In February of 2020 a video titled ‘Everything You’ve Ever Seen About Cuba Is A Lie’ was posted to YouTube and made the rounds on various social media platforms. Across these platforms, it has been viewed -at the time of writing this article- around 703,625 times in total. The description of the video outlines its basic premise, in which there is no attempt whatsoever of hiding its obvious bias:
“The Turning Point USA travelled to Cuba to investigate the true realities of what a generation of full Socialism has done to the once-thriving Cuban population.
What did we discover? Everything you have ever seen about Cuba is a lie. #CommunismKills”
The incredibly questionable title insinuates that the video that follows is going to be a series of ‘truths’ about Cuba; an unveiling of the ‘scary reality’ behind the supposedly popular and common ‘Utopian view’ of Cuba. The creators suggest that before taking their trip to Cuba, their research of the country gave them nothing but sunshine and roses.
I don’t know where they have been looking but a quick general search of Cuba on any news platform currently brings up not one positive or at least objective article until page 3. So, it is clear to see that from the very outset of this showcase, that we are in for a treat, a platter of pure and unadulterated, bias, drivel.
Just from their opening comments, their agenda is quite clear:
“to know that this is a socialist country…the pieces didn’t quite add up to me…we’re supposed to say socialism sucks…but how’re we gonna show that, if socialism doesn’t actually suck”
The agenda is even clearer with just a quick Google search of the content creators.
Turning Point USA is an American non-profit organisation with many affiliate groups such as Students for Trump. It was founded by Evangelical Christian, Charlie Kirk, whose track record of false statements sets the bar extremely low for the reliability of any material produced by the group. They state three main beliefs on their official web page which should highlight exactly why this video on Cuba was made:
WHAT WE BELIEVE
- The United States of America is the greatest country in the history of the world.
- The US Constitution is the most exceptional political document ever written.
- Capitalism is the most moral and proven economic system ever discovered.
So, of course, they hate Cuba, they are Americas and Capitalisms number one fan club. Their open mission is “to educate students about the importance of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government.”
The organisation has been involved in multiple controversies, including potential illegal involvement in the 2016 presidential election, members making racist comments and even links to several White Supremacists.
The men that take part in the making of the video range from an ex-editor at Buzzfeed who was fired for plagiarism to a producer and owner of MagaCases.com.
The Mainstream media and Cuba
As previously stated, one of the first lies in the video is that there are only positive things and only positive perceptions of Cuba when one searches ‘Cuba’ on the internet. Indeed, if one searches Cuba into Google Images beautiful Caribbean views will pop up, gorgeous Spanish buildings, the old vintage cars, as well as the rustic decaying buildings that have now become so solidly equated with the public image of Cuba. This is partly because these views are real. Cuba truly does have beautiful golden beaches; it truly does have beautiful buildings such as in Old Havana or the National Capital building. However, to state:
“Nothing in American establishment or corporate media
will prepare you for what you’re about to see. It’s all
lies, it’s Communist propaganda what you see”
It is an outright lie. For years we have been bombarded with propaganda against Cuba from such capitalist zealots as these. It was only on the 28th February that the Wall St Journal was telling us that ‘The Real Cuba is a land of extreme deprivation’. In reaction to Bernie Sanders support of Cuban healthcare, we were swarmed with anti-Cuba articles by fat cat bourgeois journalists. Needless to say, for as long as Cuba has been socialist there have been socialists defending it against these apologists of capitalism who still mourn the fall of the brutal dictator Batista. Furthermore, their claim is preposterous for the very fact that if one searches for Jamaica in Google images a beautiful tropical paradise pops up. Is this capitalist propaganda? To call pictures of beauty in a country, communist propaganda is McCarthyite and plain ridiculous.
Cuba’s Drone Policy
One of the first dramas the gang of TPUSA find themselves breaking down over is their containment at the airport over bringing a drone into Cuba. If they had bothered to look, Cuba has banned drones entering the country and will confiscate them at customs. Cuba is open about this and did not target the fools of TPUSA just because they felt like it but because they had specifically gone against this policy.
Gas in Cuba
It is no secret that Cuba and the USSR held close economic relations. In fact, from 1976-1980 the Soviets invested $1.7 billion on the construction and remodelling of Cuban factories and industry. It is also no secret that this was a lifeline to Cuba after the massive embargo imposed by the U.S.A against Cuba in 1962. Therefore, after the Soviet Union fell, Cuba was dealt a severely harsh blow and entered what Fidel Castro called, ‘The Special Period’. Due to the embargo and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Cuba has had to undergo restrictions on things such as fuel. However, one of the allies to Cuba has been Venezuela especially in relation to fuel. Cuba and Venezuela made a bilateral pact in 2000 allowing Cuba to pay for oil through such things as medical services. This deal had sufficed until 2015-17 when the U.S.A had turned their sanctions onto Venezuela whilst they were once again pushing for power changes in South America. Faced with sanctions from all sides, Cuba has had to cope with many shortages of goods and equipment, these shortages were imposed by the U.S.A. Therefore, the bare-faced cheek of these Americans to visit Cuba and mock the long lines for fuel without ever once mentioning the American embargo and sanctions is ignorant and unintelligent. Cuba has had to cut public street lighting and air conditioning usage in some state institutions in order to deal with the embargo and the sanctions that the U.S.A are directly responsible for. We know that if the U.S.A ever faces shortages of fuel and oil they’ll have boots on the ground securing their supply through rivers of blood. Look no further than the Iraq War where a million innocent civilians died for U.S. share in oil. Look no further than the U.S relations with the head-chopping corrupt regime of Saudi Arabia, all for U.S wealth and oil.
