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jeudi 1 octobre 2015


This is a question often asked of me, and over the years, representing Cuba, in an unofficial capacity as its roving ambassador, self-described of course, I want to give an answer which makes sense of the reality of Cuba.
On a recent visit to the Amazon, I was asked to join a German couple and local professor of Ecology who was acting as their guide, for a trip to not so often visited places near Leticia, Colombia.

The professor who is a native of a northern province, is looking forward to his retirement in 3 years’ time and move back to his native state, but Colombian bird life is his passion
The German couple was very interested in Cuba and asked good qualitative questions about life in Cuba, praising its Educational and Health Systems. They thanked me for enlightening them about the grand gesture of a poor country like Cuba that sends doctors out to nearly 60 countries (69500 medical doctors, 14 500 in Brazil alone).
The Colombian professional on the other hand, emphatically said, he is interested in traveling through Colombia and does not have any interest in traveling abroad. To each his own, I pondered

Then he asked me, how much money do professionals make in Cuba?
I said to him, before I answer your question, I have to explain a couple of things and ask you some questions.
Do you have children going to school?  Yes
Do you have to pay for their education? Yes
And when they go to University?   Lots of money, he answered.
You see in Cuba that is free and open to everyone. If you are able to complete your studies, you will never be denied a place in an educational institution.
When you are sick, do you have to pay for your doctor? Yes
And are the medications free? No, and sometimes it is difficult to get
If your children are hospitalized do you have to pay for them? Yes I do.
You see in Cuba all that is free. No doctor has a mechanism of charging you and they are obliged to see you.
Like educators who have to go and see why a student is absent more than two days in a row, the doctors have to take extreme care of delicate patients such as those pregnant women with metabolic problems. Patients living far away from hospitals or in the rural or mountainous areas are brought to the nearest town and cared for before their delivery.
His jaws dropped. I cannot believe all these.
You see, I continued being proud of so many things about the island of Cuba, many politicians especially the right wing politicians in the USA use quantitative arguments to project an image of Cuba as a poor suffering country. It may be poor compared to many countries in this hemisphere including Colombia, but in the fields of Health and Education, we are richer than Colombia or many other countries in the hemisphere, perhaps even USA! Where there are millions of people without health care or unable to obtain a higher education.
Do you have a phone at home? Yes
How much do you pay per month for it? He mentioned a sum; I told him that in Cuba the telephone bill is a fraction of that
What about electricity? Same, a fraction of your price.
And do you have to pay a tax to the Government for owning your own home. Yes, but I dislike doing it.
In Cuba, such taxes do not exist.
He was aghast; he had only heard that Cuban professionals make a meager salary but had not had what else each and every Cuban receives.
He was feeling very down, perhaps something he believed in, had been questioned.
I continued, with all that, I do wish Cubans were paid more, they deserve to be paid more and in the not too distant a future, that would come true...
Later on in the conversation, he was surprised that I had a good understanding of the situation with Indians along the Amazon River...

It is nice to pay back my little Island for all the wonderful gifts it has given me, most importantly such good friends!