Cuban Education & Healthcare

The following short documentary is interesting not just for its look at Cuban healthcare and education but also due to its Japanese persepective.

Japan is one of the most equal and wealthy societies with more of a collectivist persepective than Western nations and has a good healthcare system.  However the panelists on the following show believe there’s much to learn from Cuba (one of the worlds poorest countries thanks to a brutal US blockade).

I’ve also included some enlightening interviews with US medical students studying in Cuba.

US medical students in Cuba

16 thoughts on “Cuban Education & Healthcare”

  1. Do we really have to sacrifice our liberal rights to guarantee social rights? The Castros have been there too long…

  2. There is an interesting new work related to this by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better. Its referred to by Johann Hari here and worth a look.

    Wilkinson is renowned for his income inequality thesis in public health studies, which argues that the more egalitarian a society is (in the advanced industrialised countries, his focus), the better health indicators it enjoys. Focusing on psycho-social indicators, he looks at why Greece, for example, has better overall health than a wealthier income country like the US.

  3. You can find also lots of equality in places such as Singapur (which Milton Friedman called a ‘benevolent dictatorship’).

    There is equality and Equality. For example, you can be all poor. If you look at the social indicators of Costa Rica you will see that it is No. 48 in the HDI (Cuba is 51). In fact, for all the Cuban myth (32), it performs no better than Costa Rica (24) in life expectancy…

    Responding before hand at the other point made in this documentary, the bloqueade only affects US goods, and if you been there you see plenty of Canadian and European investors. In fact, up to the end of the Soviet Union, Cuba recieved between 5 and 7 billion US dollars in subsidies. Now it recieves between 2 and 3 billion a year from Venezuela in subsidies (well they call it exchange of doctors for oil).

  4. As discussed a while back on fanonite the experience of Costa Rica and Cuba is very different.

    Costa Rica has enjoyed favoured access to the US economy and favourable tariffs for quite a while.Cuba is in line for a 5th decade of sanctions.

    The other thing is that Costa Rica abolished its Army , thus tacitly making the US its informal protectorate.Cuba has had to spend a lot on its military simply to fight off numerous attempts by the US , a lesser though similar process to the manner in which the US bled resources dry in the latter days of the Soviet Union.

    The price Costa Rica pays for its billing on the indices mentioned is that it is a major plank of The Monroe Doctrine , housing and supplying US backed militias that cause havoc in the rest of the region and neighbouring countries , and also making its diplomatic offices available to the whims of US Foreign policy in the form of being a clutch of nations ( along with the Solomon Islands) that constantly support US/Israeli actions.

    Whilst Cuba may be sending Doctors for Oil , Costa Rica has a documented track record of facilitating Death squads/militias CIA operations.

  5. Cuban armed forces have been a complete waste of money. They would had never been able to stop a US invation had this really occured ever. They would not have made it painful enough to give the US second thoughts about invading. If an invation never occurred was because of the deal struck by Krushev and Keneddy about the missiles in Cuba and Turkey.

    Yes Costa Rica had support death squads in the past in the same way that Cuba send it soldiers to Anglola and sponsored armed invations to Venezuela in the 1960s and supported guerilla groups in Colombia and Peru in the 1970s and 1980s.

    Costa Rica does not have an army, because in the modern world you do not need an army since conventional symetric wars do not happen in Latin America anymore.

    The price of being a plank to the The Monroe Doctrine is as costly as being the plank to the Soviet Empire.

    I am just pointing out that the Cuban dictatorship is an anacronysm in the modern world.

  6. That may be the case.

    But the Soviet relations came , as with Ho Chi Minh , when overtures to the US were rebuffed.

    I dont think the Costa rica policy of not having an army is neccessarily borne out of a great sophisticated concept of assymetrical understanding , but rather the surrendering the copyright to military matters to the US doctrine pure and simple.

    The cost of being a plank of the Monroe doctrine , as discussed , is that Costa rica has favourable access and tariff agreements which make it a winner in the US authored Trade agreements.

    Taking this into account the indices mentioned earlier could be taken as favouring Cuba in that with the favourable access Costa Rica enjoys , and the blacklisting Cuba suffers , the quality of life in Costa Rica is only marginally better than Cuba.

    It would be interesting to see how the indices would compare if Cuba had the same access to the US market that Costa rica has.

  7. So, let me see… what you are arguing is that the only way a country has to develop and reaching a high standard of life is by trading with the US.

    I am sorry to contradict this, but Cuba had all the Soviet Block market plus Canada, China, Japan and the whole of Western Europe. Plus a very important subsidy that Costa Ricar never had…

    An let me also be clear.. during the Soviet era Cuba was had no independent foreign policy and even supported the invation of Aghanistan and send soldiers there (Costa Rica by the way did not send troops to Vietnam)

    Costa Rica also recognised the PRChina and cut ties with Taiwan in 2007 (something that Nicaragua has not done even under Ortega)… and under the first government of Oscar Arias, Costa Rica articulated the Esquipulas II accord that left out the US from the negotiations that lead to peace in Nicaragua and in El Salvador.

    By no means I am suggesting that anyone has an independent Foreign Policy, but to believe that Cuban foreign policy was historically more independent towards the USSR than the Costa Rican towards the US is a mistake…


  8. As discussed before Cuban Policy was directed by US closing all diplomat options and market access and supporting numerous coup attempts.Cuba , like Vietnam , could very easily have been taken out of the Soviet orbit if the US had engaged them early.

    The US sanctions came first and not as a result of any Cuban alignment to the Soviet Union.

