Must-Read: The Magnitude of Cuban Repression

Sunday, May 22, 2016
Excerpt by Ilya Somin of The Foundation for Economic Education:

3 Reasons We Must Remember Communist Crimes: Never Again

II. Focusing Attention on Oppression in the Remaining Unreformed Communist Governments

Most of the world’s communist regimes have either collapsed or reformed. However, at least two unreformed communist governments still remain: Cuba and North Korea. North Korea, in particular, is probably the world’s most oppressive regime, having starved to death at least 1 million of its own people as recently as the 1990s. It also maintains a system of Gulags and secret police that is, if anything, even more draconian than that of the USSR under Stalin.

Despite the good press it enjoys among some Western leftists, Castro’s Cuba is only modestly better. Since coming to power in 1959, Castro’s government has executed some 1.5% of Cuba’s population for “political” dissent, while incarcerating another 5.6% in concentration camps. These figures would be even higher if not for the proximity of the United States, which enabled a large part of Cuba’s population to flee. Nonlethal political repression in Cuba is less severe than in North Korea, but still worse than in all but a tiny handful of other governments.

Despite these atrocities, Cuba and North Korea receive only a tiny fraction of the attention that human rights groups and the international community pay to much lesser offenses committed by democratic governments or non-leftist dictatorships.

Imagine if, after the fall of Hitler, an unreconstructed Nazi-like regime had remained in place in some small European country, and continued to run concentration camps, a Gestapo-like secret police, and so on. Would not that regime be an international pariah constantly targeted by human rights groups and subjected to severe sanctions by all self-respecting democratic states?

It’s difficult to say whether pressure by human rights groups and Western governments could force Cuba and North Korea to reduce their oppression. However, both regimes have weak economies and both seek to create a positive image in the West. A comprehensive system of sanctions imposed by all democratic states and a massive campaign of shaming might have at least a chance of success.