Fifty years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, the big question about the Cuban revolution is not whether it was justified, but whether it was worth it. From all available evidence, it wasn't.
A dispassionate look into Cuba today shows that, while the country has reduced the pockets of extreme misery that existed during the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship, a majority of Cubans are poorer and have fewer opportunities to improve their lives than they did five decades ago.
Cubans today have a pretty low per capita income compared with other Latin American nations. They have fewer television sets, telephones, computers and cars relative to their population than most Latin American countries, and the lowest percentage of people with access to the Internet in the region, even below Haiti.
And while Cuba does well in literacy and infant mortality indicators, it does lousy in others. Cuba has one of the highest suicide rates in the Americas.
Before we get into my own impressions from when I was a frequent visitor to the island in the early 1990s, let's look at the facts.
On the plus side, Cuba has a 99.8 percent adult literacy rate, one percent higher than Trinidad and Tobago's, and an infant mortality rate of six per 1,000 people, slightly lower than Chile's, according to the United Nations' 2008 Human Development Report. That makes it the country with the best adult literacy and infant mortality rates in the region.
But according to the U.N. 1957 Statistical Yearbook, Cuba already ranked among the four most advanced Latin American countries in literacy and caloric consumption rates that year, and had the lowest infant mortality in the region. In other words, Cuba has gone up three places in the literacy ranking, while retaining its status as the nation with the region's lowest infant mortality rates.
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