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The Cuban Exodus
Senator Bernie Sanders was under fire in the 2020 election season when he made comments regarding Cuba’s social programs. “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?” While Senator Sanders did say that some social policies had a positive effect on society, he clarified that he wasn’t a fan of the regime or Castro themselves. In an interview in the 1980s, then Mayor of Burlington Sanders stated “You know, not to say that Fidel Castro or Cuba are perfect, they are certainly not. But just because Ronald Reagan dislikes these people does not mean to say that the people in their own nations feel the same way.” This brings us to the basis of today’s topic: the reason for migration.
In contradiction to then-Mayor Sanders, the Mariel Boatlift of 1980 saw around 125,000 Cubans migrate to the United States. Thousands of more Cubans left the nation in the 1990s as well, but a recent influx of Cubans has overshadowed past figures. In this past fiscal year, 220,000 Cubans were caught at the U.S-Mexico border, the vast majority of whom were released into the United States to hear immigration cases. Most Cubans are fleeing for the lack of food, medicine, and power in their home country. Social policies sought out by leftist governments like Cuba or Venezuela, tend to strain the system over time and provide inequality, even if it is promised in law. For example, the quality of Cuban healthcare was a notable point in Michael Moore’s “Sicko”, so it’s interesting to see that the very system he praised is now a driving reason why people are fleeing the country. So much for great social policy. This past fiscal year saw a record 2.76 million migrants crossing the border. Doing the math, that means around 8% (~220,800) of the migrants were Cuban, the largest ever recorded in a single year. With Cuba’s population of 11.32 million, that means that roughly 2% of Cuba’s population emigrated to the United States in this past year alone. Clearly, there is an issue, and it’s not with the U.S.
There was that time when some on the left, like four U.S Congressmen and Congresswomen, praised Fidel Castro’s regime and his efforts. U.S Rep. Barbara Lee once said on Castro’s passing, “He led a revolution that led social improvements for his people.” He also massacred political dissidents and committed human rights violations galore, but let’s disregard that fact for now as Rep. Lee has done. It is obvious that people leave their countries due to economic, social, and political reasons - something that is often ignored by mainstream media. As mentioned earlier, Michael Moore’s “Sicko” showed him riding a boat and several Americans to the island to receive healthcare. Moore is even quoted as saying that "If there's one thing they do right in Cuba, it's health care.” Turns out, several doctors who have defected say that it’s the exact opposite.
With the advent of social media, people around the world are now able to see how others live in different countries and familiarize themselves with different cultures, and different societies. Social media arguably helped spark the Arab Spring of 2011, and the Cuban protests of 2021 are no different. Angry at the lack of rights, food, and medicine, and the government's response in handling COVID-19, thousands of protestors took to the stress in anti-government protests, the largest since Cuba’s 1994 protests. In late 2018 and early 2019, Cuba introduced 3G services and social media applications, and grievances have been aired ever since. It is evident that Moore, Lee, Sanders, and others who have praised Cuba have most likely seen a narrow, manufactured version of life on the island. Cuba is not a model country people should be emulating, especially when it comes to social mobility and freedom.
Instead of focusing on the statements made by some political pundit, legacy media should focus more on the reasons why people are emigrating from their countries and immigrating here in the first place: because the United States provides more opportunity, freedom, and resources to them than their country did - in this case, Cuba. When your government uses words like “regulated” against you, it doesn’t provide you with a warm feeling for them, but rather a contempt. Cuba’s economy shrank 11% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While arguments can be made about the pros and cons of said immigration, those arguments are complex and take more time than we have here. The point of this is to provide an example that shows left-leaning governments can deny their citizens basic rights and amenities… Whatever your gripes are with the United States, there is more opportunity here than in many other places.