Many people in Western nations are under the impression that Cuba is a complete police state, without freedom of any sort.
During our trip, we found this to be quite untrue. Ordinary citizens are not being watched, police do not demand to see proper ID or papers, and citizens do not denounce each other. The propaganda intrastrcture of the anti-Castro groups has painted a largely false picture.
However, Cuba is lacking by American standards in many forms of freedom. Cubans would not comfortably speak (see our Freedom of Speech page) negatively of the Government, unless asked to do so.
Cuba does offer freedom of religion. For more information, see the Religious Worship in Cuba page.
The Cuban political system has changed in recent times. Parties other than the Communist party are not allowed to distribute materials. However, non-Communists are now being allowed as candidates into elections.
Another area some Western countries say Cuba is not free in is economics. As one would expect, the United States says its own economic system is the one that offers 'economic freedom'. It also implies that any system that dares not embrace capitalism is not 'free'.
Despite the hyprocisy of the U.S. claims to economic freedom, there is some amount of truth in the argument of a lack of economic freedom in Cuba. Although similar numbers of job opportunities are available for all the people in Cuba, they are often limited.
Highly educated Cubans, of which there are many, have not been able to find the scientific research or biotechnology jobs which they sought. They are forced to study an area that they may not be highly interested in, or have to work in areas like construction or agriculture, which they may feel doesn't merit their education.
However, it is also important that all people have jobs and they work for the improvement of everyone in Cuba, not just themselves. It is also a contrast from the days when Cubans could only work in US-owned hotels, US-owned factories, or US-owned sugar mills.
Advocates of the Cuban Government would also point out that the people control Cuba. While there is limited political conflict, there is certainly no corporate control of Cuban politics.
Many people whose governments have convinced them that they are free have also been convinced freedom is the only important issue. There are clearly times when any form of freedom can be damaging to a country and the well-being of its citizens.
Fidel Castro has stated that Cuba is "the freest country in the world." Whether or not one believes this statement to be true, it is important to consider why it might be.