality in today's Cuba." In every city there exists a Committee for the Defense of the Revolution for every street. Followers of Castro serve in the ranks of this complicated neighborhood spy system.
We have tried to present a few facts about the present regime in Cuba which are willfully or ignorantly overlooked by those not speaking Spanish or knowing little about Cuba's history and customs who visit Cuba and return to their own country as so-called "experts" on the Cuban Revolution. They are merely passing on information given to them by the Cuban government. To substantiate this, it is only necessary to read their article appearing in the CRIMSON on March 18 to find out who served as their guides.
The much applauded distribution of wealth, even if true, could not ever justify the repression imposed on the Cuban people. Thousands of executions and jail sentences have been handed down to those human beings whose only crime was opposing not the genuine revolution but Castro's mockery of socialism. Let it be understood that the majority of Cubans favored a revolution, but one where every faction is included and everybody is permitted to participate in the government. Such a description hardly fits Cuba today. The Cuban dissenters are now dead or exiles in different countries. We will eventually return to Cuba. We do not attempt to ask of the United States any special policies to overthrow Castro. We are only talking to the American people as Cubans. In the United States Castro's repression cannot silence us.