Originally published as “Cuban life indicators continue to rise: Another vindication of a society that puts people first”
(By Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist))
In December, at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, Cuban President Raul Castro and US leader Barack Obama shared a handshake – the first between their nations’ leaders in well over a decade. It may very well have been impromptu, but it nevertheless prompted a flurry of speculation across international media. The handshake, it was suggested, is symbolic of thawing Cuban-American relations.
The following month, the BBC quoted Edward Alex Lee, deputy assistant secretary of the US State Department, as saying the United States is “very open” to building new relations with Cuba. In fact, he said, both countries had shared “very productive” talks and made “substantial progress” on bilateral issues such as migration, aviation safety, counter-narcotics operations, and resuming postal services. The United States is keen to continue these “rare negotiations”, the article stated. . (‘ Cuba – US very open to new relationship’, BBC News Online, 11 January 2014)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican congresswoman in Florida and virulent anti-communist, condemned the exchange and the perceived easing of tensions, labelling Cuba as “cruel, ruthless and [tyrannical]”. Mr Lee was then quick to reaffirm the United States’ concerns over its neighbour’s ‘human-rights record’ and stated that any improved relations must be accompanied by a “fundamental change” in the attitude of the Cuban government towards its own people. (‘White House says Obama-Castro handshake not planned ’, BBC News Online, 10 December 2013)
Infant mortality falling
So what exactly is the Cuban government’s attitude towards its people? In fact, there was a clear demonstration of this in December as the public health ministry released data showing that the infant mortality rate in Cuba continues to decline, and is now just 4.2 deaths per 1,000 births – the lowest in the island’s history.
Infant mortality is a key indicator to “measure the health and well-being of a nation, because factors affecting the health of entire populations can also impact the mortality rate of infants”. (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012)
It is often difficult to compare statistics between socialist and leading capitalist countries, because the latter have enjoyed centuries of economic development; development that has rested upon the exploitation of their workers and the plunder of vast colonies abroad. Socialist countries, by contrast, are relatively young, and are subject to intense economic restrictions imposed by stronger capitalist states that want to see them fail.
Cuba is a perfect example of this: the tiny island has faced a brutal economic blockade enforced by the mighty US for more than five decades. In practice, this deprives the Cuban economy of billions of dollars each year, as well as holding back its technological development.
Yet, despite this handicap, and comparing 2013 statistics from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Cuba’s infant mortality rate compares favourably to the European Union average (4.43 per thousand), the United Kingdom (4.5 per thousand), and the United States (5.9 per thousand). Continue reading