Cuba before the Revolution
In order to understand what it is that the cast of this show want Cuba to be like, we must return to Cuba’s past. Fulgencio Batista had been a figure in Cuban politics since 1933 when he had taken part in The Sergeants Revolt. He had also taken the role as President in 1940 in which he had played a reformative role in Cuba. However, in 1952 Batista launched a coup and became a military dictator. In Batista’s Cuba, corruption was rife, and many households went without running water and many were unemployed. However, what Batista’s Cuba signified more than anything was the contrast between the rich and poor that capitalism creates wherever it goes. Mass prostitution, casinos and drugs ran rife through the streets of Cuba, all encouraged by Batista. Arthur Miller described it as ‘hopelessly corrupt, a Mafia playground, (and) a bordello for Americans and other foreigners”. Indeed, Batista’s deal and connections ran deep, and many were devastated to see him go, so devastated that many of them helped American forces in assassination attempts on Castro. Of course, where there is illicit money and profits to be had the vultures of American imperialism are never far behind. JFK himself revealed information about American involvement in Cuba in 1959, “At the beginning of 1959 United States companies owned about 40 per cent of the Cuban sugar lands—almost all the cattle ranches—90 per cent of the mines and mineral concessions—80 per cent of the utilities—practically all the oil industry—and supplied two-thirds of Cuba’s imports.” And on the despotism in Cuba under Batista, Kennedy had this to say “I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies during the Batista regime. I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will even go further: to some extent, it is as though Batista was the incarnation of several sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins.” So, would the capitalist worshipping members of TPUSA wish for the return of that ‘developed’ regime, a regime that even their U.S President described as corrupt, exploitative and evil. Batista was also ruthless and cracked down hard on any opposition especially amongst the young. It is suspected that 20,000 people were killed under Batista’s reign of suppression. When Castro, Che Guevara and the Rebel Army led their revolution in 1959, they undoubtedly changed Cuba for the better. The first things the revolutionaries did was reinstate all the workers who had been fired in the Batista years, drastically reduce rents, kicked the Mafia out of Cuba, redistributed the land stolen by the U.S.A back to the people, nationalised their healthcare (and as a result, it is one of the best in the world today, compared to those dying in their homes in America due to the prices of U.S private healthcare), and raised their literacy rates to 100%. Cubans today can boast of a longer life expectancy than that of the average American and a lower infant mortality!
Food in Cuba
In the video, we see them mock and sneer at the standard and availability of food in Cuba. The truth of the matter is this, Cuba has a rationing system. This means that Cubans use a ration book, supplied to them through a government office that establishes the goods they can buy and the frequency. It also accounts for how many are in the family and their dietary requirements. The goods are then sent to the ‘bodegas’ which are the stores that specifically distribute the rationed goods, and meat is available at meat stores. The stores that are shown in the clip are the rationed stores. What they failed to show was the vegetable markets in Cuba where there are bountiful amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables. Even the World Bank has shown that Cuba is one of the most well-fed countries in the world and have some of the lowest malnutrition death rates. The long lines that were shown are once again the consequence of the U.S sanctions and blockades. In 2019, rations grew stricter, but this was done under the severe new conditions set by Trump and his lackeys, a decision that was vastly supported by the Cuban people. However, as the COVID 19 crisis has shown, the priorities of the Cuban government and the U.S capitalists could not be wider. Whereas the Cuban government has tried to make sure everybody is fed and nobody can selfishly profit off others misery, the U.S will let whoever hasn’t got the cash starve, or just increase its food bank numbers, to the point where 1 in 3 rely on them for food.
There are decaying buildings in Cuba, this is true. However, what they failed to show was the beautiful buildings that often lay right across the street, renovated and refurbished in sleek Cuban style. Furthermore, many buildings may look downtrodden but inside are wonderful and renovated as well. Cuba is trying to rebuild as many of these buildings as they can, but it is a task made difficult with sanctions on equipment and the resources needed to do so.
