Mary Evans Picture Library/SALAS COLLECTION/Everett Collection
Fidel Castro says his country is in desperate shape and can only be rescued by a revolutionary government.
Oriente Province, Cuba
Cuba’s land situation, the problems of industrialization, living standards, unemployment, education and public health: these are the problems—along with the attainment of civil liberty and political democracy—to the solution of which the revolutionary 26th of July Movement directs its efforts.
This presentation may seem cold and theoretical to the reader, unless he is familiar with the fearful tragedy which our country is living through.
At least 85 percent of Cuba’s small-scale farmers rent their land, and face the constant threat of eviction. More than half of our best arable land is in foreign hands; in Oriente, the broadest province of Cuba, the lands of The United Fruit Company and of the West Indies Fruit Company unite our northern and southern shores. Throughout the country, 200,000 rural families are without a square foot of land on which they can support themselves; yet almost ten million acres of untouched arable land remain in the hands of powerful interests. Cuba is primarily an agricultural country. The rural areas were the cradle of our independence; the prosperity and greatness of our nation depend on a healthy and vigorous rural population, willing and able to till the soil, and on a state which protects and guides that population. If this is so, how can the present situation be allowed to continue?
Except for a few food-producing industries and some woodworking and textile plants, Cuba is essentially a producer of raw materials. She exports sugar and imports candy; she exports leather and imports shoes; she exports iron and imports plows. Everyone agrees that there is a great need to industrialize: that we lack metal, paper and chemical industries; that the techniques of agriculture and animal husbandry must be improved; that our food-producing industries must be expanded to meet the ruinous competition of European cheese, condensed milk, liquors and cooking oil, and of American canned foods; that we need a merchant fleet; that the tourist trade is a potential source of great income. But the possessors of capital keep the people bowed under ox-yokes, the state folds its arms, and industrialization will wait for kingdom come.
As bad, or worse, is the tragedy of our housing situation. There are about 200,000 huts and shacks in Cuba; 400,000 rural and urban families live crowded in slums without the barest necessities of sanitation. Some 2,200,000 Cubans pay rents which absorb from one-fifth to one-third of their incomes, and 2,800,000 of our rural and suburban population are without electricity. In this matter we are blocked in the same way: if the state proposes a reduction in rent, the proprietors threaten to paralyze construction; if the state does nothing, the owners build only so long as they can foresee high rents. The electric-power monopoly acts the same way: it extends its lines only so far as it can visualize a good profit; beyond that point, what matters if the people live in the dark? The state folds its arms and the public remains without adequate housing or light.