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Education and Health Care in Castro’s Cuba

Bernie Sanders praised Fidel Castro’s literacy program on 60 Minutes. The candidate’s remarks have been justly criticized, for all the obvious reasons. One defense that has been made is that Sanders is factually correct. The line goes that the Castro regime, for all its evils, made great strides in improving education, and also health care, for Cubans.

Is that so? Justin Trudeau made similar claims after Castro died in 2016, and Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post fact-checked them. He gave Trudeau three Pinocchios (four would have been the worst rating), concluding:

Trudeau appears to accept outdated Cuban government spin as current fact. The reality is that education and health care were already relatively vibrant in Cuba before the revolution, compared with other Latin American countries. While the Castro regime has not let that slip — and given greater access to the poor — it is a stretch to claim Castro was responsible for “significant improvements,” especially more recently.

Many other Latin American countries made far more dramatic strides in the past six decades, without the need for a communist dictatorship; Cuba simply had a head start when Castro seized power.

Moreover, the focus on health care and education should not detract from the fact that overall living standards, as measured by gross domestic product, calorie consumption and other measures, have declined significantly under communist rule. . .

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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