When Canadians think about where they want to go on vacation they tend to want to go somewhere that is relaxing, relatively close, inexpensive and sunny.
There is one place that checks off all of the boxes and has few of those “pesky, brash Americans” to boot.
You even get to log off for a week which is so relaxing that you forget social media is there because Cubans are governed by a repressive regime that limits internet access to prevent its citizens from seeing outside news.
The Issue in Cuba
The 1950s architecture and automobiles are so quaint and interesting. On the tours you go on, you hear about how great Cuban healthcare and education is; so great you almost see the justification for limiting the liberties of the Cuban people.
You think to yourself, “if this is what socialism is; it can be quite good.” That was the mantra of many of the tourists, excusing Cuba’s brutal communist regime. This mantra was echoed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who eulogized Cuba’s former dictator Fidel Castro upon his death, where he lauded their health care and called him a “legendary revolutionary”.
A Brief History of the Circumstances in Cuba
Trudeau said that his father, former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, called him a friend. Canadians rarely see the ugly side to Cuba’s socialism.
Before 1959 Cuba was a prosperous nation, led by Fulgencio Batista. He was a dictator of sorts but was seen to be in the process of transitioning to democracy. He was widely considered to be a non-violent Pinochet.
Batista was staunchly anti-communist which made him an American ally in the age of the Cold War. There was a violent revolution in 1959 led by Fidel Castro that overthrew the government. Castro and his following immediately started executing dissidents, ultimately murdering thousands of Cubans.
He exiled all religious figures. He was a brutal homophobe who executed gays and even suspected gays. He imprisoned a larger percentage of his citizens than both Stalin and Hitler.
Millions of Cubans fled, and many drowned. He impoverished the country.
The government rationed the food and it was inadequate. The healthcare, that is often internationally lauded as a positive for socialism, was abysmal. There was a two-tier system where Castro and his family, along with foreigners who paid cash, received top-notch health care. The remainder of the country, trapped in poverty, received substandard care. Today, Jay Nordlinger of the National Review described the conditions:
“Hospitals and clinics are crumbling. Conditions are so unsanitary, patients may be better off at home, whatever home is. If they do have to go to the hospital, they must bring their own bed sheets, soap, towels, food, light bulbs — even toilet paper. And basic medications are scarce… The equipment that doctors have to work with is either antiquated or nonexistent. Doctors have been known to reuse latex gloves — there is no choice.”
As for the education it was filled with pro-regime propaganda and the students were cut off from information about the outside world.
Why Canadians Should Not Vacation in Cuba
The Americans severed relations with Cuba under President John Kennedy in 1961 who imposed a commercial and financial embargo on the state.
Travel between the United States and Cuba was suspended. This, of course, was during the Cold War, when Cuba was aligned with the communist Soviet Union and it was a strong signal that the United States stood against communism, and for liberty.
Cuban apologists point to the embargo as the source of Cuban poverty but before the embargo, the foreign aid was funnelled to the Castro family. In 2008, Fidel’s brother Raul took over to follow his brother’s legacy as a tyrannical dictator and he has hand-picked his successor to lead Cuba in 2021.
In 2015, US President Barack Obama restored diplomatic relations, which normalized Cuba in the eyes of many Americans.
We cannot forget that Cuba is a brutal dictatorship and we ought not to vacation there. If you have family or friends planning to travel there, strongly encourage them to make other plans. It is not moral to vacation there and spend money, that will only go to the regime.