Homelessness in Cuba is also extremely low due to the cheap housing provided by socialism, which creates a large percentage of homeownership. Cubans will never have to worry about a private bank repossessing their homes for profit. However, this is not to say that there is plenty of housing, in fact, there is a housing shortage due to economic sanctions limiting construction materials. Despite this, the Cubans are very resourceful and often share housing with their family and friends and there are no longer any shantytowns and slums as seen in the time of Batista. “A 2002 Harvard study found that the percentage of urban housing units in bad condition decreased from 47% before the revolution to just 13% 40 years later”. Nevertheless, Cubans precisely because of socialist values, would prefer this situation to one where a large percentage of the population lives on the streets. The latter is in fact, the exact situation in America. In 2014 1.5 million sheltered homeless people were counted. In New York alone there are 114,000 homeless children and on Skid Row volunteers have estimated that there are 275 homeless people in only eight square blocks. These grotesque figures are even harder to read when we know that there are millions of vacant properties in America.
Cuba is economically a poor country, but this is misleading. Despite sanctions, blockades and natural disasters Cuba has provided its citizens with a roof over their heads, free healthcare (one of the best in the world), free education for all and enough nutritious food for everyone. Whilst in America, the richest country in the world, cannot provide a single one of these things and has subjected half of all Americans to a life of poverty, whilst making war zones out of other countries as it goes along.
Spirit of Cuba
One of the most ignorant things about the video is the condescending way in which it approaches the Cuban people. In the same breath that they applaud the people of Cuba as the nicest people they’ve ever met, they soon suggest that if they support the country they live in, they must also be the least intelligent. The video portrays the people as kind but passive victims of the cruel regime that they are subjected to live under. They are kind, but ultimately, it is suggested that they live a life of misery. To perpetuate this grotesque representation of the Cuban people, the guys from TPUSA purposefully refrain from documenting the vast array of wonderful Cuban culture that exists in all corners of the country. From music to dance, the Cuban people have no shortage of their own culture, entertainment and cuisine. One of the remarkable things about Cuba is how it provided free training for ballet, an art form usually restricted to the elite in the West which provided black citizens, previously the poorest and subject to racism, with many opportunities and a way to engage in culture that they never had access to before. Free art and education and free public performances have also ensured mass public engagement in Cuban culture. Daily in Cuba, you can find music in the streets, shows, great nightlife and so on and so forth. There are struggles in Cuba but to assume that the people are miserable is not only patronising but also inaccurate. The vast amount of people that live in Cuba realise that any difficulties that occur in their country are not because socialism does not work but are because socialism is being suppressed directly by embargos and sanctions from the Capitalists outside.
Safety and Police in Cuba
How ironic it is to have to talk about troublesome or brutal police forces in Cuba, after the murder of George Floyd, an African American who was publicly lynched by American police forces in broad daylight. This kind of police brutality is commonplace in America. So common that we have seen weeklong riots and protests against police forces. The crew of TPUSA film (or stage) police forces evicting them out of their lodging. However, it is so absurdly obscure, there are so many questions as to how if the police were there with arms, they suddenly disappeared 2 minutes later, the utter ridiculousness of the scene is astounding and the only merit the scene has is that it will provoke a good chuckle. We are told there are a dozen men brandishing weapons, and our narrator explains over some highly ominous music that they were obviously about to be faced with confrontation. However, no such confrontation occurred and absolutely no more is said about the armed guards whatsoever. The cast simply packs their bags and leaves the building without any trouble…perhaps the guards were just a figment of their imagination. It is SO convenient that out of all his accusations about how they were treated this encounter is the only part of the trip they failed to have captured on camera.
The video concludes with a sweeping statement that their time in Cuba has shown them that “this is what happens when you live outside of the American Constitution”. This statement is entirely meaningless! The audacity they have to talk about the denial of human rights when capitalism and America have made a joke out of the notion ‘human rights’ as it cannot even provide the basics of healthcare, housing and employment. Nothing highlights this fact more than the events sweeping the country at this current time. Why is it that we never see these people going to countries that have been exploited and infected with the disease of Capitalism and Imperialism, where poverty is rampant, hunger is a widespread crisis and basic human rights such as water, health care are not accessible to the masses? You wouldn’t even have to step outside of America to find nearly all these conditions, but they can also be found in almost every capitalist country on the Globe. This is not an accident; it is not a broken system. This is the way Capitalism was designed and how it survives. These bourgeois demagogues at Turning Point USA are not anti-poverty, they are not pro-human rights, they are not pro-liberty, all they are is pro-capital. The poor are a burden to the elites at TPUSA, they are a nuisance and yet an integral part of the machine they need to keep turning. In the richest country in the world where not even healthcare is guaranteed unless you’ve got the cash, you will see the homeless, the decaying buildings, unprecedented police brutality all for the sake of capital. If TPUSA can sit there and accept this, love this, then you may be proud to be an American TPUSA, but you haven’t the foggiest of what it means to be human. This organisation is openly anti-worker, it is openly biased, it is openly ignorant. So why have they found themselves in Cuba? The truth of it all can be summed up as thus; in the crumbling world of the American Empire, the bourgeoise are beginning to tremble, “Let the ruling class tremble at a Communist Revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains” (Marx) Cuba makes the ruling class tremble! Let them tremble! Viva la revolucion!