Some Castro Quirks
Cuba has a lot of strange rules, oddities, etc. Most of these are Castro quirks; the natural result of a small socialist country dictating the actions of all its citizens. Here are a few as reported by The Big Story AP. See my page on Cuba Perplexities for more of the same.
HAVANA (AP) — Fidel Castro changed the flavor of the milk Cuban children drink at breakfast. He filled Cuban kitchens with energy-saving rice cookers, and he gave a two-hour lesson in their use live on national television.
He even changed the nation’s lightbulbs, launching a nationwide campaign to replace incandescent bulbs with fluorescents that cast a pallid white light in Cuban homes to this day.
Castro, who died Friday night at 90, gained global stature with grand visions: confronting the United States; building universal health care and education; sending Cuba’s doctors to heal the Third World’s sick and its soldiers to fight alongside socialist allies from Vietnam to Angola.
At home, he expended vast quantities of time and energy remaking the minutest aspects of life in the country he ruled for nearly 50 years. Obsessive, restless, fixated on details, Castro is being remembered by many Cubans for his decades of smaller-scale, often quixotic initiatives to implant Soviet-style central planning on an unruly and improvisational Caribbean island.
Ten years after Castro turned power over to his brother Raul, the artifacts of his time in command still feature in the daily lives of average Cubans, particularly those related to Castro’s passions for agricultural productivity and energy-saving. Millions of Cubans still depend on the pale-blue ration book that once provided a month’s worth of free food, reduced today to about 15 days of rice, beans, eggs, chicken, cooking oil, salt and sugar.
In November 2005, Castro tried to persuade his countrymen to also feed their children “chocolatin,” a mix of powdered milk and cocoa distributed to families in 200-gram (seven-ounce) bags.
To this day, it’s hard to find a Cuban child who doesn’t ask for chocolate-flavored morning milk, itself a legacy of Castro’s pledge to give every Cuban under age 7 one liter of milk every day.
In 1961, two years after Castro’s revolution won power, the new Cuban government launched an ambitious campaign to stamp out illiteracy. Some 250,000 volunteer teachers, many of them young women, fanned out across the country, especially in rural areas where access to education was spotty and the need was greatest. In the space of a year, about 700,000 people learned to read and write, said “Maestra,” a documentary that explores the initiative’s history. Today, Cuba reports a literacy rate of 99.8 percent, on par with the most developed nations in the world.
In 1960, Castro launched the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, neighborhood watch groups given the job of implementing social welfare projects and natural disaster assistance, looking out for the elderly and organizing modest block parties. They also serve as the government’s eyes and ears, networks of informants that enforce compliance and watch for suspicious activity such as political dissidence or an illegal satellite hookup. The committees are so ubiquitous that just about everyone in Cuba, especially in the cities, still lives within sight of the home of a committee member.
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