A Look At Some of Fidel Castro’s Positive Achievements
Fidel Castro is dead at 90 years old. The controversial leader of Cuba and scourge of the United States has been suffering from failing health for years and even Cuba’s well-regarded health care system couldn’t keep him alive any longer. Undoubtedly, Castro is a divisive figure, and many accuse him of acting as a tyrant, willing to fill Cuba’s prisons with political opponents and retaining tight control of society through a command economy.
Still, with Castro’s passing, it’ worth taking a look at some of his positive achievements. Castro’s life was interesting, to say the least. He grew up wealthy and privileged, but had a rebellious strike, going as far to help organize a strike on his family’s sugar plantation. His rebellious nature would push him into politics, and eventually to the top of Cuban society.
With his passing, change may be coming to Cuba, and his legacy will be up for debate.
1. Castro Ended Segregation and Fought Racism
Years before the United States ended segregation, Castro outlawed racism in all public places in Cuba. Previously segregated pools and other facilities were opened to use for all. Up until Castro’s rule, Cuba was dominated primarily by white rulers, with darker skinned people treated as second class citizens.
Whites make up less than 65% of the population according to the Cuban government. About 10% of the population are of African descent, and 25% of mestizo descent. Before Castro came into power, these non-white groups were repressed and often forbidden from using “white” facilities.
While the Communist regime has been losing favor among the general population, many Cubans of color continue to support the government. Still, race remains a serious issue. Remittances from the largely white Cuban community in the United States to mostly white Cubans, means that the white community has access to far more funds than the average Cuban of color.
2. Free Education For All
Before Castro swept into office, many Cubans couldn’t read or write. One of the first steps Castro took upon assuming power was to encourage university students to head out into rural areas to teach people how to read and write. These efforts would eventually evolve into free education for all, something now common in developed countries but then practically unheard of in developing countries like Cuba.
Cuba now has a literacy rate of about 99.8%, which is actually higher than the literacy rate in the United States. For comparison, Mexico’s literacy rate comes in at only about 94%, while Brazil enjoys a rate of only 92%. While Cuba lacks access to the resources of a country like the United States, they have done a remarkable job educating their citizens.
3. Solid Universal Health Care
Embargoes have crippled Cuba’s economy, and accessing medical supplies on the island can be difficult. Still, Cuba enjoys a solid health care system, having previously been provided with substantial aid and support by the now defunct Soviet Union.
Approximately half of the island’s doctors fled following the Cuban revolution, leaving Cuba is a tough spot. Still, the right to health care was enshrined into the Cuban constitution, and over the years the government was able to greatly expand the number of physicians in the country. Regardless, actually receiving treatment, and especially advanced treatment, is difficult owing to a lack of supplies. The doctors are there to provide treatment, but they often lack the supplies needed to provide treatment.
Public health measures have also been exceptional. Near universal vaccinations have all but eliminated numerous serious diseases, such as tuberculosis. HIV has been tightly controlled on the island, and malaria is less of an issue than it is in other tropical developing countries.