A group of Cuban Americans was interviewed about the reality of living under the yoke of communist dictator Fidel Castro. Their intention was to warn society as a whole, and young people in particular, about how difficult life is under a communist government despite the “romantic” speeches that try to convince the world of the supposed goodness of leftist policies.

According to The Daily Signal, on Dec. 31, 1981, Sebastián Arcos, with his family, tried to travel from Cuba to the United States but were detained by authorities in a surprise operation to arrest one of his uncles. The uncle in question had defended and fought for Fidel Castro’s revolution 20 years earlier.

For trying to escape from the island, Sebastián Arcos was subjected to a year in prison, but his father and his uncle suffered an even worse fate, sentenced to 6 and 7 years jail, respectively, for the same crime.

In the interview, Arcos, 58, spoke about Cuba’s educational system and its universal healthcare system. “For the sake of argument, let’s say both the [Cuban] health care system and education system are perfect, which they are not. There have been thousands of political executions, tens of thousands of political prisoners, and 3 million Cuban exiles.”

Arcos is the associate director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. He expressed surprise at U.S. politicians’ discourse who directly or indirectly defend leftist policies or even Castro himself, without having lived in the flesh under the Castro regime.

Concerning literacy and the health system, the two great banners of Cuban communism, Arcos recommends that people first look at the absence of human rights on the island before pointing to education and health. “That’s been the regime’s argument for decades,” Arcos said. “Whoever makes that argument is just repeating their lines.”

Another interviewee is Janisset Rivero, 50, who lived in Cuba until age 14 and is now a human rights activist. Her family was unfairly accused of participating in an anti-government speech.

Rivero said that it is not as good as the Communist Party propaganda claims regarding education in Cuba. “It is indoctrination more than education. The Cuban system does not tolerate critical thinking.”

The two former Cuban citizens interviewed in the article offered similar stories about health care in Cuba, stating that the health care system has two levels: one is for tourists, rulers, and the military, which is first-class and is featured in the international media. The other is for the general population. “When Cubans go to those hospitals, they have to bring their own food, water, bed sheets, and pillows,” Rivero said.

Frank Calzon is a 75-year-old Cuban currently living in the United States. He retired from the directorship of the Center for a Free Cuba in 2019. Calzon, in an interview with The Daily Signal, said about education: “Cuban students are not really more educated now. In 1951, the country had 75-80 percent of students [who] knew how to read and write.”

More than 60 years have passed since the Cuban revolution at the hands of Fidel Castro and his followers. But the promises of democracy, freedom, economic growth, and social welfare have yet to be fulfilled.

Ana Quintana, the senior policy analyst in Latin America and the Western Hemisphere at The Heritage Foundation, said in an interview with The Daily Signal, “The communist military dictatorship controls 80 percent of the economy.

“They control the tourism industry, they control the agriculture sector, they control the most profitable sectors on the island. Every single time anyone goes there and they spend $1 at any hotel, … they are directly putting money into the pockets of these repressive government institutions.”

John Suarez, executive director of FREE Cuba, said changes have been merely cosmetic and “enshrine the same old problems.

“Cubans who try to protest the government, are subject to machete attacks, refused medical care, and told to leave the territory.”

The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom 2019 ranks Cuba 178th in terms of its economy’s freedom in relation to other countries in the world. The state administers the means of production, seizures of property without due process are common, and the income tax rate is approximately 50 percent.

Such a repressive regime is a far cry from Cuba’s popular romantic idea—images of classic old cars, rum, beaches, and cigars.