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8/15/03 - NO CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION - 2003-08-15

Cuban dictator Fidel Castro is celebrating his seventy-seventh birthday, but this is not a cause for celebration.

There can be no celebration as long as the Cuban economy continues its downward spiral. There can be no celebration as long as Castro continues imprisoning citizens whose only crime is calling for freedom and democracy. And there can be no celebration as long as the Cuban government continues to violate the fundamental rights of the Cuban people.

For forty-four years, Castro’s totalitarian reign has meant only repression and deprivation for Cuba’s citizens. As Hans De Salas Del Valle, a researcher at the University of Miami's Cuban Studies Institute told the Voice of America, most Cubans are exhausted by the daily struggle for survival:

"They can no longer depend on the government to feed their own families. The government food rations would only get a family through about seven-to-ten days out of a month. Most Cubans survive on the equivalent of ten dollars a month, paid in local currency, in pesos. And, nowadays, most essential goods are only available in U.S. dollars."

Fidel Castro claimed in a recent speech, "Despite enormous obstacles, we are building a new and more humane society with more experience, enthusiasm, strength and dreams than ever." But Mr. Del Valle says that many Cuban citizens, particularly the young, have simply given up on Castro and his Marxist revolution:

"University enrollment rates have dropped by nearly fifty percent since 1989, when Soviet subsidies came to an end. Cuba is really losing its future, its young generation, which either [is] opting to try to hustle to make a dollar from tourists on the island, instead of pursuing higher education, or willing to risk their lives by venturing out into the Florida straits to reach the United States."

As Fidel Castro celebrates his seventy-seventh birthday, he should reflect on this: for forty-four years, as President George W. Bush said, the Cuban people "have suffered under a tyrant who uses brutal methods to enforce a bankrupt vision." That sad legacy is no cause for celebration.