Can’t visit Cuba

Cuban-born teacher and former journalist Hector Rioseco would seem to have impeccable credentials in speaking about his native land. However, some of the viewpoints he expresses belie an unfortunate bias affecting his judgment.

Mr. Rioseco takes exception to being likened to the right-wing Cuban American National Foundation (CANF). However, he fails to mention how his views differ from those of these wealthy elite eager for Castro’s overthrow so they can return to former positions of privilege. His assertion that human rights abuses are worse in Cuba than in El Salvador and Guatemala is certainly in line with CANF’s position, although it flies in the face of documented facts.

Cuba should, of course, be held accountable for its hundreds of political prisoners, some of whom may have only spoken out against their government, others were reportedly involved in CIA plots to assassinate Castro and overthrow the government. However, no reliable source has accused the present Cuban government of supporting death squads such as have operated freely in El Salvador and Guatemala for many years.

Another astonishing contention of Rioseco is that living standards under fascist dictator Fulgencia Batista compared well with those in socialist Cuba today. A favorite ploy of detractors of the revolution is to ignore the extreme inequities in distribution of wealth which existed at that time. Separate estimates by two researchers indicate that under Batista, the poorest 20 percent received only 2 percent to 6 percent of total national income, while the richest 20 percent received more than 55 percent.

World Bank figures state that in 1958, approximately one half of Cuban children of primary school age were not attending school and one out of four Cubans over age 10 could not read and write. Most people know that Cuba’s present government wiped out illiteracy in Cuba, along with hunger, homelessness and lack of medical care, which today is free and available to all.

Mr. Rioseco wonders that I would dare defend the Cuban system in view of what happened in Romania, Germany, Poland and the Soviet Union. Actually, my concern is not to defend any particular system but to oppose U.S. military, economic and political intervention in Third World countries.

However, since he brought up the East European countries, I will point out that Cuba’s situation is vastly different from theirs. Its revolution was not imposed by a foreign power, but the outgrowth of a popular revolt against a hated dictator.

My critic also questions my daring to compare “isolated violations of human rights in the United States” with those of the Cuban government. Perhaps he is unaware of the police brutality experienced by black Americans in many parts of our country or the victimization of Native Americans for the past 500 years.

Obviously, there is much room for liberalization in Cuba, but threatening policies of our government only serve to create a siege mentality which impedes progress. By ending the embargo and other hostile acts, we can help Cuba adapt to the current world economic situation by shedding many of its commitments to state socialism. In so doing, we will be serving a vibrant, creative people, whom I for one should like to visit—something which my government currently forbids me to do.

Cele Meyer

Interfaith Network