By Nicholas Kristof
Jan. 23, 2019, 244 c
American and Cuban flags flying from a balcony in Havana.CreditCreditIvan Alvarado/Reuters
HAVANA — It has been 60 years since Fidel Castro marched into Havana, so it’s time for both Cuba and the United States to grow up. Let’s let Cuba be a normal country again.
Cuba is neither the demonic tyranny conjured by some conservatives nor the heroic worker paradise romanticized by some on the left. It’s simply a tired little country, no threat to anyone, with impressive health care and education but a repressive police state and a dysfunctional economy.
Driving in from the airport, I saw billboards denouncing the American economic embargo as the “longest genocide in history.” That’s ridiculous. But the embargo itself is also absurd and counterproductive, accomplishing nothing but hurting the Cuban people — whom we supposedly aim to help.
After six decades, can’t we move on? Let’s drop the embargo but continue to push Havana on improving human rights, and on dropping support for other oppressive regimes, like those in Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Let’s make room for nuance: Cuba impoverishes its citizens and denies them political rights, but it does a good job providing basic education and keeping people healthy. As I noted in my last column, on Cuba’s health care system, Cuba’s official infant mortality rate is lower than America’s (its real rate may or may not be).
By Ruth Behar
Dec. 4, 2018
Idania del Río, the owner of the graphic design shop Clandestina, in Havana.CreditCreditYamil Lage/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Turning Point: Raúl Castro resigns as Cuba’s president.
“It was yours,” my mother announced. She held out a girl’s blue school uniform.
She’s 82 now and still surprises me with mementos she took from Cuba and has kept packed away since the ‘60s.
A star was sewn onto the front and it had a thick hem to be let out as I grew.
“Don’t you remember?”
I shook my head.
“You wore it when you were 4 years old. You went to the same Jewish day school in Havana that I went to. Classes were in Spanish and Yiddish. Wasn’t that amazing? Then Castro came.”