1970s Soviet domination

During the second decade of the Revolution, Cuba became firmly entrenched as a member of the Soviet bloc, joining COMECON in 1972. Technicians came from Eastern Europe and Cubans were trained in the USSR. The Communist Party grew in strength and size and permeated all walks of life, influencing every aspect of Cubans' day to day living, while putting more central controls on education and culture. The Revolution was institutionalized along Soviet lines and the Party gained control of the bureaucracy, the judiciary and the local and national assemblies. Communist planners controlled the economy and workers were organized into government-controlled trade unions. A new socialist constitution was adopted in 1976. In 1971-1975 the economy grew by about 16% a year, but fell back after then and never recovered such spectacular growth rates again.

Cuba's foreign policy during this period changed from actively fomenting socialist revolutions abroad (such as Guevara's forays into the Congo and Bolivia in the 1960s) to supporting other left wing or third world countries with combat troops and technical advisers. Some 20,000 Cubans helped the Angolan Marxist government to defeat a South African backed guerrilla insurgency and 15,000 went to Ethiopia in the war against Somalia and then the separatist rebellion in Eritrea. Cuban advisers and medical workers went to Nicaragua after the Sandinista overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship in 1979; advisers and workers went to help the left wing Manley government in Jamaica and to the Marxist government in Grenada (until expelled by the US Marines in 1983). In September 1979, Castro hosted a summit conference of the non-aligned nations in Havana, a high point in his foreign policy initiatives.

The decade also marked a period of intellectual debate at home and abroad about the path the Revolution was taking. In 1971, the poet
Herberto Padilla
was arrested for cultural deviation and forced to confess his crimes against the Revolution. His treatment and cultural censorship brought accusations of Stalinization of cultural life. The Padilla affair split the Hispanic intellectual world, with writers such as Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes of Mexico, Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru and Juan Goytisolo of Spain renouncing their support for the Revolution, while Gabriel García Márquez of Colombia and Julio Cortázar of Argentina reaffirmed their support. Free expression was stifled and during this time the best Cuban art and literature was produced by émigrés. The debate widened to include civil liberties and political rights, and official secrecy made it difficult to gauge accurately the persecution of political prisoners, religious believers, intellectual opponents and homosexuals.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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