October 22, 2021

A Communist Regime That Has Materially Impoverished A Country

POPE AND CASTROA letter to Pope Francis

Your Holiness:
Since you will visit Cuba next month, I decided to write you this letter to convey information about the regime that has ruled my homeland for the past 56 years. I believe this knowledge is of vital importance to you. I have no doubt about your good intentions and your desire to apply the teachings of the Gospel to the difficult circumstances of today’s world. But I worry about your sources of information, and that your words in defense of the poor could be used in their favor by the dictatorial socialist regimes that unfortunately abound in Latin America.

I must start this letter identifying myself. I am a retired internist, 86, born in Havana in 1929. I studied in religious schools (Marist Brothers and La Salle). I graduated as a doctor at the University of Havana in 1954, training in Internal Medicine at the “General Calixto García” hospital, the University Hospital. I practiced medicine in Havana until, in 1964, I took the difficult and painful decision to leave my homeland, my dreams, projects and plans for the future when I became convinced that I could not live in the midst of the stifling milieu the revolution had created. In the United States I had to complete a medical residency of four years, again, in order to take and pass the exam that qualified me as an internist in this country. I have had a long and successful academic career, reaching the rank of Professor of Medicine at the University of Miami assigned to Mount Sinai Hospital, Miami Beach. I retired in July 2010.

I have identified myself because I believe it is important for you to know who is writing to you. My very humble purpose is to provide you some information about the Cuban Revolution, as I said at the beginning of this letter.

Fidel Castro came to power after defeating the corrupt and despotic regime of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. Upon arriving triumphantly in Havana, he reassured the population, in a historic speech, that this was a nationalist revolution, that he personally did not want any position of power and would hold elections in six months. His first cabinet was made up of prestigious personalities who soon began to quit when they understood “the monster’s innermost being”. The revolution began with a large number of executions without due trial, among them many young men who died before a firing squad shouting “Long live Christ the King.” The government soon decided to “nationalize –read seize–the assets of foreign companies, mainly American, without offering any compensation. It “nationalized” later all Cuban enterprises and businesses, large, medium and small. Instead of a nationalist revolution, this turned out to be a State that seized all the wealth and resources of the nation to the detriment of the vast Cuban enterprise class, who had spent a lifetime working hard to create their own businesses. I must stress here that the majority of these businesses went under when the revolution placed them in the hands of incompetent revolutionaries. Thus a huge production system, the result of the work of Cubans, was destroyed. The exodus of Cubans and the impoverishment of the nation began. The revolution, far from taking from the rich to give to the poor, equalized the entire population to a level of poverty, with the exception of the privileged ruling class, who lives with all the luxuries and privileges.

The Bay of Pigs invasion occurred subsequently. The invaders were idealistic young Cubans, children from middle and upper-middle class supported by the US government and not the mercenaries that the regime has since told Cuban schoolchildren. In addition to those who died in battle, others died when they were moved to Havana in a closed vehicle without ventilation, dying of asphyxiation. After the overthrow of the invading brigade, Castro decided it was time to take off the mask and said the revolution was Communist. Until then, when he was asked whether the revolution was Communist, he would answer denying it emphatically, saying the revolution was green like the palm trees. The Cuban people, who have always used mockery to call it all a joke, said the revolution was like a watermelon, green outside and red on the inside. In short, Castro had lied and shamefully betrayed the Cuban people.

The next step was to “nationalize” all private schools in the nation, many of them religious institutions. The vast majority of the clergy of the island was forcibly expelled by boat to Spain This action produced panic among young families with school age children who did not want them to be indoctrinated by Communism. Many, unable to get out of the country, sent their children alone, in what was called the Peter Pan program, where the Catholic Church in Miami played a crucial role in the protection and subsequent allocation of these children to families who housed them.

I don’t have to emphasize, Your Holiness, the enormous sacrifice and suffering of these families. In other cases, families could leave the country with their children, to arrive penniless in this land of freedom, in order to avoid the indoctrination of their children. This is only part of the many painful experiences suffered by Cubans.

The system has abolished all individual freedoms: no one can comment much less act against the revolution. The crime of “dangerousness” was created so that citizens can be prosecuted –if these trials with predetermined end can be called prosecutions–and sentenced to jail only on a suspicion that they may incur in counter-revolutionary activities, even before they occur. There is no freedom of speech or press. The dictatorship chooses which news citizens should receive and which not. The inability to express themselves freely leads to double standards: one thinks one thing and says another. Otherwise people may lose their jobs, end up in jail and making children second-class citizens in schools. God endowed man with free will and, therefore, the expression and determination of their future freely is innate in humans. The dictatorship uses disinformation as a powerful tool to stay in power. So the internet and social media are not available to the public. In these historic moments of the resumption of relations between Cuba and the United States, repression persists or perhaps has increased. Peaceful dissidents such as las Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White)–women who peacefully walk on Sunday after Mass carrying gladiolus instead of weapons, shouting freedom slogans– are clubbed, humiliated and imprisoned. There is no freedom to travel. The government decides who can and who cannot enter or leave the country.

The emigration to all parts of the world is a dramatic expression of the desperation of the Cuban people. The horrible decision to leave the country in poorly constructed boats with automobile tires and other similar materials is another expression of the frustration and desperation of the citizen. You have lived a similar situation with the poor immigrants from Africa trying to reach

freedom in the South of Italy, resulting in huge loss of lives. Only God knows how many lives of desperate Cubans have been lost in the Florida Straits!

