Interpreting the pluses and minuses of Cuba’s revolutionary experience can be controversial, because Cuba is an inherently politicized topic.
The achievements (see Keen and Haynes, 2000: 447–448) are very impressive and very real: By 1990, unemployment had been virtually wiped out;
Cuba’s rate was the lowest in Latin America. Income distribution is also the fairest in Latin America. Rents were limited right after the revolution to 10 percent of one’s income. There are virtually no beggars, almost no slum housing (with 80 percent of Cubans owning their own homes), no starvation or chronic hunger. Medical care and education are free, with the most doctors per capita and the best health care system in all of Latin America. Seven percent of the budget goes to education, the highest in Latin America, and literacy is high. As Benjamin Keen and Keith Haynes conclude (2000: 448),
“Undoubtedly, most Cubans have benefited from the revolution, which explains their extraordinary support for it, almost forty years later in the midst of its deepest economic crisis.”
The Cuban Revolution brought to everyone free health care, a free college education for those who want it, free food, free housing, and an end to racism and crime.
It is now appearing not to have solved the problem of dependence on foreign capital and the problems, such as prostitution, that this brings.
The revolution in Cuba was not a result of economic deprivation, nor because of high expectations in the economy, it was the political factors and expectations which evoked the civilians to revolt. The Cuban economy was moving forward at the time before the rebellion but the dominant influence of the sugar industry made the economy
"assymetrical" and encouraged no "dynamic industrial sector". Because of the dependance on sugar, the unemployment rate ranged between 16 and 20% rising and falling with sugar prices, ebbing and flowing as the season changed. The rural wage levels were incredibly unsteady and unpredictable; the standard of living was low. Dependance on the sugar industry did not retard the economy of Cuba, just the wages of its workers. It was the leaders of the nation who reaped profit from this dependance, and it was the leaders of the nation who insisted on keeping the nation the way it was. By the mid 1950's, however, the middle class had expanded to 33% of the population.
The main reason is that it had been a very brutal and oppressive dictatorship. Fulgencio Batista had been Cuba's leader for most of the time since coming to power in a military coup in 1933. He remained a dictator until 1940 when he officially became an elected president. The election was not a fair one, but Batista honoured the notion of democracy when he was defeated in the 1944 election, and peacefully handed power over to his opponents. He had close ties to US businesses (and is suspected to have had close ties to organised crime, just like in Godfather Part 2). In 1951 he entered the race to become President again, but when an opinion poll showed him in last place he staged a second coup and siezed power again.
After the 1952 coup Batista faced massive public disapproval and civil disobedience, including a rebellion lead by Fidel Castro which was crushed (don't worry, Castro becomes important again later). The US had many tied to Cuba, which legalised gambling in an attempt to woo American tourism. Prostitution also became very common. Cuba experiences massive widespread poverty because Batista put all the country's resources into providing holidays for the rich Americans he did business with. He declared an elction in 1954, but with himself as the only legal candidate. Student protests and street riots became commonplace and Batista held power only with the aid of an army that many suspect was financed my America. Eventually Fidel Castro's reassembled army