    The Costa Rican choosing of relations with PRC over and above Taiwan is hardly a slap in the Face of the US , the US has been trading with China for many decades , it is a natural and US Trade policy compatible choice.

    The evolution of the Esquipulas II accord is that it was initially the Esquipulas Accord , but had to be re-written as the “II” over US objections to the initial accord.So the theses that the US was left out is only nominally accurate.

    As we have discussed before , it would be very difficult for Costa Rica to sends troops to Vietnam if they do not have an Army.

    I am sure the Japanese and Canadians will be most surprised to learn that they were a major reason for the survivabilty of Cuba for the last 40 years.

  9. Cuba survived thanks to the military backing and inmense financial support of the Soviet Union and one of the most represive regimes in the continent. My point on Japanese, Canadian and EU markets is that contrary to the myth of a total blockade, Cuba has always had these markets to trade with (the Toricelli law was a futail attempt to stop this).

    Again, my initial point: Do we always have to sacrifice liberal rights to guarantee social rights?

    Costa Rica has no army, and yest it is subordinated to the US hegemony (no more by the way than Cuba was to the USSR).

    Costa Rica’s recognision of China was a slap in the face of the US who lobbied very hard to make it stay in the previous position with regards to Taiwan.

    Esquipulas II was in fact a declaration calling for the end of US support for the Contras in Nicaragua. Can I also point out that it was signed in 1987, before the fall of the USSR.

    Cuba is a dictatorship and contrary to places such as Venezuela, Chile and Ecuador liberal rights are very limited.


  10. Cuba is a dictatorship and contrary to places such as Venezuela, Chile and Ecuador liberal rights are very limited.

    Cuba is also under sanctions unlike the other three. I am not sure why you insist on overlooking this fundamental fact? It is like saying why the man who is being strangled doesn’t wipe the perspiration from his forehead.

  11. I am sorry, but after almsot 60 years the embargo is no longer a justification for lack of general elections and the existance of a multi-party society. This is NOT a fundamental fact as the cases of Nicaragua and Venezuela proves. The democratic road towards socialism is now possible.

  12. So an embargo becomes irrelevant if it lasts for too long? That sounds like the argument the Israelis make that the occupation has lasted for 60 years, so it is no longer a justification for the Palestinians not to get their act together.

  13. In the case of Nicaragua , the story of US “influence” on the outcome of democratic elections is most instructive.

    “The elections of 1990, which had been mandated by the constitution passed in 1987, saw the Bush administration funnel $49.75 million of ‘non-lethal’ aid to the Contras, as well as $9m to the opposition UNO—equivalent to $2 billion worth of intervention by a foreign power in a US election at the time, and proportionately five times the amount George Bush had spent on his own election campaign.[62][63]. When Violetta Chamorro visited the White House in November 1989, the US pledged to maintain the embargo against Nicaragua unless Violeta Chamorro won.[64]”

    I would rather suspect if Cuba announced democratic elections a similar “non-lethal” operation would be put in place.
    The example of US interference is even more instructive when you consider they were captured live on a BBC documentary aiding and abetting a crass and shoddy coup.

    The Esquipulas II is even more instructive in that the US only allowed it to gain “legitimacy” when the Sandanista Government ( see paragraph 2 above) were defeated.

    To suggest going democratic when the US has maintained an embargo that has had 18 annual UN votes which range from 179-3 on average against it( with the 3 Being the democratic defenders US ; Israel and The Marshall Islands , occassionally being joined by Uzbekistan) is problematic in that it suggests it is a lifestyle choice for Cuba , rather than opening a gateway for the US to invade Cuba using other means.The ultimate US goodwill to assisting Cubas road to democracy should be the lifting of the embargo.

  14. “So an embargo becomes irrelevant if it lasts for too long?”

    – In this case yes (by the way the comparison with Israel’s embargo is a cheap shot). The US embargo was only relevant in the 1960s and 1970s when the US produced most industrial goods in the world. Since then China and other countries can provide most industrial goods. In terms of foreign investment Spain, Canada and Japan are heavy investors in Cuba’s turism industry since the 1980s. Countries such as Germany and now India can provide any drug or medical treatment necessary. So how exactly is the embargo relevant now? If anything, US companies are lobbying the Federal government precisely because of missed opportunities for them to trade with Cuba. Rephrasing Adam Smith, it is not out of the filantropy of the Obama administration that we will see an end of the embargo, but because of its desire of making a profit… The case of Israel is totally different, because it involves also brutral represesion and the collaboration of the pro-Zionist regimes in Egipt and Jordan. Cuba had never had that problem.. for example Mexico approved in the 1960s teh Estrada Doctrine that that recognised States and not goverments (which allowed it to have a strong and close relationship with Cuba). Even Spain under Franco’s dictatorship had trade with Cuba…

  15. Rumple, I do agree with most of your arguments. But my point in the case of Nicaragua was that the Sandinistas neverthless went for an elecction, lost conceeded defeat and now they are back in power (with liberal democracy socialism just takes a bit longer these days). That also says a lot about the democratic spirit in the Sansinist movement. What would you had prefered.. they staying by force in power?
    Even in El Salvador de FMLN is now in power by democratic means, and Honduras and Guatemala democratic forces has broght progressive regimes.

    Cuba’s regime should not withhold Cuban’s right to chose in multiparty elections, period. After 60 years of revolution, why do they still deal with disent in the way they do even when it clearly does not pose a threat to the regime?

  16. Nice points.

    But the embargo , especially considering its universal disapproval in the international community , is what actually makes the US policy the archane and out-of-date pre-Soviet days leftover that is putting a block on progress.

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