by Francisco Rodriguez
On February 23, 2020 on CBS’ TV show 60 Minutes Bernie Sanders told Anderson Cooper that he opposed “the authoritarian nature” of the repressive Cuban regime. “But you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad.” “When Fidel Castro came to office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?” When Cooper brought to his attention that there are many dissidents in jail, Sanders replied “That’s right, and we condemn that.” Facts About Cuban Exiles wishes to offer some pertinent facts.
In the 20th century in Europe a tyrant, a dictator, and a despot (Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin) built super highways, made the trains run on time and launched a literacy campaign). Yet in the scale of justice when a criminal is accused of committing atrocities, the fact that he liked dogs, was a journalist, or was a revolutionary are not mitigating factors for the cruelty they visited upon their victims.
According to the 1960 UN Statistical Yearbook the literacy rate in Cuba in 1959, the year of the Castro takeover, was 76% (4th in Latin America). Castro’s campaign into rural areas began in April 1961 and ended on December 22 of that year, increasing literacy to virtually 100%.
During this campaign middle-school students were the teachers sent to the countryside, thus becoming exposed to dangers and inappropriate situations. Their books were filled with propaganda extolling the virtues of Che and calling for a struggle against "U.S. imperialism". As this literacy campaign was taking place, by the end of 1960, the Castros and Che had executed 1,062 and jailed more than 3,300 without due process, causing thousands to leave Cuba.
And what can Cubans do with their literacy? More than 60 years later, books are censored and certain subjects are taboo if they fall outside the narrative promulgated by the State. All private and religious schools and colleges and all newspapers remain shut down, ensuring that only one opinion is heard in a one-party regime. Literacy was important to the regime only because it enabled them to more effectively communicate their propaganda.
Facts About Cuban Exiles (FACE) was founded in 1982 to defend the reputation of Cuban exiles and Cuban Americans. FACE includes many prominent civic and community leaders who represent a cross-section of the Cuban diaspora in Miami. Its mission is to promote, foster and improve the reputation and image of people of Cuban origin who have sought refuge outside of Cuba due to the existing political conditions, as well as that of their descendants. FACE also endeavors to promote good will towards Cuban-Americans and to develop greater understanding and cooperation with other groups in the Miami community.
FACE has encouraged fair and balanced media coverage and has responded to biased or erroneous reports. It has published Cubans: An Epic Journey in English and Spanish and regularly publishes information concerning Cuban exiles and Cuban Americans on its website www.facecuba.org. Follow us: at https://twitter.com/facecuba & Instagram https://www.instagram.com/facecuba/