Since this letter is becoming long, I will try to summarize some points that I consider relevant to understand the disastrous system ruling Cuba:

  1. The US embargo –called “blockade” by the dictatorship– has been inefficient in overthrowing the regime, but it has served it to blame the “blockade” for the economic failure of the revolution. Meanwhile, the regime has been able to trade with all countries around the world, and especially with Canada, Mexico and some countries in Europe. The problem is that Cuba has no economic resources to pay its debts. The economic failure of the revolution becomes evident with the fact that Cuba survived the first 20 or 30 years as an economic satellite of the Soviet Union. When the latter disappeared, the Cuban people suffered what the dictatorship euphemistically called “special period”, with shortages of the most basic items, including nutritious foodstuff, which caused an epidemic of an eye illness due to a deficiency or Vitamin B1. Later, when Hugo Chávez came to power in Venezuela, Cuba became economically dependent on Venezuelan petroleum, which Cuba paid with the service of health workers sent to serve for a miserable salary in the most inhospitable places of Venezuela. This commercial enterprise of doctors and nurses includes other countries now, turning these professionals into slaves of the regime. In these cases, the regime benefits by keeping a good portion of the salary paid by the host country. Lifting the embargo would deprive the Castro brothers of using the so-called “blockade” as an excuse for the economic failure of the revolution. The United States has allowed shipment of grains and other foodstuff, cash only. If the embargo is lifted, there could be risky commercial transactions given the poor credit history of Cuba and the lack of warranties on account of the absence of an independent judicial system.
  1. Health care: This is one of the so-called achievements of the revolution. These totalitarian regimes are champions in propaganda and they have sold to the world the great success of a health care system where the person receives free medical care. The reality is sad, unfortunately.

There is an apartheid system in Cuba regarding health care. There are two parallel systems running: One, with the most modern facilities serves the leaders of the regime and foreigners who pay in dollars. The other, takes care of ordinary citizens with an absolute lack of even the most basic resources. Hospitals that serve the common man lack medicines, patients have to bring their own sheets, pillows, sometimes even the food and suffer a deplorable lack of hygiene and maintenance. These are concrete data I have obtained from people who have suffered this plight in their own flesh or that of their families. Medicines unavailable to patients, including aspirin, are sent regularly from Miami and other USA cities. Foreign visitors are taken to the hospitals of the privileged, of course, selling them the myth that they are the standard of health care in Cuba. Again…they are the best in propaganda, based on lies and covering up the reality of the pitiable ordinary Cuban citizen.

  1. Education: flaunted as one of the achievements of the revolution. It has been a powerful tool in revolutionary indoctrination. I have seen reading primers with examples such as: F fusil (rifle) or F for Fidel. Education is totally politicized. In the mission and objectives of educational institutions it is pointed out that the purpose is the production of a revolutionary citizen who faithfully follows the plan of the Cuban Communist party. It is what they call the creation of

“the new man,” one who would follow without questioning, the commands of the regime, even at the expense of what’s good for the person or the family. In this sense, the revolution has been another failure. The “new man” is one who has to hide his/her true mindset, which leads to double standards and the use of lies and simulation. It is true that the level of literacy has been greatly increased, as well as the number of university graduates. But when these graduates try to find a job in their respective disciplines, they find the payment is very low, a maximum of around US$20 per month. Therefore, in Cuba, one finds engineers, teachers and other professionals working as taxi drivers or in a business related to tourism which facilitates their access to dollars or –sadly–as prostitutes, called “jineteras” (horsewoman). In their hopelessness and disillusionment, many of these young women try to marry a foreigner, usually old, and almost always from Spain or Italy. However, on arrival in these countries, they start having a hard time when they are rejected by their wealthy husbands.

The restoration of diplomatic relations with the US has been a great victory of David against Goliath. The negotiations, if these can be called negotiations, have consisted in the administration of president Obama conceding several of the Cuban claims, without obtaining anything in return. Instead, Raul Castro has boasted that Cuba will never change its system, that it will not allow US meddling in Cuban affairs, as well as requiring a number of conditions such as returning the Guantanamo naval base and that the US financially compensate Cuba for the damage caused by years of what it calls “blockade”. Among the concessions, president Obama has agreed to the freedom of four Cuban spies condemned by a US court, ratified by a Court of Appeals for committing serious felonies, including the murder of the pilots of “Brothers to the Rescue” in exchange for the freedom of Allan Gross, an American citizen convicted of the horrible crime of distributing cell phones to the small Jewish community in Cuba. The spies were welcomed like heroes. Removing Cuba from the list of terrorist states was the other concession even though a ship allegedly carrying bags of sugar for North Korea carried parts for war airplanes and other war materiel under them

To sum up, the Communist regime has materially impoverished the country, but what is sadder and more difficult to correct when this nightmare is over, is the moral and ethical impoverishment of the citizenship, who in order to “solve”, that is, subsist in such an oppressive regime, have to say what they don’t believe, consider legitimate to steal in the workplace, buy and sell in the black market, or prostitute themselves; a youth who, for the most part, considers leaving the country as the only solution to their sad and desperate situation.

Your Holiness, I apologize for the length of this letter, but I considered it my duty to contribute by informing you of the sad situation existing in Cuba. Unfortunately, there is no perfect political system, but the Communist system has been a failure in the history of mankind. In the case of Cuba, it has impoverished it to levels never even dreamed.

With all my respect, I wish you success in your mission in Cuba and I hope the regime will let you meet with dissidents so they can give you the opposite of the official view. I fear that your presence in Cuba might be used to legitimize this horrible regime.


Federico R. Justiniani, M.D.